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Nikko Mascarinas: Manifest Destiny

For photographer Nikko Mascarinas, “photography is about manifesting something that is already in the person or place I’m capturing.” With wide shots, warm lighting, and cinematic style, Nikko’s photography captures what Nikko describes as “that ‘the world is big’ feeling”— the familiar sentiment of exciting yet humbling possibility that his hometown of New York is known and loved for.

Industry City, Brooklyn

Manhattan skyline

The fact that Nikko is a native New Yorker and not a freshly optimistic urban transplant makes his romantic attitude toward capturing the city and its inhabitants refreshingly non-cliché.

In fact, Nikko’s talent lies in his ability to uniquely and creatively capture fundamentally relatable feelings and experiences, culminating in works that are not only personal to the subjects in them, but to anyone viewing them.

“I want to trigger a memory in every image I capture, so that even if you weren’t there, you know what it feels like,”

said Nikko

Every shoot with Nikko is an impressive exercise in artistic dualism. He simultaneously manages to capture both a bespoke, personal memory for his clients while also capturing a shared human experience that you don’t need to be featured in the photo or even present for to want it displayed on your wall.

Nikko’s first fine art print sale reinforced his more artistic and sentimental approach to photography—which is especially unique in the New York market so dominated by commercial and fashion photography.

Staten Island at sunrise, Nikko's first fine art print sale

“A friend reached out to me on Instagram asking to buy a print, and to be honest, I thought he was joking at first. But he was actually serious. He said he wanted it because it reminded him of when he’d be coming home really late after a fun night out, probably about to get his ass beat by his mom,” Nikko laughed.

Whether it’s coming home late to stern-faced parents, gazing out over the water at a beautiful skyline, or wandering the city when you’re on a date that you don’t want to end, Nikko’s photography uniquely and seamlessly blends the authenticity of street photography, the personalism of portrait photography, and the universally artistic quality of fine art photography.

A couple walking along the water in Brooklyn

“It’s so important to have your own unique perspective…there are a billion starry nights, but Vincent Van Gogh created the The Starry Night. Putting your own flavor and feeling into your photographs is what can turn a pretty common picture into a masterpiece,” Nikko reflected.

Not only is Nikko rare in being a native New Yorker who still observes the city through rose-colored glasses, but at twenty-two years old, he is also surprisingly young to have such a mature and developed artistic approach.

Still in college, Nikko is currently studying to be an X-ray technician, “which actually employs a lot of the same techniques you see in photography,” Nikko explained. While balancing the responsibilities of being a full-time student with photography is challenging, Nikko enjoys photography as a way to “ground myself and stay inspired.”

He intends to continue pursuing photography after he graduates as a creative outlet and to continue building his portfolio and reputation as a fine art photographer.

During quarantine, Nikko is focused on manifesting images of hope and community. His favorite quarantine shot so far is his capture of Manhattenhenge this July. Named after Stonehenge, Manhattenhenge, occurring only a few days out of the year, is when the sunset aligns perfectly with the NYC grid system to create the appearance that the sun is literally setting on the streets of New York City.

Manhattenhenge, July 2020

According to Nikko, even in the midst of quarantine, thousands of people crowded onto sidewalks, peered over bridges, and dodged traffic for a coveted view of the sunset. However, while everyone else clamored for an unobstructed view of the sunset, for Nikko, other people were not obstructing the view—they were the view.

“Everyone else was focusing on the sun, but I wanted to capture other photographers capturing their moment. For me, my moment is capturing other people’s moments and manifesting that memory,” said Nikko.


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