Vanessa Hock

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“I feel nostalgic because I want to go back and relive,” nightlife photographer Luis Nieto Dickens told Bushwick Daily. “I find myself not shooting people a lot.”

Dickens had found inspiration in the people he photographed working in-house at the Bushwick venue Elsewhere. Since the venue halted live entertainment last year, Dickens said he longs to once again photograph grandiose nights with dancers swaying to thunderous beats under erratic strobe lights.

“To be in a space with 400 people crammed together — the euphoria is incredible. I miss that a lot. I feel lucky I got to do that.” 

From Dickens’ “Hitting Dead Ends” series. (2020)

Walking through Bushwick, Dickens reflected on the sudden halt in demand for artists while exhibits had been cancelled, venues shuttered, and personal interactions tightly restricted.

Dickens confronted a new type of creative challenge during the infancy of an indefinite period of forced isolation. Camera in hand, he wandered throughout a newly subdued Bushwick and harmoniously transitioned from nightlife to street photography.

Dickens used the pandemic to revisit his photography blog: No Sleep NYC, once a tumblr that took its name after his sleepless, pre-pandemic life. Dickens’ first entry, “Hitting Dead Ends,’ was April 21, 2020 and is a series that documented the early days of quarantine.

In later photo essays ‘Contained’ and ‘It Turns’, Dickens creates ambiguous subject narratives and imposes new vantages on everyday spaces. His perception manifests into poetic observations and a visual commentary on solitude, desolation, and uncertain times.

From Dickens’ “Wild Sky” series. (2020)
From Dickens’ “Wild Sky” series. (2020)

Dickens connects his new work to his roots in the Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez, where DIY construction sites and machinery are scattered throughout the city. The subjects he takes out of context are commonplace and unremarkable but collectively serve a purpose.

His artistry lies in the inquisitiveness he brings to ordinary and redundant forms and functions; broken objects, abandoned spaces, and window displays faded from years of sunlight. 

“I explore the beauty of the neighborhood and find curiosities,” he says. “I’m in love with the neighborhood.”

The explorations denote a retrospective of a changed world. Some photos portray nostalgic mourning and some show the ordinary victories of everyday life, while others are glimpses into frozen time and indistinguishable days.

Top photo credit: Vanessa Hock.

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