Australian photographer Nicole Reed has gained a reputation in print and online for shooting artists, musicians, and designers in their creative spaces. But her compulsion to photograph people in their natural habitats extends to her personal work, too, and can be seen in her shots of drunken revelers in Sydney's King's Cross and Hong Kong shop owners in crumbling store fronts. It's a hobby that's taught her to navigate the awkward conversations around asking strangers for a photo. No Slam Dunks is a personal project exhibiting at Melbourne's 2014 Independent Photography Festival involving her basketball-obsessed friends on their favorite courts. The series is a pretty good representation of Nicole's obsessions: pals, sports, and abandoned spaces.
VICE: Hey, Nicole. Who are the people in the photos?
Nicole Reed: I've got a bunch of different portraits going in. They're all people I know, just friends who are really into street ball. They're actually all people I've known for a few years. For example, I've know Ben for a very long time - he's the one who's spinning the ball on his middle finger.
How did the project start?
I wanted to involve a few particular friends. They chose where to be shot. I said: take me to where you want to shoot hoops or play basketball. So I shot them on their favorite courts. They talk about basketball a lot and we watch basketball on TV. I do have a thing about sports fields. I love photographing them, particularly empty ones. I thought it was a good way to combine all the things I like into a project. It wasn't a project I thought I'd ever exhibit, so it's kind of cool getting a chance to do that.
When you're not shooting your hoop-shooting mates, you make a lot of travel photos. Lots of them are of empty spaces that would normally be packed at any other time of day. Is that something you've been consciously doing?
It's something that I didn't really pick up on until Crumpler featured some of my photos of Hong Kong in an interview on their blog. I was explaining how I found Hong Kong really hectic. There are so many people on the street that I got a little claustrophobic. The guy interviewing me then pointed out that none of my photos of Hong Kong have people in them. It's something that I haven't consciously been doing, but it's definitely been running through my work for a long time.
Ironically, you're also great at shooting strangers on the street. How do people respond when you shoot them candidly? Do you talk to them beforehand?
Sometimes, particularly in travel photos. You can kind of tell the difference in the ones where I've asked someone to take their photo and where I haven't. I haven't had anyone yell at me or react badly yet. Particularly when I'm in Japan, I generally always ask just out of politeness. But sometimes in other cities I'll try and be a bit more covert and just snap something.
Do you ever have any reservations about shooting people who maybe aren't aware of you?
Sometimes I do. It depends. I guess it's one of those dilemmas that all photographers have. You want to have a photo that's natural and you want to document something that's happening on the street, but you don't want to take advantage of someone who doesn't know what you're doing either. I guess it's OK if I'm not going to use that photo for anything other than my personal use. I might use it in an exhibition or on my website, but I wouldn't sell it to an advertising company to use in an ad or anything like that.
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