Nei Cruz is not only a talented photographer: when talking of Nei it is impossible to leave out his generosity in supporting the community of Instagram photographers. Nei is a rare case, quite possibly unique on the web, where his generous qualities are probably more known than his photographic skills.
We have asked him to talk a bit of himself with us.
Tell us a little bit about yourself…
I’m not good at talking about myself, so here’s a profile written about me by my friend Ruth Efrati Epstein for Shootermag:
“Nei Cruz has a passion for style and beauty in both his career and personal life. He brings this style to his mobile photography. Nei was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He graduated with a degree in Art Direction from the Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro. Desiring to perfect his craft, Nei moved to the United States 30 years ago. He has worked with several world-renowned photographers and his work has been featured and published in a wide range of editorial magazines, including Vogue, Allure, W, WWD, Elle, L’Uomo Vogue, Cosmo Girl, Lucky, Surface and Essence.
It wasn’t until Nei got his first iPhone that he began to experiment with mobile photography. The arrival of Instagram turned his dabbling with iPhone photography into a passion.
He is as committed to the mobile-photography communities as he is to his photography. Nei is an extremely passionate supporter of many photographers. Many lasting relationships among mobile photographers have begun with an introduction from Nei.
In 2014, Nei became the Editor At Large for Shooter Magazine.
Nei resides in Manhattan, New York City, and continues to work in the fashion industry.”
By Ruth Efrati Epstein @80degrees
Did you study photography at college?
No. I studied Art Direction. However, I’ve worked with amazing photographers all my life.
What inspired you to start shooting and when?
I’ve always loved photography, but I always stayed in the background, art directing, until I got my first iPhone.
Right after I got my very first iPhone. It was when the iPhone came out. To be able to catch a moment and edit the image all in one device was such a genius idea. I specially started taking more pictures when I joined Instagram.
When did you join Instagram and what does the community mean to you?
I joined Instagram during September, 2010.
I used to delete images as I uploaded new ones. It was completely different than what it is today. There was a wonderful sense of community and you could talk and like images with no limits. No blocking. I miss that time, but I understand that all things change, and we must adapt. It’s a business now. Ever since these changes have been implemented, I lose followers with each post I make, no matter how good an image is, or how good the content is of what’s being posted. But I keep coming back, because of the community. I have made so many wonderful friends. They’re so loyal, encouraging and supportive. Some, I’ve even been able to meet in person. It’s all about the people. It’s also my way of escaping reality. The best thing is to see the world, people and things through someone else’s eyes.
Which camera apps do you use to take photos on the iPhone?
I mostly use the native camera and native tools. I keep it simple.
Which apps do you prefer for editing?
I avoid over editing. If I use a filter, it’s mostly VSCO at the lowest percentage.
I also use Snapseed selective adjusting and sometimes FilterStorm. Again, I try to keep it simple.
Is editing a long process for you?
Not really. It depends on the image, feel and mood I want to create. Besides, I have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), and no patience to spend too much time on an image.
However, I do spend a lot of time on cropping and aligning. If the image will work, I know it right away. And I usually take one single shot per subject.
I was very surprised to read you use only iPhone even when you work. I’m thinking about a few gorgeous images on your Instagram account taken for a fashion editorial. How was the staff and the model’s reaction when you started shooting with a mobile rather than a professional DLSR ?
At first they are surprised and skeptical. But when I show the image after post production, which I do on my own iPhone, they’re happy and impressed.
In more than one occasion you have mentioned both on your Instagram and Facebook account, of your depression: it seems to be an issue you have been fighting for a long time. Nevertheless, there isn’t any sign of melancholy or sadness in your images, and this condition apparently does not affect your photography, as your images are so full of life and in bright colours.. Has photography been of some help in coping with your depression ?
Absolutely! It’s a wonderful way to get my mind out of that dark feeling. A form to “escape.” I think subconsciously, I try to compensate my depression with “happy images”, for lack of a better word. Depression is a serious illness. I’ve learned over the years how to cope with it. I wish there wasn’t such a negative stigma attached to it. Millions of people suffer alone with this illness. That’s a shame. By talking about it, so many people have reached out and shared that they too suffer from it and they feel connected. The reactions are mostly positive, but sometimes heartbreaking.
Scrolling your gallery on Instagram we see an elegant mix of shots of gorgeous models, street photography, and architecture.
Can you tell us more about these three chosen/preferred kind of photographs?
Honestly, I like all genres of photography. Maybe it is because I’m an art director and have worked with so many brilliant photographers, each with their unique style. I have a special place for portraits. It’s a shame that this genre doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. Street photography is really hard for me, but I love the genre. I’m just not good at it, for lack of concentration.
I also love architecture. I tend to prefer clean and well cropped images for that.
What captures your attention when you are around with your iPhone and you are not shooting for work?
Anything. Art in all forms, a moment, a feeling, a person, the environment, movement and even music. Whatever catches my attention.
What and why do you look for when shooting: emotive aspects, reality, or just beauty?
It’s always a mix of all things. A moment, a place, a face, a feeling… I never know what will catch my eye. I “stumble” onto my images. I rarely prepare.
What is beauty, according to you?
Ah! The million dollar question! I don’t think you can define beauty. The cliché says that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” It’s true. It’s so personal! There’s beauty everywhere. Even in something others might consider “ugly”, “unattractive”, or mundane. It’s so hard to explain. I’m not good with words. There’s beauty even in tragic moments.
I have no specific “message.” Sometimes I publish an image I love, and no one gets it. But if I had a message, it would be for people to think, reflect and feel something. Isn’t that what art is for? To provoke thoughts and feelings?
What does photography mean in your life?
Again, this is a complex question to answer. Like any form of art, it’s my way to express myself. Without art and artists, this world would be a sad and lonely place.
Is there one image in your gallery you love most? And if yes, could you tell us why?
There are several. Mostly they evoke a feeling I had at a specific time and they remind me of that specific time. Also there are some images I love because of a certain “aesthetic.” It’s hard to explain. So personal.
Talking of photography, which are according to you, the most common mistakes a beginner makes?
I’d say images that are not aligned, not thought out, or composed. It drives me crazy to see a horizon that’s not perfectly aligned, for example. But that’s really just my thing.
Do you have any suggestions to give about photography?
Have fun and don’t be afraid of experimenting! Shoot what you like and what intrigues you!
Let me know more about your role in Shootermag.
Shootermag is the first photo magazine published in the world dedicated to mobile photography. I manage and select photographers for the features after carefully looking at their body of work. Shootermag USA was the first country-specific edition, published with only photographers from the USA.
Ruth wrote this about me:
“He is as committed to the mobile-photography communities as he is to his photography. Nei is a passionate supporter of so many photographers and he never fails to add a kind, empathic or supportive word. Through his deep commitment to mobile photography and the sense of community he has found, Nei became in 2014 the USA Editor At Large for Shooter Magazine.”
When talking of Nei Cruz, most of us as former AMPt members, or owners of an account on social sites like Instagram and Facebook, think not only about a talented photographer but also of a generous person supporting other peoples’ work. I think your encouragement has been and is for many of us, very important. What or who made you such a warm person, so communicative and outgoing ?
I’m not sure. I didn’t have a happy childhood. I wasn’t encouraged or accepted for who I was. I know how that feels, so maybe that makes me care about what people feel. Everyone deserves love, respect and encouragement. Maybe it’s just my nature and I was born with a caring personality. I don’t know.
Where can we see your work?
Since her childhood Valeria has been a storyteller: She used to invent musicals for puppets. Her parents would tease her as they perceived she magnified reality. What she liked was not to hide the truth but rather, to give more drama or beauty to the ordinary facts of her life. She wasn’t particularly fond of photography until October of 2013, when she created an account @_soulkitchen_ on Instagram, starting a diary of images. She is a contemplative, not interested in representing reality, but rather memories, desires, and the core of feminine beauty. If something captures her attention, or if she has an idea about, a story to tell, she immediately thinks of how to shift it from her imagination to an image.