When Nicolas Miller moved to New York City several years ago, he was inspired to start his creative journey. Intrigued by the metropolis and all it had to offer, he picked up an old DSLR and began exploring the streets. From there, he's never looked back. Propelled forward by the inspiring street photographers he viewed online, his love for the craft has only deepened over time. Today, he's amassed a healthy following on Instagram, where he publishes his neo-noir New York street photography.
In love with capturing the moment and inspired by cinema, Miller's work is a dark and moody look at the city. Through his lens, solitary figures strut down foggy streets. Neon signs and the headlights of a subway car provide soft illumination so that we can make out this vision of the urban landscape.
These elements make Miller's work a love letter to New York City, but one tinged with loneliness. In his creative world, the city is filled with individuals who perhaps come together as a couple, but never en masse. This solitary view is understandable when one imagines that Miller began heavily investing in his photography during the pandemic—perhaps one of the most solitary times for individuals in recent history.
We had the opportunity to speak with Miller about his work and what drives him. We cover everything from the films that influence him to his most memorable photo. Read on for My Modern Met's exclusive interview.
What sparked your love for photography?
Moving to New York City back in 2018 sparked my love for photography. I was fascinated by the city and would often spend hours walking to enjoy it and discover new places. I had an old entry-level DSLR and I started taking it on my walks and shooting more and more. Around the end of 2018, I decided to install Instagram to check out the work of photographers capturing the city and I was blown away by the work of some people. That’s when I decided to learn photography more in-depth. I got much deeper into photography in 2020 when it became an escape for me during the pandemic. I was shooting almost every day at some point during that year.
Your work is very cinematic. Were you influenced by film and, if so, how and what films in particular?
Movies are definitely a main source of inspiration for me. I love every movie taking place in the gritty New York of the '70s and '80s. Among my all-time classics are Taxi Driver, The French Connection, and, more recently, Joker. I’m a huge fan of the neo-noir movie genre, and this is the type of atmosphere I try to convey in my pictures. A lot of the themes of this genre can be found in my photography—loneliness, alienation, paranoia, blurry line between dream and reality. The cinematography of both Blade Runner movies also had a huge influence on my editing and color grading.
What's your working process for your street photography? Do you go out with a plan or just let the action unfold?
It really depends. I usually start with a plan in mind but often end up going with the flow and walking randomly until I’m too tired to go on. This means I can sometimes go for sessions of more than 10 hours if conditions are good. I also tend to scout locations and come back in conditions I enjoy (fog, golden light, etc). Ultimately, the best photos are usually unplanned, and spending so much time in the city shooting is the way to capture those decisive moments.
What's your favorite equipment to shoot with?
I have been shooting with the same Sony mirrorless camera since 2019. I dragged it in blizzards, heavy rain, and sand storms and it is still working perfectly, so I’m pretty happy with it. I use mainly prime lenses because of the fast aperture for night shooting. I shoot at 35, 50, and 85mm. I also own an old 35mm film camera that I bought to shoot the West of the U.S. during a trip I did a few years back. I feel a little guilty not using it more often but I’m definitely more into digital photography.
What's the most memorable image you've taken?
Summer in Brooklyn is one of my favorite photos that I’ve taken. Water hydrants are often opened during warm summer days for kids to play with water and I noticed on one of my evening walks that the golden light was reflecting on water coming from a hydrant on a street in Brooklyn. This only lasted for a few minutes and I couldn’t get any interesting subject going through the frame. I came back to the same spot for several days when, finally, the man on his bike showed up on the third evening as I was ready to leave. It caught me by surprise and I took the shot without looking at the camera. The result ended up being one of my most iconic shots so I'm glad I put in the effort.
What do you hope that your images convey to the public?
The themes of the neo-noir genre definitely occupy a major place in my photography. I’m not trying to capture reality, I’m more interested in transporting viewers in my own dark fantasy. Photography is, to some extent, a way to escape my daily routine and everyday problems, as I do not think about anything else when I’m shooting. I hope the public can feel the same way when looking at my photos.
See more of Miller's cinematic New York street photography.
Nicolas Miller: Instagram