Comics, comedy and street photography: A lesson in authenticity at October’s Nicer Tuesdays in New York
We had the pleasure of returning to New York for our second Nicer Tuesdays. Emotional, funny and insightful in equal measure, it was a brilliant night for creative inspiration all round.
What better way to see through the mid-Autumn days than cosying up inside with some inspiring creative talks? The residents of New York seemed to agree with this sentiment, as hundreds of them flocked to attend our second ever Nicer Tuesdays in the city. As the sun began to set on a gloriously sunny day, people made their way into The Cooper Union grabbing a drink, a snack and having a chat before the event kicked off. This time round, the talks were a real lesson in how to stay true to your personal creative drive and desires. Illustrator Ping Zhu walked the audience through her autobiographical comic project, the hilarious “not designer” Elliot Ulm detailed the ways in which he’s carved a unique space for himself in the online realm, and the photographer Andre D. Wagner detailed the importance of connecting with your subjects and their communities. Read on to find out more about each talk at what we can safely say was a stellar event.
Ping Zhu on using comics to let off commercial steam
Becoming a successful illustrator with project after project flooding in sounds like pretty much a dream for any emerging creative, and Ping Zhu is no exception to this feeling. Framing her talk as being for anyone at the start of their career she outlined that while she has had a lot of commercial success, and has managed to find a sense of “purpose” in such work, it’s far from the only thing that keeps her going. In fact, over time Ping says she realised that working high up in a “demanding industry” doesn’t leave much room for personal projects, development or yourself.
That’s why five years ago Ping was compelled to start an annual comic project, where for one day she documented her daily life in comics, hour by hour. Not only allowing for some well-needed time for herself but space for creative experimentation, “keeping Hourly Comic Day gave me a small reliable outlet for exploration”, she said. Showing some of her comics to the audience, they were sweet, funny and heartwarming. Wrapping things up, she had even completed a “speculative” comic for the day of the talk, which included her happily prepping before, ending with a gravestone entitled – ‘Gave a Boring Talk’. We can assure you that the opposite was true. Overall, Ping demonstrated that while commercial success is certainly helpful, finding time for yourself and your personal creativity is just as important, or maybe even more so.
Elliot is a Cool Guy proves he’s a funny guy too
What do you know Elliot is a Cool Guy for? Being cool? Being funny? Having some pretty good graphics to show for it too? Well his Nicer Tuesdays talk stayed true to form. He kicked things off with a big warm welcome – and a botched attempt at starting a New York chant “because that’s what you love to do?” he asked the audience. Diving straight into it, Elliot walked us through how he’s managed to amass such a big following on his YouTube and Instagram channels, or in his words, how he became a “cute Aussie” who “just posts pretty pictures online”. One way being a face filter that lets you know what font you are – the algorithm propelling his face to fame.
Now so big online, Elliot told the audience that he actually rarely completes projects with clients, or, in his words: “I don’t even tell people I’m a graphic designer anymore because I don’t really do graphic design. I don’t do client work because I suck at branding and I’m also very sensitive.” Obviously, it takes quite the personality to put your face online so regularly, and aside from his day-to-day work Elliot also does improv and stand-up comedy which means he’s “great at speaking in public”, “great at speaking in front of a camera” and, finally, “terrible at speaking to people at parties”. Elliot wrapped things up by talking about his Design Chef project, in which designers can submit poster designs, and people can weigh in – though there’s one catch, you can’t give criticism. Certainly, it seems Elliot is a Cool Guy is a designer for the people.
Andre D. Wagners’ insight into how street photography can honour the community its depicting
Sitting down with our editor-in-chief Matt Alagiah, street photographer Andre. D Wagner gave a precious insight into his illustrious career so far. Before becoming a photographer, Andre moved to New York City with the intention of studying social work. Living in Bushwick, with this social lens dictating his outlook, he began to question how he could open himself up to his community, and after being warmly accepted, he began photographing them. He realised that with his camera, he had the power to tell stories, to impact the people in the pictures and the ones viewing them. “I didn’t really choose photography,” he told the audience. “I feel like it chose me.”
Immersing himself in New York, its bustling culture and rich street photography legacy, Andre began to make a name for himself, getting known for his preference for black and white, a form he said he chose for how “democratic” it was. He himself began to learn the ropes of the craft, honing his skills, perspective and craft – “as a street photographer, you have nothing but time”. Andre’s talk was a masterclass in creating a body of work that has people, their histories and stories at its core, and paying respect to your subjects. Looking to the future, Andre shared that he has hopes of turning the camera inward, making a body of work “that deals with my own background and history”.
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