Student Artist Profile: Ciara Nicdao-Richardson

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Published March 27, 2019
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The Montclarion
Ciara Nicdao-Richardson began photographing seriously in high school. Priscilla Cartagena | The Montclarion

Ciara Nicdao-Richardson is a junior film photography major at Montclair State University. She has had her work accepted by Toksick Magazine and currently enjoys doing fashion photography as well as portrait photography. Nicdao-Richardson spoke to Assistant Copy Editor Priscilla Cartagena about her work and studies.

Q: How did you start photographing?

A: I grew up with a bunch of photographers, and my uncle was a huge inspiration. I picked up photography as a hobby, but I didn’t take it seriously until junior year of high school.

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“Best to You” is an edited self-portrait, one of many in which Nicdao-Richardson uses double edits. Photo courtesy of Ciara Nicdao-Richardson

Q: What are some setbacks that you have experienced as a photographer?

A: Lots of people expect free photos from me, and they don’t offer to pay me. When I state my price, sometimes they back out of it…like no. I’m an artist. I need some money, too.

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Ciara Nicdao-Richardson photographs a student in front of the Student Center. Priscilla Cartagena | The Montclarion

Q: What equipment and camera do you prefer to use?

A: Right now I’ve been experimenting with studio lighting. I also love working with color gels because it gives off a nostalgic feeling. Right now I’m shooting with a Canon EOS 6D Mark II. I’m in love with it, even though it’s really, really heavy. The picture quality is perfect.

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Nicdao-Richardson shot a series titled, “Got Foil?” Photo courtesy of Ciara Nicdao-Richardson

Q: What kind of ideas do you want to express in your work?

A: As I’m figuring out what I’m trying to say as a photographer, I noticed that I want to show that you can dress however you want to dress. I’m tired of society’s standards about how people should dress on a normal basis. For myself, I dress really ‘weird.’ My family is always criticizing my outfits, saying it’s too masculine or wanting me to show my curves off more, but I’m not about that. I want my photography to show that concept.

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Ciara Nicdao-Richardson sits to take a photograph of a student in front of the Student Center. Priscilla Cartagena | The Montclarion

Q: What is your creative process for your shoots?

A: Usually I start by finding my models, and then from there I get an idea of what kind of shoot I want to have them be a part of. Then, I create a mood board on Pinterest, which gives me different ideas to create something new. I usually use Pinterest as inspiration.

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“Welcome to My Dream World” is a shot taken by Nicdao-Richardson. Photo courtesy of Ciara Nicdao-Richardson

I send the pictures to the models to give them an idea of how they should dress and do their makeup. Sometimes I let them do their own styling and makeup, but I usually collaborate with a stylist and a makeup artist and send them a mood board, too. I give them all the freedom as long as it’s based on that one aesthetic.

For the set designs – this is a weird process, but I usually just wing it. I find anything that is weird to the human eye and just make it work from there. I don’t really have a process when it comes to set design. I just get whatever works together. It’s weird and fun. I usually go to the dollar store, pick one color, find a weird object based on that color and just go from there.

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Nicdao-Richardson shot a “Milk” series. Photo courtesy of Ciara Nicdao-Richardson

Q: Where do you get inspiration from?

A: My family is the biggest inspiration for me, especially my grandma since she used to work with Keith Haring. Then Petra Collins does a lot of color set designs, and she’s also known for her work with Gucci. It’s like a very retro, ’70s vibe with a bit of a bohemian twist to it. When it comes to my editing style, I’m really inspired by Jesse Draxler because his work is really dark. Those are my three big inspirations.

Q: What are your future plans after graduation?

A: As of now, I know I want to work with Nylon Magazine, but the dream job is Conde Nast. I see myself working in publishing and doing the photo sets.

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Nicdao-Richardson took this photo as part of her series titled, “Got Foil?” Photo courtesy of Ciara Nicdao-Richardson

Q: What’s one of the most important things you’ve learned as an art student at Montclair State?

A: Networking. I feel like networking is key to getting your work out there and it’s important for any artist to branch out and show people what kind of talent you have. If you’re in your little box, nobody’s going to know what kind of work you create. With networking, it also opens up new opportunities for jobs as well. You also meet a lot of interesting people along the way.

The community of artists is important. It’s a very competitive field, but I feel like artists, especially at Montclair State, are all supportive of each other.

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These red room shoots explore Nicdao-Richardson’s love for designing sets. Photo courtesy of Ciara Nicdao-Richardson

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