Interview with photographer and father Nicholas Ball, in lockdown

Ella
2nd June 2020

Since graduating from Central Saint Martins in 2000 Nicholas Ball has worked in a wide variety of roles in the film and television industry, from Clapper Loader to Director of Photography and from Director to Screenwriter and Photographer. Nicholas lives in Kent with his two children, Ronnie 11 and Juno 6, his favourite people and subjects. We caught up with Nicholas during lockdown to talk about family life and the role of photography day to day. 

First off, how are you? Are you taking photographs in lockdown? Who or what have been your subjects?

We are all really well, thanks for asking. As lockdowns go we’re fortunate to be living with lots of outside space.

I’ve been taking pics of the countryside but mainly of the kids, I’ve also built a digital slit-scan camera which takes really strange and distorted images, in a way they’re quite representative of the weird times we’re living in and it's taken my photography in a totally new and exciting direction.


Have you documented any of the impact of the coronavirus? 

Not the societal impact. The kids and I have got really into an app called Banuba so there are hundreds of photos on my phone of us with funny altered faces, the pics feel like a document of the strangeness of lockdown mentality, that feeling of not really knowing where to land or how to feel from one moment to the next.

Have you learnt anything about yourself in quarantine ? Do you have a new normal/a routine? How does domesticity and parenting fit around your work?

The truth is I’ve been self isolating ever since I moved out of London in 2018, I never thought I’d be so happy to be living in the countryside. I have been running lots - only once a day, obvs - growing veg and cooking great food. We bought a Hungarian Vizsla puppy called Mando which we collect in a few weeks, we’re so excited! My screenwriting work is extremely flexible and I’m a very hands on parent so it’s been really lovely to reflect and to just be present and connected with the children. Both of my kids are incredibly, smart, funny, creative and engaging little people, I’m very lucky.

Your lovely looking children are often your subjects- a combination of seemingly candid and more posed pictures- how do you get each of these styles to work for you?

Almost all of my insta photographs are candid although I recently set up a portrait studio in my basement so some of the more staged portraits are from when Juno has requested a photo shoot, she can be very specific about her clothing and the backdrops too, I just bought her her first camera, she already has a great eye for it.

I guess the most important thing is to have your camera with you when you need it, it sounds silly but it’s true, I bought a Fuji XT-2 a while back and I absolutely love it for lots of reasons, not least because it’s quite small so it’s no trouble to have with me at all times. 

Lockdown has inspired a whole slew of people and celebrities doing instagram lives and taking selfies in their pyjamas -what do you think about this way of communicating, and how are you using social media right now?

I’m using social media way too much, those dopamine hit ‘likes’ are just the thing to distract us from the societal breakdown happening outside the window. I find social media to be - in equal measure - both connecting and disconnecting at the same time.

I don’t follow many celebrities, a pj selfie would have me instantly reaching for the unfollow button. I try to follow photographers, artists, galleries or just people that take good photographs, oh and anything to do with Liverpool FC. 

What advice do you have for budding photographers spending more time at home in terms of finding subjects and feeling inspired?

Take photographs of who you are. 

Any tips for photographing children and family generally? 

‘Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.’ So be quick, point and shoot or it’ll be gone forever. 


The world will look very different long after the coronavirus is no longer a threat- what do you think the long term impact will be on your work and the art world generally? Any silver linings?

I do think there will be an increase in creativity as a result of the lockdown and great things will hopefully come from this crisis. The NHS was our response to WW2, I really hope that we meet COVID-19 with something equally astounding and necessary, occasionally I allow myself to briefly dream that we could see a change, a lasting shift in our value systems. Wouldn’t that be amazing.

Personally I’m looking to do an exhibition of my slit-scan photographs as soon as I can, I’m grateful to have had the time to develop a different style of photography, I’ve found it incredibly rewarding, it’s great not having any third party involvement, no clients. No money either but hey, can’t have everything!

You can see more of Nicholas' work at www.nicholasball.me and follow him on instagram at www.instagram.com/nick_ball

All images © Nicholas Ball 2020