Joy and A Little Art Therapy

The first time I met Nicole Burleson she was making a flamethrower out of a water gun. It was one of those super soakers that ends all water fights. And let me tell you, it was a really cool and really scary. As she was holding it she was laughing at the ridiculousness of what she had done – meanwhile a stream of fire, a foot long, shot out in front of her. 

She’s the type of woman who is soft spoken but has big ideas. And the way she sees the world is unlike any other. It’s one that’s a little gritty. A little 90’s grunge mixed with the fantastical beauty of a fairy tale. She’s real and isn’t afraid to put her heart out for everyone to see.

Nicole is a photographer and a filmmaker. She started out as a photographer and through that got into film. According to Nicole, she more comfortable doing photography but enjoys the challenges of film.

When it comes to photography she loves taking portraits…

N: “When I take a portrait I want [the person] to feel beautiful and how God would see them because most people don’t feel that way about themselves. If you can take a picture of someone and they can say wow, you made me feel beautiful…Sometimes, they can only see their beauty when someone else takes their picture.”

And action/sports shots…

N: “Some of that is just memories. Being able to share that moment of joy with the athlete because they did something incredible…to show off people.” 

One of her most recent polaroid projects is titled “Seasonal” Depression. It’s a project that she worked on over quarantine.

N: “It’s called “Seasonal” Depression but it seems like it happens every season. I shot polaroids of things that happened during quarantine – things that kept me grounded or chained me down…Art therapy is important and helped me to express [those feelings]. It’s good to recognize how you felt at certain moments and process that. If you don’t process that then it will come back at you later. It helps me to be vulnerable in that way.”

Nicole shoots documentaries and her most recent film, Shred Not Dead is making its round at film festivals across the world. 

N: “I was always interested in skating but I never did it. I always thought they were interesting, cool people and it wasn’t until we were shooting and making friends that they said you can’t shoot unless you skate. In making that film it brought me into a new community that I had never been a part of. I made a lot of lasting relationships…I hope people see skaters in a different light. There’s a great community there and people want to see each other grow together as skaters and as people. Which is really cool.”

When asked what kind of advice she would give, this is what she had to say…

N: “Just start shooting as much as possible then figure out what you’re interested in. Put in as many hours as you can. If you get sick of it, then maybe [photography] isn’t for you. When it comes to film, read a lot and understand how to make a story. Watch a lot of movies. Figure out what you want to tell people and make that film even if it sucks. It takes a while to get it right. Don’t be afraid to be inspired by people – people are so focused on being original. Don’t rip off their stuff but don’t be afraid to be influenced by them. 

And, find a creative community. I think that’s why I haven’t been shooting film [lately] because I have’t been around film people. Find some kind of community – they might not be doing the same kind of medium [as you] but you all are pushing each other in different ways. It’s definitely good to have those friends that don’t deal with your bull crap and push you to help you get your mind off of stuff so you don’t wall in it.”

As Nicole is looking toward the new year she’s taking more photos and skating every chance she gets. Check out her website for more portraits and a link to Shred Not Dead.

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