Interview with photographer Nicole Campanello

Cary Benbow (CB): Please explain the idea behind your images submitted to this issue with the theme of Family? How do they relate to your…

Cary Benbow (CB): Please explain the idea behind your images submitted to this issue with the theme of Family? How do they relate to your other projects, or how is it significantly different?

Nicole Campanello (NC): This project, although stylistically very different, relates to my other work in that they all have come out of my personal life experiences. There is a continuing theme of exploring identity, and a storytelling nature that runs throughout all of my work.

CB: Why do you photograph? What compels you to make the images you create? Why did you become a photographer?

NC: I photograph to fulfill my need to create, to communicate my thoughts, ideas, and feelings, and as a means of exploring and understanding myself and the world around me. As a young child I discovered my love for creating art. I particularly enjoyed drawing at the time. During my teen years I started experimenting with different mediums, and eventually found that photography best enabled me to express my creativity. I remember trying to write a song once about something that was important to me, and I wasn’t getting very far, and I suddenly thought — Why am I trying to force myself to write this? So instead of writing the song I created an image.

CB: In your opinion, what makes a good photograph?

NC: An image that evokes an emotional response, or provokes reflection of something that otherwise may not have been thought about.

CB: Where do you get the ideas for your personal photography?

NC: Experiences I’m going through or have gone through. Issues that I feel are important, that I’m exploring in my life.

CB: Are the people in your images for this exhibition your own family, or did you submit these because they fit the broader theme of Family?

NC: These are images of my own family — the images are of my brother, or myself and my brother.

CB: Please tell about the ‘Sam & I’ series and what it means to you.

NC: This is an ongoing project that is deeply important to me, about my brother Sam; he has severe cerebral palsy, and so has quite a different life than most people. We’ve had a special bond ever since he was born — when I was eight years old. I always loved helping my parents take care of him — he’s my buddy. Even though he can’t walk or talk, we can still communicate with each other, and he can feel joy or sadness the way we all do. He needs the same love and affection we all need, he understands much more than people often think. In sharing these pictures, I hope to help people understand this. To give insight into the life of someone who has to live with this kind of condition, to show what an amazingly strong person he is for everything he goes through, and show how much his life matters.

CB: What/who are your photography inspirations — and why?

NC: Two of my inspirations from early on were Francesca Woodman — something about the way she was able to convey emotion really affected me when I first saw her work — and I always hope for my images to achieve that. And Jerry Uelsmann — I loved the idea of creating images that you can’t see in the material world — piecing together bits of reality to make something surreal — you can see this influence in my other work. I’m inspired by any images, music, literature, and films that move me. Also, I am greatly inspired by nature; as well as just being in nature.

CB: How would you describe your work to someone viewing it for the first time?

NC: My work is storytelling in nature. I create narrative images of, or based on, my life experiences — where I explore and examine truths of identity, the invisible happenings of the inner life, and the force of external experiences — both negative and positive.

CB: How is the work in your portfolio significantly different (or similar) to the majority of work (or commercial work) you do?

NC: In the majority of my work, the images are representational illustrations of a feeling, idea, or experience, whereas ‘Sam & I’ is a documentation of the actual experience. Raw, real scenes of our lives. Another big difference is in my other projects I like to keep the meanings somewhat open to interpretation, so that viewers can connect to them in their own personal way. So this series is very different in its unambiguity.

To see more work by Nicole Campanello, visit her website at

This interview was published originally in F-Stop Magazine in June, 2016