by Eric Konigsberg, published in The New York Times, May 21, 2008
Nikola Tamindzic went out late on Friday night to shoot pictures at Trash, a weekly themed party at 40C, an East Village nightclub.
Mr. Tamindzic is a night-life photographer — equal parts Ron Galella, Weegee and Terry Richardson — with clippings in Time Out New York, Black Book, The Village Voice and something planned in Vanity Fair. The Voice named him Night-Life Photographer of the Year in 2006.
“My pictures suggest a story that happened before the shot and a story that hasn’t happened yet,” Mr. Tamindzic said. “There’s a sense of melancholy. I’m thinking Lee Friedlander photographs from the ’70s. Hopefully, when it comes together it puts two contradictory layers in the photo: you’re both adoring it and not repulsed by it — but, yeah, almost repulsed by it.”
Take, for example, a picture Mr. Tamindzic took the weekend before last at a book party for Arianna Huffington: Ms. Huffington with Charlie Rose, Mortimer B. Zuckerman, Jann Wenner and Rupert Murdoch. None of the five — except for Mr. Wenner, who theatrically pretends to be holding Mr. Zuckerman and Mr. Murdoch at arm’s length from each other — appears to want to be in the photo. Yet they are all smiling gamely enough because, well, it would be horrible form to move out of the frame.
“I don’t judge my subjects,” Mr. Tamindzic said of his portraiture, which also includes studio and fashion work. He added that although he makes more money by selling pictures to glossy magazines, his primary employer (which had sent him to the Huffington event in the first place) is Gawker, the acidic media-gossip Web site. Mr. Tamindzic is 35 and grew up in Belgrade, in what was then Yugoslavia. He came to America in 2000, took a job doing Web design work, then landed in New York in 2004. It was around that time that he fell in love with photography, and during his initial months in town, he happened to end up at a Halloween party held by Gawker’s founder.
“I was bored so I took a lot of pictures and posted them online, and the next day they called and said they’d pay me to start taking their party pictures,” Mr. Tamindzic said.
His work can be viewed on his own site, homeofthevain.com (the name comes from a lyric by the literate post-punk band the Fall).
At the nightclub on Friday night, Mr. Tamindzic sized up the crowd. “It’s very young,” he said. “Lower East Side street kids, N.Y.U. students, trustafarians.”
He leaped into action, snapping pictures of the two young women who were being paid to dance on the bar in underwear and cutoff shorts and encouraging them to mug for the camera. Mr. Tamindzic, a lanky 6 feet 3 inches tall, all legs and elbows, was purposeful and obvious, with a hefty Canon EOS 5D camera in one hand and a LumiQuest softbox flash in the other (to throw up a noirish, crime-scene photographer’s burst of intense light). He uses long exposures, then shakes the camera while the shutter is still open, causing colors to blur and lights to streak.
“I’m not recording what is really happening, but it’s something like what the brain is seeing late at night, especially if maybe you’re drunk or very excited,” he said. “I like that hour between 3 and 4 in the morning when desperation sets in, when you see all the anticipation of going out starting to fade. The masks drop and everybody realizes the night is not going to be everything they were hoping for.”
Mr. Tamindzic appeared to be at the top of his game as the clock struck 1:30 a.m.
He snapped pictures of a couple of young career women in pumps and wool coats, one of whom held a bouquet of flowers; they were out on the town for her birthday.
He photographed a rather robotic looking woman in a futuristic version of a Playboy Club waitress’s outfit.
He photographed a couple who had fallen into what appeared to be an unlikely and unaccounted-for embrace.
There was something of the character portrayed by David Hemmings in “Blow-Up” in the way Mr. Tamindzic worked the back room of the club, pulling women onto the velvet couch and coaxing them into poses — for example, a hand on someone’s stomach, or a shoulder strap undone. They were mostly shy but thrilled by his attention.
“I like to bring people to a point of vulnerability and then meet their gaze,” he explained earlier in the evening about his portraits. “That creates compassion, which hopefully is reflected in the image. If you get vulnerability out of them and then look away, that’s the cruelest thing you can do. To flinch at that point and not take the picture, the subject will throw the wall up faster than you can say — well, faster than you can say a very short word.”