NICK GERVIN (American b. 1981 -)
NICK GERVIN is a full time documentary/street photographer from Portland, Maine.
He documents the uninhibited energy of crowds getting out of bars and concerts, police at work, fireman drenching buildings engulfed in flames. He photographs people who are unaware they are being watched, quietly moving through the shadows, suggesting that we are rarely ever truly alone in the streets, regardless of the obvious absence of others.
Nick seeks out the elusive and wounded who feel safe emerging at night. His reflexes are quick, a necessary skill for capturing spontaneous, intriguing moments of connection between people. His images are as complex as the stories themselves. Frequently, the photograph alone alludes to a false conclusion, reminding us that you can’t always believe what you see. In a fight scene, a tattooed, dreadlocked, Caucasian young man wearing patched denim shorts and striped tights lies on top of a guy who is missing his hat and one of his shoes. The guy in the tights appears to be punching the shoeless guy in the face. It is easy to jump to conclusions. Upon further contemplation, and perhaps even succumbing to stereotypes, one might think a person dressed this way – with dreads and patched denim – presents as a hippie pacifist. This makes the image even more confusing. With some prodding Nick discloses what actually happened; the guy on the bottom started the fight, and the man in tights was just trying to subdue him.
The irony in Nick’s images should make us question how considered our assessment of what is really happening at any given time is. If a picture is worth a thousand words, they actually might be to the wrong song.
Nick uses a bright flash on an SLR film camera, which creates a high contrast image and often solicits an expression of surprise from the subject. This can manifest in all sorts of reactions and behaviors. A guy getting arrested manages to flip Nick the bird with one of his handcuffed hands, another cozies up behind his friend, sticking his tongue out and grabbing some hair with it. Another sweet scenario unfolds of a guy, Shepard Fairey style, trying to give a police officer a rose. While this interaction is happening, a cute, playful passer-by in a dangerously short dress photo bombs the moment from stage left.
Nick’s ability to organize manmade light, inanimate objects, colorful people, and buildings into work that dances between photo journalism and narrative, fine art images is impressive. The work is sensitive, and because of his own personal struggle with alcoholism and drug abuse (he has been clean for six years), it is also honest. He is not exploiting, judging or taking advantage of the most volatile souls in his images – he views people with compassion, and wants us to pay attention to the overlooked and ignored members of our communities.
Nick’s images have been featured in many newspapers and magazines including The Huffington Post, Popular Photography Magazine, Life Force Magazine, Portland Press Herald, Bangor Daily News, Portland Phoenix, The Forecaster, and Dig Portland.
“People make photographs of things they think are beautiful,” said Gervin. “And I’m no different in that sense.”Except Gervin is known best for his stark, black and white photos of people getting arrested, falling down drunk and using drugs.“Just maybe, my idea of what beauty is, is slightly different,” he said. “I find the subjects I make photographs of beautiful.”