July 31st, 2021

Ciara Nicdao is a self-taught photographer whose experimental and surreal images transcend reality to create a dreamy and visually enchanting world . Her images border between truth and fiction, telling stories and creating vibrant sets starring close friends. Much of her work stems from fascination with nostalgia and childhood aesthetics from decades earlier. Based Scotch Plains, New Jersey, her love for photography was ignited when she took her first trip to Puerito Rico. We had the chance to talk with Ciara about her playful sets, photography during lockdown and graduation during a pandemic.

What inspired you to get into photography?
I’ve been passionate about art since I was a child because I grew up surrounded by a family of artists so they introduced me to the world of art and it changed my life. Discovering photography was a game changer and I knew I was passionate about it when I bought my first red point & shoot Kodak camera on my vacation to Puerto Rico. I remember I was on the ferry with my mom and her friend and I was looking through the photos I took that day and somehow I deleted all my photos and I just started bawling. A moment I would never forget and I knew I wanted to learn more about the craft from my uncle who was a photojournalist at the time. He was the one who actually inspired me to pick up the camera and I would help assist whenever he traveled to NY to shoot. He taught me a few camera basics but I learned everything myself  in HS & eventually studied photography at Montclair State University.

Many of your images are based around vibrant, imaginative sets( ie: Memory Lounge and No Preservatives ) what inspires you to create these visual narratives?
My vivid dreams are my main inspo when it comes to creating surreal and vibrant sets. But also looking and learning about all types of art inspires me to create something unique and better.

What was the impetus behind your quarantine graduation series?
Haha; honestly I was just really upset that covid cancelled graduation, my thesis show and my graduation gallery party. So I created a set around my school colors and started taking my own graduation photos to make me feel better.

Much of your work includes interacting with subjects; how did quarantine and social distancing affect your work in this setting?

When quarantine started I couldn’t shoot for a month so I decided to take some self portraits because I still needed material for my photo class. Besides my self-portraits I was able to do one shoot outside with my neighbor and friend Yasmine Choque.  I created this flower set with an old TV. We kept our distance and  I had a mask on which was a huge adjustment. Besides that we definitely created magic that day. 

Were there any other moments of inspiration this past year that changed the way you looked at photography or your personal work?

 I could say that photography is the one thing that never left me this past year. It really kept me sane during quarantine and I’m forever grateful!

You can see more of Ciara’s work here.