Since I began shooting graffiti and later on got into photography. I looked up to a couple of local photographers, who also did the same. One of them was Nick Adam. A person who has his own style of documenting graffiti and photography, which is more then just point and shoot. He captures the atmosphere in and around the subject to give a person, a sense of what he views compared to what someone else might see with his use of framing and style.
I can't recall the first time I met Nicky, but I could say it might have been sometime in 2008. Maybe at the Keys Open doors Show.
I hit him up recently and asked him if he would be interested in doing an interview and he agreed. As a person I look up to I thought it would be a way for me and you guys to get to know Nicky a little better.
(All photos contributed by Nicky "Dieter" Adam)
Emen: Who are you?
Nicky: I'm Nick Adam. Student to the world, designer of print, artist in life, photographer of the streets, loyal to those I love... always trying to stay happy, I just turn 29 years of age and I'm often over caffeinated. I've been known by other things but I really don't relate to those names, for a while people knew me as Nicky Dieter, which is homage to name I wrote for a wee-tad-bit and my German heritage. I rep the super-secret but about to be not-so-secret Mr. Thors' FOCUS GROUP, I'm as well apart of the latest generation of THREE HEARTS CLUB, HASH Crew. I was co-creator of UPSET with Ghetto P, Fotoflow, Cosbe, and Heather, we did a several very cool events in attempt of pushing Chicago forward.
Emen: Where are you from?
Nicky: Des Plaines. My family is from Humboldt Park, Logan Square, and Back of the Yards. My parents relocated to the West-suburb of Addison to birth my brothers and I. Our home was destroyed in the floods of '87 and we moved to Des Plaines. If you are familiar with Des Plaines... from the 016-side. People love talking about the Suburbs... I agree that they are boring and very good at producing people with no understanding of culture... well unless that culture is shopping and eating. I disagree with the thought that all suburbanites are rich and lack life experience. The majority of "native" Chicagoans I've known are far more wealthy than my family ever was or is, and often have not had the same experiences. Shit, I tend to soapbox and go off on tangents... whatever.... I've moved here and there throughout Chicago over the past 10 years, currently I stay in Ukrainian Village on a block that is sacred and still highly Ukrain. I'll be moving in June though, hopefully to a live/work space. If anyone hears any deals give me a shout, okay? Knock some bucks off the monthly cost and I'll help with ground maintenance, you know hand-holding back-scratching activities like shoveling the walks, make sure light bulbs are doing there things, help with the tenants incapable of helping themselves.
Emen: How did you become involved in the Chicago Graffiti scene
Nicky: By no way do I consider myself a writer, merely floated in and out or perhaps even on the peripheral. I got interested by way of highway "The Ike". My brothers and I spent about every weekend in the 80's at Grandma Vicki's in Back of the Yards. She was at 46th and Justine and we ate Naples Pizza allday! That place is still there, arcade games and all! Being a 7-year-old in a big-chevy van listening to Jimmy-Crack-Corn and John-Jacob-Jingleheimer-Schmidt, there was no greater escape then pondering the existence of these big letters in contrasting colors on walls. The Eisenhower was a wonderful expressway to drive down, it was absolutely rocked.... FEDZ and ICEPACK. That was the start of my interest in graffiti, but as well my interest in the human need to communicate, to influence, innovate and conquer. After that I wrote hear and there a bunch of different names... something when I was 12 and was apart of the punk scene going to see The Blue Meanies and Screaching Weasel, some other names while raving from 94-97 dancing to house music in girls bathrooms and chilling at afterhours held in funeral homes and other wierd places... I quit being a party kid around 16ish, had friends die, get years for transporting, and I became an over all piece of garbage. My girl Robbyn and I stopped at the same time and we started shooting the graffiti in the areas we stayed around. Looking back now it's the area surrounding Imperial Furniture wall down to Wicker Park. And incase you didn't know, that area was FUCKING NUTS then!
I was never schooled, and was for the most part was just fucking-about, was arrested plenty of times for being a not thinking shit-head. In 1999 I hated working as a telemarketer and thought that I'd go to design school and wait tables to pay for it. Graffiti was something that fell from my mind. I graduated, got a job doing night-club flyers, had an amazing lady... then in 2002 I had a large amount of friends die. These weren't pals or buds or kids I saw here and there, this was my innercircle. Each one choose the rope or the needle. Anyone that has not dealt with death or bodies each one was found in there own filth by family or friends, and in each case those people had to handle the body and clean the mess after the body was scoped up. I'm just saying, if you are making stupid decisions be conscious of who bears the brunt. I digress... It was the death of my closest friend Martin that got me thinking. The major difference between the dead and the alive is the act of doing, however if all you do is what your asked or suppose to, are you truly living? I didn't feel alive. That is when I created Deter, or Nicky Dieter.
Emen: What was that like Compared to what we see today, more murals perhaps?
Nicky: It's hard for someone like me to say accurately. I was a real little kid with next to no clue what exactly it was, I was in a state of sensory-overload. About all my mind recalls is vibrant colors and characters that looked like loony-tunes. Hell there is even a chance, my mind has made parts of those memories up. It was all murals. there was everything. I remember "Justine Street Boys" and "Saints" with some gangster scripts near Grandmas. Compared to something that actually does exist in Chicago today? I guess if Crawford Steel was illegal to paint and spanned all of Chicago, that would do it. That a question is more for someone that actually participated not some young ass kid that ate pizza all day. There was a lot of graffiti back then... and all the way up in till the buff. However 2010 and 2009 there is a lot of work going up, and staying up longer than the past 13 years or so.
Emen: Does photography hold a certain importance in your life or is it just a hobby?
Nicky: When Robbyn and I started taking photos it was 1997ish we were off the Blue-line. We were in those neighborhoods because we lived near the Rosemont stop and were familiar with those areas from the party scene I wasn't trying document anything, this was a replacement hobby for what I was trying to do without. Hell, I never even developed the film until 5-ish years ago when I found one roll in a box with my Paul Johnson and DJ Funk demo-tapes one roll of film. There was some BSA, Mane CHIROCK, Cove, Joke CMW, Test BTS, THC, KC... other stuff... Several years ago I was sharing some of the photos with Chris Silva, he asked me to show one photo of a "MEL" fill-in to this guy standing behind me. Ended up this photo was of the first MEL Melon had wrote. He mentioned just moving back to Chicago and that all of his pictures were long-ago thrown out, I asked him to keep it. It's great to feel the importance now, and that something can come full circle and act as a testament... or even proof of existence. The buff was an attack to eliminate this culture. It's blueprint was taken straight out of The Art of War. Sun Tzu wrote something to the effect, "it is the lack there of knowledge that precipitates the fall of a culture". By erasing the walls, the younger generations question who did what... everything that was not photographed is lost to the ages. Couple years ago I started seeing several "JOEY" tags, had there been no buff, no person would ever think to touch that name. JOEY had shit slaughtered. Hell, even me "a kid from the suburbs" was aware of that... fake-names and fake-crews pop up and it's because the kids are clueless.
Everyone that knows me, knows how much I hate to talk about graffiti, but since this paragraph is name dropping left and right, I need to mention several important players. First off SIVEL, he is more than a fucking beast. Anyone not knowing that has no clue what they are apart of. It was as if dude had life size rubber-stamps of his fill and straight letter, only something like that could explain how he fit the work of 40 hours in to a 24 hour day and still was stylish to piece and burn. Had his name never been removed off walls there would be no wallspace for new kids to paint. The work of THC, Hash Crew, Three Hearts Club violated off walls and out of the urban setting. It was so much more than graffiti. They perfectly translated artist talent and conceptual thought across all mediums. Antck, Jase, Thor, Cens and the bunch had long stood out for rocking positive-vibes, originality, thoughtful acts, successful experimentation, and raw talent. Skan... from my personal point of view (and that may not mean much to some) that dude thrashed the Kennedy. Most memorable was that Magikist sign! It was our tradition that when we'd drive past it I would have to give my mother a kiss... then there was the day an NCR fill was on it. From my young mind I didn't see an easy logical way of painting that. Fucking props. I past a new fill of his today. Brother Skan, it looked just as fresh.
Emen: Did you ever believe your photography and documentation would impact the lives of others?
Nicky: I started shooting again in 2002ish with the goal of building a collection for myself to save towards posterity. Just a collection that celebrated my childhood thoughts towards mans dedication to conquer. I'm glad to hear people like the photos I've taken. There a bunch of kids that believe photography or atleast this style of photography is not art, that all it takes is a good camera, or that this is purely an act of documentation. I don't suffer fools graciously... art comes from doing and communicating, understanding the medium, thinking conceptually, owning a process, and an internal drive. Every photo I take I took in my brain before lifting the camera to my eye. The camera accurately transmits a lasting form. I had no clue anyone would like these photos but I'm glad they do.
My drive towards everything in life comes from this thought. History is filled with stories of conquest and triumph. Cavemen killed rhinoceros, Egyptians enslaved the Jewish, Christians crusaded and concurred almost all, Pilgrims stole land... Today, luxury condos replace buildings of affordable housing... that took the place of single family homes.... that updated the pioneer cabins... that squashed the indians' tepees.... Rich/poor, Latino/black/white, ugly/good-looking, woman/man, smart/stupid all of our bodies are pumping the same blood... we all want to concur. Subtract humans form the universe and we have beast killing beast, earthquakes cracking earth, what we don't have is destruction... just an ever modifying terrain. It's not that only humans destroy, it's that only humans deem things as fragile and therefor capable of being destroied.
Heads-up, I'm currently showing with Typeforce at the CPS space on Morgan at 32nd street, our date has been extended until March 19th, I encourage people to check out some of Chicago's top designers and typographers. March 12 and 13 is the Chicago Zine Fest, Thor Goodlife, Ghetto P, Oscar Arriola, Brooks Golden and I will be working two tables selling a slew of debut zines. As always, there will be art available as well.
Dope shirts incase you didn't know, BOPZINK. Next homie to blow-up and make it big, Thor Goodlife. Want to stay on top of the Chicago Art scene before things happen, Oscar Arriola. Most valuable asset in chicago art, Public Media Institute. Most inspirational, Multi Polar Projects.
Here are some links for people to peep,
THC crew shirts:
Zine fest,,, This weekend:
- Emen Fuckos
- I am from Chicago one of the most overlooked cities when it comes to graffiti or anything else.I started taking pictures of graffiti in the fall of 05' and instantly got hooked. My goal is to put Chicago on the map to show that not only L.A. and New York have a thriving graffiti scene. One day i plan to turn this hobby into a 9 to 5. I want to show people the many wonders this world has to offer through my photography. I want to expose them to the things they turn a blind eye to on a daily basis to make them realize that there is more to the world then the cubicle that surrounds them.