Photos, Like Life, Blurred and Re-Envisioned

Originally published in the New York Times Lens Blog on September 24th 2013. This mesmerising collection of photographs from Brian Nice provided me with a sense of haunting melancholia due to the bleak lack of colours and obscurity of the images, engaging the viewer to seek further into the photographs. The lack of focus and illustration forces us to make clearer images out of them and they have stayed with me since I was first awestruck of them. Enjoy.


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Brian Nice traveled the world as a fashion photographer for 25 years creating technically precise images reflecting his clients’ concepts of beauty. Recently, his photographs have changed, as has Mr. Nice himself. Now, they mirror his own vision.

“Before everything was sharp and technically correct — now everything is looser and more go-with-the-flow, before, I was controlling. Now, I just let it happen.”

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A congenital cavernous malformation caused bleeding in his brain in 2009, and two subsequent complex operations left him in a wheelchair without fine-motor skills. His vision is erratic, fluctuating from hour to hour. He has double vision and says one eye goes up and down sometimes while the other goes side to side.

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Speaking slowly, he described himself as “mentally fit, but trapped inside a broken body,” where just holding a conversation can be “like an Olympic event.”

Mr. Nice, 52, still loves photography, but now he uses a plastic Holga to take pictures on film. His hands shake when he holds a camera, but he makes that work for him in his images. Besides, the camera is plastic, so replacing it is easy if he drops it.

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“I know it’s trendy, but the reason I use it is because you can easily do double exposure,” Mr. Nice said. “And basically, it duplicates how I see. You don’t always know how it’s going to come out.”

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Mr. Nice lives with his parents in a house overlooking the Hudson River in Garrison, N.Y. He has a home health aide five days a week, and his mother, Sandra, assists him the rest of the time.

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While he was in a hospital and a long-term rehabilitation center for 10 months he spent a lot of time looking out of windows. Although he worked in more than 50 countries as a professional photographer, he now shoots all of his photos out of his home’s windows or from a car while being driven back and forth to physical therapy sessions.

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But that is about to change. On Friday, he will be setting out on a cross-country road trip. He will be accompanied by his mother, two childhood friends and a documentary filmmaker. (You can follow his journey on his blog.)

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People Mr. Nice worked with in the industry have offered assistance and raised money, for the trip.

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He says he wants to push his limits and test his endurance, but the main purpose of the trip is to draw attention to people who have been affected by traumatic brain injury, including many people he met during his own recovery.

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Brian Nice

“At the hospital I saw a lot of people who were injured in accidents by people texting and driving, and also a lot of soldiers who were badly injured. I saw a lot of horrible stuff. I’m pretty lucky.”

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