Our sixty eighth interview in this new series of intimate interviews is with talented mobile photographer and artist John Nieto from San Francisco, California, you may know his work from his popular Instagram account @john_nieto. I really enjoyed reading and learning more about Nieto, a photographer I have long admired. This interview is one intertwined with mutability, anguish and acceptance but also in contradiction, with a plethora of timeless unflinching imagery, this is a wise and tender interview. Enjoy!
To read the other published interviews in this series including artists, Adria Ellis, Rino Rossi, Mehmet Duyulmus, Alexis Rotella, Lou Ann Sanford Donahue, Irene Oleksiuk, Kerry Mitchell, Filiz Ak, Dale Botha, Lisa Mitchell, M. Cecilia Sao Thiago, Deborah McMillion, Rita Colantonio, Amy Ecenbarger, Jane Schultz, Anca Balaj, Joyce Harkin, Armineh Hovanesian, Kate Zari Roberts, Vicki Cooper, Peter Wilkin, Barbara Braman, Becky Menzies, Sukru Mehmet Omur, Sarah Bichachi, Michel Pretterklieber, Alon Goldsmith, Judy Lurie Whalberg, Andrea Bigiarni, Sean Hayes, Oola Cristina, Kathleen Magner-Rios, Linda Toki, Deb Field, Emilo Nadales, Lydia Cassatt, David Hayes, Jean Hutter, Frederic Deschênes, Mark Schnidman, Fatma Korkut, Fleur Schim, Rob Pearson-Wright, Dieter Gaebel, James Ellis, Marco P Prado, Jeronimo Sanz, Manuela Matos Monteiro, Bleu Chemiko, Manuela Basaldella, Stefania Piccioni, Luis Rodríguez, Marilisa Andriani (@mitrydate) Mayte Balcells (@artofmayte), Nicole Christophe, Jennifer Graham, Cathrine Halsør, Paul Toussaint, Carol Wiebe, Julie Denning, Kim Clayton (@berleyart), Karen Messick, Serap Utaş, MaryJane Rosenfeld, Paul Suciu, Susan Latty (@pause.and.breathe) and myself, go here.
All images ©John Nieto
What was your childhood or earliest ambition?
The first thing that comes to mind, before the idea of a profession, was more of an ambition to produce my life in a certain way that it was currently not going. I could see it so clearly. I was my actual size, but the rest of humanity was the size of a common doll that needed some guidance and I planned on straightening it all out to be much more vibrant and interesting for everybody.
I have these three certificates in a photo album that was recently shared with me after the death of my mother and they were announcing that I was “Outstanding Student” of the year in 1st grade, 2nd grade, and 3rd grade. It had a strange and wonderful way of connecting me back to a part of myself, that very instant, that maybe life and it’s challenges had chiseled away at.
It was a good thing to have light up, kind of like finding a letter from a loved one you hadn’t read in years.
My first job was at the age of 16 and it was in Dallas Texas at a place called Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour. I remember the night well because my mother took pictures of me dressed up in my little parlour hat, apron, and mini tie before heading out the door.
Private or State/(Public in US) school?
First generation to desegregate public schools in Texas.
University or Work?
After a couple of years of college I took a pause to get licensed to cut hair and before I knew it I was art director of Toni&Guy and moving to Miami, Florida.
Who was or still is your mentor?
My father was my best friend and creative/spiritual advisor. He will forever be influencing my life. I’m also blessed to have very deep life long friendships with a handful of people to which I owe everything. Working for years with a clientele also has its gems and I’ve found more inspiration and knowledge through these continuous relationships.
How physically fit are you?
Besides walking several miles a week across San Francisco I don’t belong to a gym or anything but I definitely have my martial/dancer/yogic practice on the living room floor as often as possible. Always with music.
Ambition or talent: what matters more to success?
For me, I think it’s been a constant balancing act of ambition, talent, and quite obviously, luck.
How politically committed are you?
That hasn’t happened yet.
What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?
I often get turned on by the idea of having a home that moves around. A yacht would be amazing but I’d also consider an Airstream/RV as long as somebody else dealt with the mechanical side of things in either case.
What is your biggest extravagance?
Printing and framing and printing and framing.
In what place are you happiest?
The places where I’m barefoot with the people that make me laugh and feel like I’m in an alternate universe of giddiness. Oh, and there is food everywhere.
What ambitions do you still have?
To get hitched and live in Mexico. 😉
What drives you on?
To let my mother and father live on through me after losing them both pretty suddenly, and 2 weeks apart, in the summer of 2018. Part of my duty now is to listen and allow their greatness to shine through me.
What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?
Transforming people’s lives every day through style, art & communication. Also, holding down a flat and surviving San Francisco’s insane housing situation.
What do you find most irritating in other people?
Saying things they don’t mean in order to seem nice or supportive. I don’t need that.
If your twenty-year old self could see you now, what would he think?
Way to go old man, you kept your hair!
Which object that you’ve lost do you wish you still had?
I’m known to purge and when I moved across country from Miami to San Francisco i donated crates and crates of actual vinyl albums. Unfortunately, one of them was the All State Band of Texas in which I happened to have had a prominent part on the trumpet. It was a very rude awakening the day I realised it was part of that purge.
What is the greatest challenge of our time?
Staying alive and well after 5G.
Do you believe in the afterlife?
After having a handful of paranormal and unexplained personal experiences I have come to believe that there is most certainly more to life than not
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