How many people do you know who have gone to New York with the hopes of being one of those fine young creatives you see on the TV? It’s not an easy process, as you’d imagine. New Zealander Paul Nathan experienced this first hand, but determination and ambition kept him in “the world’s greatest city”. Generation Ink is a portrait publication of New York Gen Y-ers living in Williamsburg, and is the first book by the New Zealander.
Tattoos are culture couture. It’s fashionable to have some. That lady who gave you a flu-shot told you she didn’t like your tattoos, but who asked her? You tell your parents that you’ll never regret them, despite the fact Helen Mirren has gone on record to say that she regrets her tiny one. But hey, why not embrace fashion for what it is? It’s cool right now. If you regret it, fuck it. Get a divorce from your skin. Tattoos are fashionable. Tattoos are hip.
Paul Nathan’s approach to this very ideal was encompassing exactly that ideal. He adopted the endearing slander and the art of modern day youth aesthetics – particularly the tattooed beauties residing in Williamsburg. But it was that community and culture that kept him there in the first place.
His book, Generation Ink, is simply “a picture book about young people from our neighbourhood with tattoos”. He’s certainly not the first creative to try and make it in New York, and he admits it’s not an easy thing to do.
“I had enrolled in a product design course and an interior design course at [New York school of art and design] Parsons before changing to photography. I loved it, simply because I could see more of the city. I found a one year film course which started the following January at New York Film Academy, but after six months of the film course I realised it wasn’t something I wanted to continue with. Because I had broken my enrolment I received a letter saying I had 10 days to leave the US.”
Paul found a photography school he wanted to attend but had to submit a portfolio as he had missed the enrolment date. They rejected his submission, but that deter him.
“That night I met a New Zealand photographer at a party and told him my predicament. He offered to look at some of my work and helped me put a portfolio together which I resubmitted the next day and was accepted [into the International Center of Photography]. The one year General Studies photography course started the following month and I won a scholarship for my first terms work.”
From there Paul started working as a photographer specialising in fashion and portraits. It was at ICP that Paul met his wife, who had a background in publishing.
“It seemed like a good idea for a variety of reasons for me to start working on projects which we could turn into books, and hence the start of our publishing company Pelluceo.”
Now that Paul has released Generation Ink, he is currently working on his next publication Couture Dogs of New York. Paul and his wife are in the process of publishing other peoples work for Pelluceo and hope to release several books over the next few years.
Even though it’s all come together, Paul reminisces of the early days when he arrived in the big apple. Getting a visa isn’t easy, and there is literally a city’s worth of people trying to get their big break. Your neighbour, your friends and everyone in-between are there to be there – but that’s what comes with living in one of the biggest cities in the world.
“All the top everythings are based in New York… my advice to a 20 or 30 something wanting to spend time here is to either find an internship or a course. If you do a full time program for one year you can apply for and will get OPT visa which means you can work for a year freely without being tied to any particular company. Within that year, if you want to stay longer, you will need to find a sponsor. I was lucky because my wife had just become a citizen.”
After all of that, Paul finds that the common notion of a fierce job market in New York may in fact be less fierce than that in New Zealand.
“I have always felt that the standard and competitiveness may be fiercer in NZ than here, but I may be wrong. All the New Zealander’s that I know are so competent and successful in their fields in New York that I think it may be due to inherent NZ attributes, namely the desire to be original, self-reliance and fearlessness.”
Visit Paul Nathan’s website here.