PHOTOGRAPHY: An Interview with Jos Yohkoh and Nikki Herron

Once in a great while, you meet a person that has such a bright light that is truly beautiful, and you are attracted to this light for it’s inspiration and brilliance. Then you meet their significant other and this person, too, is like a breath of fresh air. Together, both Jos and Nikki Herron-Yohkoh, create incredibly creative art. Both are an inspiration to me personally, and I couldn’t be more honored to have them as our featured artists for November’s FOCUS!

Patrick: Just so we can get to know you a little better, as is our tradition at FOCUS, let’s begin with fun icebreaker: Tell us about one thing that at first bothered you about the other, but now you can’t get enough of that part of their personality! Nikki why don’t you begin and share what that might be about Jos.

Nikki: Thank you for having us Patrick! Well, this question is easy! It’s his ability to read me like a book. He seems to know almost everything without me having said a thing! Not that is a bad thing, mind you. We often say we were lost soulmates because I don’t often have to explain – he just gets it. He knows! I remember once asking – and even found myself looking around – “Do you have a camera somewhere, Jos?” I admit it bothered me at first, but now, I love that I can stop mid-sentence and he knows how I am feeling or what I want to say.

Patrick: Jos, now it’s your turn.

Jos: First, I want to express my gratitude towards the whole FOCUS team for inviting us both this month as your featured artists.

We learned during our time together as a couple in RL and a team in SL, that we both have personalities with a strong tendency to focus and get caught in what we are doing. At first, I have to admit, it was difficult for me to grasp this dedication Nikki has since it resulted often in me chatting away and getting no answer back. Now, we laugh about it. Nikki dedicates her heart and soul to her works and yes, this is one of her many admirable qualities that I respect and appreciate.

Patrick: Where does much of your inspiration come from, and – knowing you both share in most of your photography – does sharing challenge you to be stronger artists?

Nikki: For me, I am very much a romantic and sensual person. I also love to show my emotion –which can lead to some more dramatic pieces from time to time. It all depends on how I am feeling in the moment. Some- times, something will come to me whilst away from the computer and I ache to get back there to create what is in my mind. Other times I can be somewhere in SL and think, “I see a picture here.”

Jos is very inspiring and supportive to me here. We are both each others critiques as well as support and will sometimes make suggestions.

Jos: Most of my works are born out of little moments or a “flash” idea that pops-up, fueled by a certain circumstance. This doesn’t guarantee that my idea will materialize since I tend to change whilst building. I reckon one can call this self-inspiring? One idea triggers another.

As Nikki is more the story telling part of us in her emotionally driven-scenery and portraits, I go for another edge. I work with symbolism, puzzles and unusual ways of colouring and WL settings. Often, I try to dare the viewers to see beyond what I seem to present at first sight. My art tends to be a bit quirky. I like to explore my ability to express emotion through an image powerfully enough to incite a response.

Nikki and I share our raw works with one another – often several versions – and ask each other to comment on it and discuss opinions. We also can learn and improve ourselves by observing each other and discuss works from other artists.

Patrick: I know, Jos, you use a lot of music and poems in your presentation. Tell us a little about that process and how your themes and ideas are influenced by other artistic mediums.

Jos: Yes. The combination of image and sound (i.e. music and lyrics) completes the image. For me, it changes an apparently self-contained image into a composition. As if one is linking prims to build something in SL! In this way music and their lyrics combined with a strong, emotion-driven poem, related to the subject and/or the message I want to send, takes a picture from a prelude to a suite, as in classical music.

Patrick: Nikki, you are so beautiful in each of your compositions. What artists have given you inspiration?

Nikki: Thank you! Music is very inspiring to me and definitely affects my mood. How I am feeling in the moment will almost always come through in my work. I am very diverse with my tastes although I think I annoy Jos that I don’t really know many early 70’s musicians. I am an 80’s gal! That was my wild time. So, to really answer your question, I like anything from Indie to pop and moody love songs to rock. It is more the words I am listening to in a song. I could be listening and think “OMG, this is exactly what I am trying to bring through in my work!” Then I will add the song in hope that people will “get it” a bit more.

Patrick: In your work, what excites you about the creative process the most?

Nikki: Truthfully, I hate setting up for a shoot whereas I know Jos loves that part of it. You are more likely going to find me wandering SL sims than Jos. I absolutely love playing with windlight and rely on that to do most of my work. I love post editing. That is the most appealing part to me. I like to call it “tidying up.”

Jos: Nikki is so right here; I LOVE setting up scenes. You will not find me wandering around in SL with the intention of posing unless we are together. And let us not forget the fact that being able to share our work with others is inspiring. What is a painter without an audience? Or a poet without public?

Patrick: So many of us enjoy seeing your pictures as a couple. How do you come up with your ideas when working together?

Nikki: When we are taking pictures together, we both snap away madly. I love poses that mimic RL. We do have to put a lot of edit time into our poses because, as most are aware, poses are not a one size fits all. We’ve invested in editing tools for poses which are very worthwhile. We have our own ideas but we are very much a team. Jos is definitely the more experimental one and will use settings leaving me wondering “what will he do with that?” We have a rule now: not to publish the same picture of the same angle or windlight. We both grew into our own with how our pictures are presented anyway, so we’re not likely to take the same shot.

Jos: Nikki and I definitely differ in how to approach a shot as it comes to angles and WL settings. We avoid publishing the same works but if we can combine in a more funny way, we do. A good example of this is linking to each other’s work to complete a story, where one can see Nikki waving in the distance in one picture and then see Jos from Nikki’s point of view in linked work.

Working together is about communicating constantly about ideas and how to present. It may be also that sometimes we “borrow” Nikki or Jos to complete an idea when the other is not available due to our difference in time zone, as we do have a huge ocean in between us. But often, Nikki poses while I am the one with the camera or the other way around. We seem to have reached a perfect co-operation in this. It even stretches to “you pose and sort inventory” events. But this is also part of the fun of working together.

Patrick: Do either of you have a background in art or photography?

Nikki: I am pretty much self-taught but I think I have always had an artistic side. Back in 2008, I opened up an SL business designing classic clothes (no mesh then) and everything was hand drawn, shaded and detailed. It was a successful little business for the time but more of a hobby for me and the delight I got from seeing my work on another person was such a nice feeling.

When Jos and I reconnected we were just taking everyday snapshots and popping them into an album on Facebook for us to share with only each other. I recalled Flickr, having used this as a platform years ago to blog my clothing designs and suggested to Jos that we should place them there. So with a big burst of enthusiasm we threw everything and anything of our SL adventures there. It was definitely more about the “Adventures of Jos and Nikki in SL” and were basically many double ups from each others view. We quickly learned not to flood poor Flickr and to put more effort into presenting our works. Then it became a matter of pride and effort. As in my business I had, the delight I feel knowing somebody has viewed my picture and enjoyed, smiled or even added to their favorites is such a nice feeling.

Jos: During my high school period I had the possibility to choose two extra subjects to complete my study and one of them was History of Art. I enjoyed that so much! So, I am a bit familiar with some techniques (theoretically) perhaps, using some here and there at my convenience. Also, I was raised playing the accordion, the grand piano and other instruments with keys to hammer on. So I’m sure all that is influencing my works in the background.

Patrick: What advice would you give a new artist?

Nikki: Don’t be afraid to take many, many pictures of the one scene! I will usually take much more than needed and of course only one will make it but I have been thankful I did as something may not be captured correctly and you may never get that exact moment back.

And practice! It’s all about fun and practice. Once you have learned the basics, you can go on to learn the basics of editing.

Lastly, make a story. People love to see a story in a picture but be aware of the windlights as some can be enhancing or devastating to your composition.

Jos: Keep in mind that art is not a competition. Never be afraid to publish the hard work you completed with the fear it would look “of lesser importance” compared to what already is posted in Flickr groups. It is YOUR picture, YOUR idea, YOUR share with the world. And you deserve respect and admiration. There are no rules. There is no law dictating how the perfect picture should look like. All your work is a gem!

Then let the inspiration flow. Open your eyes and ears and start to discover several ways of presenting. Experiment and learn how one approach can result in different outcomes. And remember to keep notes on how you achieved photos you particularly like.

Patrick: Lastly, how has Too Sexy for This Group (TSFTG) influenced you?

Nikki: The artists in the group are very inspiring indeed. Sadly, due to my timezone I haven’t had the chance to meet many but have had the opportunities to of course admire the works. Your in-world gallery is something for every artist to feel proud of being involved in as one is alongside some of the best. I would love to do a collaboration with someone from the group. I feel it would be refreshing for Jos and I to do something new with somebody for the experience and to perhaps see something from a different view.

Jos: Yes! I’ve met some artists out of the group and discovered their drive and went to see how their works contain and express their passions. Practically on a daily basis, I open up the group and view every last work till the picture appears that I already have seen. There are artists I can tell are on the “same frequency” as me. They might even work like I do and that makes it even more interesting. There was a day I was honored to have a look at your side, Patrick. You were in the midst of creating and that was super inspiring. Perhaps it is an idea to have some “open moments” at a stage of
creating work, where a group member invites interested friends to the scene whilst busy doing it. In my case, this would be a platform for example. Thus sharing “a way” not “THE way, of working.”

Patrick: I’m again, so honored to have this time to get to know you more personally as artists and a loving couple who both share their passions for creative digital art with so many around the world! You are both so inspiring to me, and I continue to grow and get better in my craft from enjoying your gifts!

Nikki: Thank you so very much Patrick! It’s very much an honor for us to be involved in your magazine. We do feel quite proud that we have been
asked and thank you very much for the opportunity.

Jos: Yes! I agree with what Nikki is saying here and it works both ways. We all are inspiring each other and isn’t it sheer fun? We do hope our future works will be appreciated and seen as a source to inspire. Furthermore, I thank the team of Focus for providing us both the platform to communicate with you all and for inviting us to talk a little bit about ourselves.

Ok, in Dutch then, for just one little second, on behalf of us both: Dank jullie wel voor alles!