Surf Shacks 022 – Nick LaVecchia

I have been a huge fan of Nick’s work for many years now, to me he has always captured what it truly means to be an east coast surfer (from the northeast specifically). His images are raw, natural, and intimate. He has the unique ability to put you in the scene and make you really feel the elements depicted. Cheesy, but true. The surf community in the northeast is still relatively small and Nick has always been that friend of a friend, but we’d never met face to face. It wasn’t until recently that our physical paths finally crossed and we met in person. When we heard about his new eco-friendly home being built up in Maine, featuring him in a Surf Shacks article was a no-brainer. Getting a photographer up there to shoot it was a bigger challenge though. Luckily for us, Nick is a professional and an all around stand up guy, so he ended up shooting this feature himself – how’s that for a selfie!

Who are you? Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Nick LaVecchia. Youngest of 7. Sagittarius. Lover of whales. Photographer with a fascination for the sea and all it’s moods. I grew up skateboarding and snowboarding the ditches and backhills of NJ. Snowboarding led to the mountains of Vermont. Surfing took over and that led to the coast of Maine.

Where are you from?

South Orange, New Jersey. I spent weekends in Vermont riding powder in the 80’s then landed on the coast of Maine in 2005.

How did you first get into photography – specifically surf photography up in New England?

Traveling in my late teens and early twenties got me hooked on documenting life and all those beautiful environments we see daily. An open ocean sailing trip from New England to the Caribbean, and trips to Africa and Tierra Del Fuego. These trips solidified my passion for capturing moments and exploring new places. I used to drive from Vermont to the coast of Maine (day trips) anytime the swell was 3 feet or more. I would always shoot a roll of film before and after my session. Develop, scan, edit and submit away. That was around 1998.

What is your favorite part about the area you live in?

The seasons and the ever-changing environment.

What’s the best time of year up there?

For me, Winter. For the rest, maybe Summer and Fall. Winter offers so much visually. The weather is usually a bit more extreme. The color palette can range from moody greens, grays and deep blues to the most pleasing gray scales you can imagine. A fresh blanket of snow adds a clean slate to that everyday ordinary scene.

Your house looks amazing. When did you finish building it and how long did it take?

Thanks! I’m really stoked with how it turned out. We just finished building in July of 2015. All in, it was about 11 months.

What are your favorite parts of your home?

I am a sucker for fine lines. The vertical cedar reverse board and batten is a love of mine. Next would be the view we fall asleep to and wake to from our bedroom. Having spent two years researching the tech side and benefits of passive solar design, I can happily say the house is performing like we had dreamed. It’s extremely energy efficient. Note: Living smaller and simpler is no doubt the most liberating thing you can do. Free up more time to live.

Tell us about that beautiful wooden board. What’s your relationship with Grain Surfboards?

My brother Mike started Grain back in 2005 in the basement of the house we were living at the time. I would spend hours hovering around his little “shop” documenting him and the boards he was creating. 10 years and thousands of images later I finally built a board of my own. What a treat. That 5’10 fish is a dream to surf. So fast and fun. Even more special when it’s made with your own two hands. I can’t recommend that experience enough. Grab a friend or family member and sign up for a class.

Where did you find that rad van?

I’ve been an admirer of classic cars (fine lines) forever. The old Econoline has always been a favorite. Casually trolling Craigslist for years, the right one popped up via an 80 year old couple from Kentucky. Lucky for me the wife posted it online without telling her husband. “He has too many toys!” she told me, so I happily took it off her hands.

How often are you on the road traveling for work?

It really depends on the year and what some of my consistent clients are looking for. It could be a few weeks here and there, or longer more involved trips depending on the deliverables. Lately I’ve been focusing more of my work and personal projects closer to home. I don’t want to be too far away missing this little guy growing up now.

What are some of your most memorable trips?

Africa 1996 / Patagonia 1998 / Alaska 2009 / Iceland 2009.  Keep an eye on my Instagram: @nick_lavecchia for some old images from these trips.

Who is your favorite subject to shoot?

I guess that could depend on the day. The ocean is my most consistent subject. My family is right up there as favorite subjects. When it comes to characters riding waves…. Craig Anderson, Dave Rastovich, Mikey DeTemple, Chris DelMoro, Ryan Burch, Lauren Hill, Leah Dawson, Mele Saili, the list goes on but these names are up top.

Favorite place to shoot?

In and around the North Atlantic when it’s at it’s most raw and unsettling state.

What are some of the biggest challenges (in your opinion) that photographers face in the fast-paced digital / social age we live in today?

I used to think the over abundance of cameras and photographers in today’s world, but now I think it’s helping weed out the everyday snap shooters from the true working artists. One thing I’ve noticed among younger photographers is the need to “keep up” with everyone on social media. This is no doubt compromising the work of some. Social media is a tool and can be used to your advantage, but it shouldn’t completely dictate the work you are producing. I think it’s making it harder for new photographers to really fine tune their craft.

What do you want to be known for with your body of work?

Clean, simple and timeless. Constant observation is a large part of my photography. The more time spent seeing and understanding the subject, the more real the work will become. I hope this rings true in the pieces I choose to share.

Any upcoming projects you are excited about?

For the past few years I’ve been working on an ongoing series of textural images of the sea.  Different times of year, under all kinds of weather. This project constantly keeps me inspired.  I’ll be releasing a series of large format prints as well as a printed book in the near future.

Awesome! Can’t wait to see that. Any parting thoughts, words of wisdom or sage advice?

Make time for your passions. If you’re lucky you’ll be living off them before you know it. Step out past your comfort zone and give yourself an honest chance at whatever you do.

For more of Nick’s beautiful photography, check out his portfolio site:

Nick LaVecchia

/ All photos by Nick LaVecchia, Interview by Matt Titone

Check out more Surf Shacks here.