Niki Gaines is an outgoing, food and craft beer enthusiast who thoroughly enjoys adventure,  traveling the world, and exploring new cultures. Enamored with photography, Niki finds herself wrapped in the abstract mind of the darkroom passionately engaged with experimental processes. Her work involves issues around construction of identity and the loss of such. Niki recently graduated from Guilford College where she received a B.S. with honors in Community Justice and Policy Studies and minors in Photography and Japanese.

She is also fascinated by the power of art to heal and empower individuals and communities, as well as the intersection between art and social justice. Important influences for Niki are Man Ray and Rinko Kawauchi.

Currently residing in Old Greenwich, CT, Niki (22 yrs old) plans to relocate in the next few months to the Bay Area to participate in the ever-growing public art movement and continue to explore and collaborate with a plethora of artists across different mediums. http://nikigaines.com/.


Both images (“untitled”)= Film photographs (multiple exposures shot on Mamiya RB67)


LUCIA PASQUALE: What themes do you find yourself most commonly exploring in your work?

NIKI GAINES: Identity, abstraction, reality, and the relationship to your physical space.

LP: Are you partial to black and white? In what ways do you find the light and shadow of black and white photography helps you to convey meaning or tell a story?

NG: Yes, but specifically black and white film. Light and shadow are essential to setting the mood, creating a focal point, and highlighting the beauty in what I see.

LP: There is such elegance in the bodies we see in your photographs, as well as softness tangled with edginess, especially in ‘Arms and Legs.” You seem to be using photography as a way to explore the complexity of identity, could you talk a bit about that?

NG: Identity isn’t a singular form. We’re all connected and the connectedness of bodies represents that – pushing the line of where one body begins and another ends. Viewing bodies as more than just us. The images are comprised of many pieces, representing a puzzle to figure out who we are as individuals.

LP: In what ways do you find that art and photography can impact the social world? In what ways do you like to utilize your art in relation to the social world?

NG: Art has the power to showcase issues and tell stories that confront people head on. It’s inherently political. It creates a dialogue consciously or unconsciously that’s imperative.

I like to use my art to react to what and how I see, offering others an opportunity to see the world through a different lens.

LP: Would you say that the manipulation of the imagery mimics the way we form and create our own identities?

NG: In a technical sense I didn’t manipulate the images. I shot multiple exposures on the same piece of film before forwarding the camera to the next shot. But the process itself speaks exactly to that. We’re constantly recreating ourselves (e.g., manipulating our bodies) just as I recreated (or added to) the images.

LP: In what ways do you think photography blends the real world and the abstract?

NG: It provides a tool for the artist to document his or her vision of reality. I have the ability to take what’s real and interpret it in an endless number of ways.

LP: Can you talk a bit about these two photographs in particular?

NG: It’s important to note I shot multiple exposures on film and did no manipulation after the fact. Both images were shot on a Mamiya RB67 in a makeshift studio at Guilford College. Inspired by the works of Man Ray, Germaine Krull, and Edward Weston and using my friends as models, I wanted to experiment with multiple exposures on medium format film. Specifically, I wanted to distort my perception of the human body while deconstructing identity in its most basic sense. Thinking about what it meant to exist in relation to others. This was the first project where I began to figure out my identity as not only a photographer but also a human sexual being. It was my first time shooting nudes and getting comfortable with the human body. Both images represent my thinking as I’m figuring out the puzzle of who I am and what I’m trying to convey.

LP: How have your travels influenced your work?

NG: They’ve opened me up to new senses – sounds, taste, smells, textures, and feelings – that have become a part of my repertoire of expression.

LP: In what mediums are you looking forward to experimenting and working with in the future?

NG: Video and sculpture! Get ready for some interactive experiences!

Vagabond City Literary Journal

Founded in 2013, we are a literary journal dedicated to publishing outsider literature. We publish art, prose, reviews, and interviews from marginalized creators.