Meet Nicholas Routzen, a New York City-based fashion photographer. While his creative eye drips talent, he also has a heart of gold and a knack for being quite resourceful. Enter SALT + AIR, his nonprofit project. Describing his upbringing as “oceanic” and having a background in philanthropy, it was only a matter of time before Routzen launched a large-scale non-profit photo exhibition. Teaming up with five industry models plus a strong creative team of 12 people, Nicholas set out to Puerto Rico to make magic, focusing on the female figure, the fluidity of water, and the rich composition of black and white photos. We were able to catch up with Nicholas and pick his brain on SALT + AIR, other nonprofits he is affiliated with, and the advice he has for his fellow young creatives. Included are the sensual and stunning photos from the SALT + AIR Calendar, available for purchase here. Feast your eyes…
LF: 10 days in Puerto Rico helped bring the visual component of Salt & Air to life. The most surreal experience you encountered while shooting?
NR: I arrived a few days before the crew to sort out some details on the main island like getting the 15 passenger van and filling over two grocery carts of food. I remember sitting in the ferry island hopping, while the cargo van sat on the back of the boat, thinking, “Wow, this is really happening.” This was time the project fully sunk in. It wasn’t until the team arrived and we were doing cannonballs off of the walls of the pool, BBQ’ing, and prepping for our first shoot day that I completely felt the energy of the trip.
LF: What Salt + Air accomplishment are you most proud of?
NR: I am most proud of wrangling in such a talented team to back this project and give their full devoted time to create with me. Raising over $13k funds via Kickstarter was quite an accomplishment too… it was a really emotional time. Knowing that you have such a strong support system is a gift in itself.
LF: In your own words, I would like you to explain why you believe in this project.
NR: I believe in SALT + AIR because it’s strictly from the heart. Everyone who’s joining and getting on board whether it is monetary support, physical support, or just posting/reblogging about SALT + AIR all want to help this project be a success. Everyone wants to be involved in something helpful and meaningful. We’ve tied art and photography in way that allows us to be able to give back and help support the non-profit Surf For Life and it’s been a long road, but it’s also been incredibly exciting. Surf For Life has a great vision helping ocean-based communities by way of building schools, health clinics, and community centers for children and their families. Philanthropy, ocean, and youth are very close to my heart, so Surf For Life was a perfect organization to get behind.
LF: Biggest obstacle you faced during the process of creating Salt + Air?
NR: Logistics of the shooting process of SALT + AIR were very tedious. Scheduling a team of over eleven people and dealing with everyones schedules was quite a handful. While booking our models we had to wait sometimes a day or two before their flights to actually book because they were up for different campaigns and, unfortunately, shooting on an island for a non-profit art project wasn’t necessarily at the top of some of the agents lists. Fortunately, all of our models were incredibly supportive and wanted full involvement. Besides that, the planning process of each calendar launch party has been a lot of work – lots of back and forth with details. All in all a very positive experience, though.
LF: Aside from Salt + Air, what else do you have on your plate at the moment?
NR: We just finished Art Basel week, which I was very excited about. Now back to NYC for some campaigns, then to Cali for the Christmas Holiday. Then, right back to NYC to start working on the book for SALT + AIR. I am also working on the new collection for my t-shirt line, LE BEAU. A lot of great things in the chamber for 2015!
LF: When/what was last moment you remember feeling overwhelmed with gratitude?
NR: The last time I think I was extremely overwhelmed with gratitude was when we pieced together a crew of 15+ and helped do demo work for those who lost their homes during Hurricane Sandy, in Staten Island. Originally, myself and a few friends posted on all our social media looking for volunteers. We managed to get an entire team out there on multiple occasions. I remember being covered head to toe in dust, dirt, mud, and sweat thinking, “God this feels good”. The community was so incredibly grateful for us and people like us who were volunteering their time and driving in from surrounding towns to do whatever they could to help. Having all these people who weren’t necessarily friends yet, who quickly became great friends, and just giving ourselves completely to all these poor families who lost everything felt like the right thing to be doing. There was so much great energy on those streets even in the middle of everyone’s loss… The community really came together and I am so proud to have been part of the countless individuals who came together to show support.
LF: Advice for a young creative interested in pursuing a philanthropic venture?
NR: If you’re looking to pursue a philanthropic venture, you must be ready to tap into all of your resources, be prepared for a lot of work, and really hone in on why it is you want to do this and who it is going to support. Give people a reason to get involved and be creative with promoting your ideas.
LF: How fast do you live?