When we spoke with Nathan he was less than a year out of high school and about to conclude the first year of the academy’s two-year program, where his photo class assignments are often more than classwork. “Most of them are practice for me; they get my ideas going, and I go out and do my own shots,” he says. Several of the photos here resulted from that kind of inspiration. The smoking man is Nathan’s grandfather, who also appears in the staged behind-bars image—proving once again the value of a cooperative relative.
A photo history course introduced Nathan to some of the classic black-and-white images, and their compositional strength was a major influence on his work. “I think black and white makes a stronger statement than color,” Nathan says, “and I think that all my really strong compositions will be in black and white.” Still, because he shoots Raw files with his camera set for black and white, the Raw file is preserving the scene’s color so he can compare the results after the capture.