Checking in with Nick Strocchia

What were you doing when we called?
I was sending out some coordination e-mails. I’ve been running the Charlottesville Photography Initiative since August of 2009. We’re a group of about 270 amateur and professional photographers in town, and we’re largely involved with education and community outreach.

Photographer Nick Strocchia says he didn’t pick up a camera until 2005, when he bought a digital SLR to pass the time working in an intelligence cell in the Middle East.
What are you working on right now?
I’m looking to profile combat vets who return from a tour and find some constructive means to deal with PTSD when they depart from the military. That’s the focus of my new project, finding the positive outlets that service members are pursuing. People find good ways to cope with PTSD and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. I want to show their perseverance.
What is your first artistic memory from childhood?
Drawing was my medium when I was young but I found that I was never really good at it. Fortunately I found photography later on in life and it’s been able to serve as that artistic nourishment that I’ve sought after. I came to photography in 2005…I was in an intelligence cell working near to Iraq, and I had a 12-hour day. It was very boring, in a very dark room. So I decided to purchase a DSLR camera and during the three months I spent in that bunker I really started pushing photography and exploring the medium. The rest is history.
Tell us about your day job.
Most of the time it’s work for publications in town. I also have a number of clients in D.C. who I do event or corporate work for. I’m a wedding photographer as well, and my focus is on military weddings. I’m trying to make working with service members my edge within the wedding market.
Tell us about a work of art that you wish was in your private collection.
I’m a huge fan of James Nachtwey. When I initially saw his work was actually here at the LOOK3 festival, and it really motivated me to push my photography to new bounds. Before that I just felt like another amateur trying to find my voice. Once I saw his work I was really motivated to try and pursue that deeper sense of people that you can get through a photograph.
If you could have dinner with any person, living or dead, who would it be and why?
In the wake of Tim Hetherington passing I think I’d really like to pick his brain. Of course, he peaked at a young age, but his work is so tremendous and it was really unfortunate how he prematurely died. My favorite picture of his is a photo he took that won World Press Photo, of a marine in the Korengal valley who had just finished fighting for days on end. You can see that he’s just at the point of breaking from exhaustion. He’s just laying in a bank of dirt.
Do you have any superstitions about your art?
I always pack my gear ahead of time. Most of the time my gear is always packed and ready to go right next to the door. I used to be a navigator on a surveillance aircraft, and from that I have a red checklist that I always go through to make sure things like batteries are charged and cameras are set.
Which of your works are you most proud of?
If you go to my website, the first photograph that shows up in the editorial section is one of a soldier against a black backdrop who’s looking over his left shoulder. He was a gentleman I met that went through public affairs school who moved to the U.S. from Gambia when he was 19 years old. He had never seen a computer or a typewriter but he wanted to go to college. After spending a year in New York with his uncle he got into a community college, but everything had to be typed and he didn’t know how to type. So he found a day job working in an office and learned how to type there. He ended up joining the Army National Guard and enlisting and eventually he got into college in Tennessee. I was glad that I could befriend him and also glad that I could capture the essence of his spirit in a single photograph.