Jim Nickelson is a photographer whose work is driven by an interest in science and nature. Science is thus the underpinning for all of his photography, whether it be work based on the concept of the passage of time, work motivated by natural rhythms and cycles and patterns, work exploring the mysteries of nature, or work simply inspired by the wonder of the natural world.
Jim works full time as a fine art photographer and custom digital printer (as Nickelson Editions) and teaches workshops on photography and digital printing both privately and through Maine Media Workshops. Before committing himself to the photographic life, he pursued the classic artistic career path of NASA engineer and corporate lawyer. Jim makes his home in Camden, Maine, with his amazing wife and daughter.
Jim has received numerous awards and exhibited widely, including in museums or galleries such as the Photo Resource Center at Boston University (Boston, MA), Danforth Museum of Art (Framingham, MA), Center for Maine Contemporary Art (Rockport, ME), University of Maine Museum of Art (Bangor, ME), Bates College Museum of Art (Lewiston, ME), Three Columns Gallery at Harvard University (Cambridge, MA), University of Wyoming Art Museum (Laramie, WY), VoxPhotographs (Portland, ME), Davis Orton Gallery (Hudson, NY), Center for Photographic Art (Carmel, CA), Preston Contemporary Art Center (Mesilla, NM), Spiva Center for the Arts (Joplin, MO), Ten High Street Gallery (Camden, ME), Jonathan Frost Gallery (Rockland, ME), Kingman Gallery (Deer Isle, ME), Gallery Photographica (San Francisco, CA), and Silvermine Guild Galleries (New Canaan, CT).
Jim's work resides in corporate, public, and private collections across the United States and Canada.
The underpinning of my photographic work is an intense and abiding interest in science and nature. This interest manifests itself in my photography as I create work based on the concept of the passage of time, work motivated by natural rhythms and cycles and patterns, work exploring the mysteries of nature, or work simply inspired by the wonder of the natural world.
For my Pyrotechnic project, I became interested in how fireworks, as a quintessentially man-made object, mirrored many aspects of the natural world once they were abstracted to their basic forms.
The incongruity of the noisy, ephemeral, and commonplace fireworks bringing to mind beautiful and delicate forms from nature continues to inspire me in this ongoing project. Whether the fireworks ultimately recall natural forms that we see with our eyes, or other objects on a microscopic or even astronomical level, each brings to the viewer a different connection based on their own unique experiences and backgrounds.
Adventures in Celestial Mechanics
My Adventures in Celestial Mechanics project is based on my quest to capture each full moon of the year, at moonrise or moonset, from somewhere in the Maine landscape. The project name derives from the delightfully-named textbook (written by my professor, Dr. Szebehely) that captured the beauty and majesty of the equations underlying orbital mechanics. For moonrise of the full moon results from an important phase of the celestial dance between the Earth, Sun, and Moon – when all three bodies are aligned and one can stand on the Earth with the sunset at your back and moon rising right in front of you. (Moonset results from a similar alignment at sunrise).
The fascinating names of each full moon, each rooted in the history of the land and its peoples, provide further inspiration for my endeavors.
Moonrise and the cycles of the moon happen endlessly, month after month, year after year, and their repetitive nature results in many becoming numb to the magic of the moon hanging above. With this project, I hope to reignite in viewers a passion and interest in the passage of the moon through the sky and its importance to peoples throughout history, just as this project has reignited those same passions in myself.
In my aerospace engineering program, the workload was relentless with homework in each class every night. Notwithstanding that, Dr. Szebehely had a long-running joke where he refused to give us any homework on the night of a full moon as he would instead tell us with his thick Hungarian accent: “No homework tonight. It is full moon. You have more important things to do.” I’m not sure I did then, but I certainly do now – every full moon now finds me out there with tripod and camera, seeking out the rising or setting moon.
East of the Sun, West of the Moon
Stories of distant and mysterious lands have stirred my imagination since I was a young child, curled up each day with some type of escapist literature, whether it be mythology, fairy tales, or fantasy. In these stories, the best and most interesting worlds were those that were difficult to reach for the protagonist. Even now, when I am immersed in the natural world of this planet, I am still seeking glimpses of those alternative worlds with my photography.
A famous Norwegian tale talks of a young woman who sets off in search of her prince, who has been banished to the castle of his wicked stepmother. The young woman knows only that the castle is located east of the sun and west of the moon and, after many adventures and false steps, she reaches this difficult-to-find castle and rescues the prince. A place that is east of the sun and west of the moon has been known since as a place that is effectively part of another world and notoriously hard to reach.
In this project, I seek out landscapes that are evocative of another world, that seem to be of a different universe, time, or place than our own. Like those stories that fed my imagination in my own youth, these landscapes are portals to lands that lay east of the sun and west of the moon.