Dream Warriors

Nicole Cartolano is a 27-year-old artist based in Brooklyn, New York but originally from Los Angeles, California. She spent her teenage years in Sao Paulo, Brazil where she was inspired by street art and skate culture. In this series, Nicole captured the models Bethlehem Ippolito and Dionne Robinson.

How did you start with photography?

I was exposed to darkroom and traditional photography at the age of 13. I took all the photography classes offered throughout high school and college. The last photography class I took in college was digital photography and Photoshop where I lost interest in photography. I switched my major from art to business, studied abroad in Switzerland where I photographed the trip in all film. A few years later I looked at those photographs and had the epiphany that my passion was in the process of traditional film photography. That I shouldn’t be discouraged when people say it is a dying art. The inspiration flows freely when I use analog versus digital.

What inspired you to start taking photos?

Studying business in college I repressed all my creativity, by the time I was done with school I wanted to explode with art. I spent a year in a cabin in the redwoods where I had time to think. So much of being an artist is doing nothing but thinking. That’s when I found the film photographs of Switzerland and picked up the camera again.

What’s the main inspiration when creating or planning sets?

My goal for every shoot is to get one perfect photograph that contains the heart and soul of that place. By place I mean the geographical place as well as the place that I am at mentally and emotionally. I try not to plan too much. Planning creates expectations. There’s magic in spontaneity.

What inspired this set?

I was initially drawn to this grimy station when I looked up at the peeling paint on the ceiling and saw a remarkable texture formed by years of human condensation. There’s a feeling of heaviness, which is emphasised by its name Chambers. I had just moved to New York and seen The Warriors. This was the influence which I juxtaposed with dreamy. I am so grateful to Bethlehem Ippolito and Dionne Robinson who met me at 1 am after a long day. They are true Dream Warriors. I made sure to get a picture of them with the clock, which read 2:30am, proof of our hustle. It was a short shoot but I got the one image that made it all worthwhile. The unique colour palette of this series is a result of using expired slide film.

How important to you is showcasing femininity through photography?

I look for ways to put women high on top of things so that they look and feel larger than life. I want my sisters to feel confident and empowered and have a photographic memory of that feeling to refer to. At the end of the day femininity and sensuality is a superpower and the soul food for the eyes.

What’s next for you?

I am just taking it day by day in pursuit of a long-term meaningful project. I am looking for the right community of visionaries to get involved with.