Nick Onken is a photographer, podcast host, and creative entrepreneur devoted to inspiring the world to create their moments and create their life. A former graphic designer hailing from the soggy city of Seattle, he now resides in the concrete jungle of New York.
Nick has photographed personalities including Justin Bieber, Usher, and Jessica Alba. He has photographed print campaigns for international brands such as Nike, Coca Cola, and adidas, and his work has been published in magazines such as Conde Nast Traveler, Cosmopolitan, and Marie Claire.
On his podcast, NIONradio, he’s interviewed celebrities such as Usher, Scooter Braun, Stacy London and others. He photographs for the charity Pencils of Promise as he believes that education is the root problem solver of our world.
How did you find yourself in the arts – or how did the arts find you?
I’ve always been an artist at heart I believe. I was building with Lego when I was a kid, then started drawing and painting through middle school. In high school I took AP art, which let me explore different mediums. I decided to go into graphic design in college, and that led me to become a designer for the first 5 years of my career. I then discovered the world of commercial photography that drew me in. It became my biggest passion and I started that journey of learning the craft which has been my primary passion and art. I’ve been able to photograph big brands like Nike, Reebok, Cocacola etc, and celebrities like Justin Bieber, Usher, and Jessica Alba.
I’ve done a lot of charity work for a charity that builds schools for kids called Pencils of Promise. All these things just naturally evolved into the next. Through the last few years of doing some emotional intelligence and leadership workshops, I discovered the new side passion of hosting my podcast, NIONradio where I interview successful creative entrepreneurs combined with a photography portrait session with them. The arts have always been the core DNA of my life and has expanded into these different outlets. Now I’ve even jumped back into my painting roots and have begun doing murals and spaces.
Who has been a big influence to you in your career?
I would say I’ve never really had a direct influence, but other artists and photographer’s who’s art I’ve aspired to. In terms of photographers, I admire Peggy Sirota, Mario Testino, Norman Jean Roy, Bruce Weber and others.
When you hit a creative block, how do you move forward?
Well isn’t that the question of the century. I think the important thing is to move forward no matter what. Don’t let yourself slide from creation mode to consumption mode. I’ve often tried working with other mediums outside of photography which as created these other side projects. Travel always inspires me and gets me out of a creative block. Having inspiring conversations with people that are doing cool shit also knocks me out of a creative block. That’s probably why my podcast has been helpful to me in the respect that I get to have in depth conversations with other artists outside of my practice.
What legacy do you hope your work creates?
I want people to be inspired and to dream when they see my work. I want people to feel a piece of their own power in their humanity. I want people to create the life they dream of, hence my hashtag, #CreateYourMoments. It’s about creating your life by creating every small moment.
How do you define success?
Success to me is living a creative and colorful life where you can be internally happy and have a balance of beneficial loving relationships, to making enough money to create what you want to create in life. I believe money is just a vehicle to do what you love, and when you do what you love you thrive. I believe thriving is success.