BLISS: I have been following your work for some time now and consider you to be somewhat of a phenomenon. People may know your name that have not seen your images, or have seen your images without knowing exactly who it is they are looking at. And then there are the tens of thousands of people who are familiar with both. Why do you think so many people are captivated by you?
BRIAN NIEH: I think people are captivated by the way I play with my sex appeal and how far I push the envelope. My concepts are somewhat off than what is the norm. I think people find my bold attitude towards sex and creative concepts and how I combine them to be a breath of fresh air.
B: We live in a very visual society so the look is often what first grabs people’s attention. What is your ethnic background?
BN: My mother is Puerto Rican and my dad is Chinese. My mother is probably the only Latina I know that has a thing for Asians lol.
B: There are always stories about children of mixed heritages feeling like they did not fit in anywhere. What was it like for you growing up?
BN: I grew up in a Spanish neighborhood. My mother was Puerto Rican so I was very familiar with and surrounded by the Latino culture, but my physical features were more Asian when I was younger so I was excluded from a lot of things and didn't have many friends. I kept to myself and didn't socialize then. Being a model now and having all the attention that comes with what I do is something I take with a grain of salt because I know what it is like to be a loner.
B: Did you have any artistic leanings growing up and if so, what were they?
BN: When I was growing up, I would draw and build things all day long. I remember, after I saw the movie Titanic, I built a 6 foot long version of it in my room. My room was always filled with pencils, construction paper and tape. I would like to think I’m still that boy creating figures out of paper; only I apply that creativity to my modeling.
B: You are a dynamo of social websites and a tireless self promoter. Were you as outgoing when you were younger?
BN: I always had this determined attitude, borderline paranoia to not always be progressing. I’m even worse now. I feel the industry is so competitive… if I pause, that gives my other competitors to get ahead of me. When I complete a concept, I’m not one to sit there and appreciate it...I’m usually worrying about the next concept.
B: Many of the models that I've interviewed or worked with seemed to display alter egos when they are in front of the camera that only represents a small fraction of who they really are. You take on so many characters in your modeling and show a great deal of diversity in what you are able to pull off. Who, would you say is the REAL Brian Nieh?
BN: I believe it’s so important to separate what you do as a public figure and who you are as a person. That being said....I believe what you see from my work, from me as a model is just a small part of who I am greatly exaggerated in front of the camera. Away from the cameras, in closed doors...I’m shy, I’m goofy, I can’t handle the big crowds that you see surrounding my social networks in person. I like intimate settings, I feel the REAL Brian needs to be protected and kept for only those in my close circle because it’s so easy to lose yourself in what I do.
B: You actually have not been modeling for that long, though your portfolio boasts an impressive and large display of images. When did you first get into modeling and how did it all come about?
BN: About 4 years ago. My best friend at the time had moved here from Russia and was signed to the modeling agency in NYC, Wilhelmina. She would take me to all her shoots and model events. And then she transitioned from model to photographer. I became her first and only subject. She would shoot me every time she needed to test her photography. I eventually had enough pictures to have a portfolio. I began putting them out there and I started getting attention from other photographers. Before I knew it I was getting paid to shoot and was taking modeling seriously.
B: The first shoot is often the most uncomfortable for the model as they try to get used to being in front of the camera. What was your first shoot like and do you remember how you felt during it?
BN: My palms where sweating. I was thinking to myself “what the hell am I doing in front of a camera". I listened to Britney to help get into a state of mind where I felt confident and brave.
B: Did you learn anything during that first shoot that you have carried with you throughout your career thus far?
BN: Something that I probably learned in my first few shoots was not to be so “posey” and that it was the natural ones that were the strongest ones.
B: Did you make a decision to pursue modeling more seriously after that first shoot or is this a decision you came to later on?
BN: The decision to take modeling serious came later. After I saw how I was capturing people, what I could do with it, how creative I could go with it, how there were so many ideas I had that I didn’t see anyone else doing.
B: What is it that you enjoy most about modeling?
BN: I think what I enjoy most about modeling is creating a story and feelings that I envision in my head and showing the audience this idea, this story through my pictures.
B: What did you do before getting into the modeling field?
BN: Before modeling I was into the arts. Drawing, in particular.
B: Editing and post production work plays a big role in many of your images. Your fantasy shots are very intricate but also very consistent in both tone and style. Do you do any of your own edits? If so, would you consider Photoshop to be one of your talents?
BN: I do get involved in the editing process. As a person who edits yes, editing is CRUCIAL to creating a picture.
B: One of the great things about you is that you don’t fit into any predesignated box. How would you categorize what you do in front of the camera?
BN: I believe I’m a brand. I do modeling, I do photography, I promote.....As time goes by I’m growing and I’m adding to what I call the Brian Nieh brand. There is no word I would use to label me because I’m constantly changing and learning.
B: You also do not shy away from showing skin. What is your opinion of male vs. female nudity in modeling?
BN: Oh boy, this question lol I believe the human anatomy is such a interesting thing. I’m OBSESSED with shapes and curves of a body whether male or female BUT I have to admit if I was a female or advising a female I probably would want her to be a little more covered up LOL
B: There is a strong sexual vibe that runs through many of your images. What message are you trying to convey with these shots?
BN: I believe the message I’m trying to convey to my audience is to see deeper into sex. To see past the sexual part of the picture and what is actually going on in the picture. I want people to feel comfortable embracing their sex appeal. I'd like to think those who watch me feel a little more confident in themselves, having seen my work and how bold I am and, maybe become inspired.
B: One of the things that I love most is when you play multiple characters within a single shot. Do you create these concepts?
BN: I come up with the multiple character concepts but I have help editing it. Those require a lot of editing.
B: How do you set up these types of shoots and how long does it take to actually get the finished image, considering the amount of editing involved?
BN: I pose as each character, than the characters are all put together in Photoshop. Lighting, shadowing, etc are all played with as it’s created. The whole process usually takes from 5-8 hours.
B: You've been known to get into some trouble with some of your more suggestive posts, such as deletion of Instagram accounts and, I assume, a Facebook warning here and there. What are your thoughts on this type of censorship?
BN: I believe everything I put out there is something I want my audience to see. I understand there are rules to things but some of the most creative minds in the world broke some rules to create their work.
B: Since I mentioned those two sites, I think this is a great time to address an issue many models face, and one you deal with over and over. How often are your pictures stolen and used in fake profiles or pick up sites?
BN: All the time, on a daily basis. It used to upset me but I realize it’s impossible to stop them. I do, every 4-6 days, look online and see what I find of myself stolen and a lot of my fans bring impostors to my attention. I actually have a little list of Facebook pages that are currently “stealing my pictures". I keep an eye on them but leave them be. I make sure they’re not doing anything crazy with my name.
B: What would you like to say to those impostors?
BN: What would I like to say to the impostors Hmm… well 2 things. Thank you for admiring my work to where you want to take on my identity; I don’t consider myself to be any better than you so thank you. Secondly and lastly, please don’t think that your own self worth is not enough to celebrate and make public. Don’t think you’re not special in your way. I want them to know that there was a time that I wasn't so confident about myself but once you break through that it shines and the people around you feel it.
B: I personally don’t understand what people hope to accomplish by doing that since picking someone up will only expose the lie. Why do you think that temptation exists and why do you feel your images are appropriated so often?
BN: I think the people who steal my pictures and take on my identity measure their own adequacy and value through superficial things such as a nice body. They see me and a lot of my pictures show my body and I’m fit, they see the comments people leave about my body. They think that to be sexy is what is important. I think it’s easier for them to take on my identity than be themselves in their own skin.
B: I love the fact that you don’t shy away from full frontal nudity, even in an erotic nature. What is the general reaction to those images?
BN: Well I believe people think there a lot more nude pictures of me than are actually out there. I hint at things, cover just enough to not show lol...I don’t think it’s cool to use nudity every time to get your point across and I surely don’t. I think most people cheer me on when I have done those kinds of shoots in the past but off course there are people that bash me for it.
B: Your openness might even make some people try to discredit your beautiful art as nothing more than pornography (not that there is anything wrong with that). Have you been approached to do porn? Is that something you would ever consider?
BN: I have been approached by porn companies and NO I would never do porn nor do I think I would be good at it LOL most of my pictures is me exaggerating my confidence and sex appeal. If I was to be filmed I would have to be more me and I would be terrible. PLUS what I do in the bedroom is something I reserve for my luved one and my luved one only.
B: The only credits that I ever see on your images show are BrianNieh.com or just your name. Who are some of the photographers you have worked with?
BN: I mostly have my team help me shoot my work. My team is some people who are well versed in editing and promoting. Other than my team that I work with daily, I really don’t work with many other photographers and certainly none significant enough to mention.
B: Are there any photographers out there that you would like to work with in the future?
BN: YES! Rick day!
B: Do you have any influences that have helped to shape your creative vision?
BN: Yea Terry Richardson. Steven Klein HUGE influence of mine.
B: Have you ever posted an image or comment that you later regretted?
BN: Yea there are a few images I probably would not post if I had to do it again.
B: It doesn’t matter how popular anyone is, there will always be a certain amount of negativity that comes with the territory. In some cases, popularity only makes it worse. Have you received any negative feedback about your art? If so, how do you handle those situations?
BN: I think when you’re "popular", everything you do, good or bad, is greatly exaggerated. Yes I have gotten negative feedback in my time as a model, but to be a model you’re constantly getting told about your body, what you need to improve/fix. If I couldn't handle the negative comments I wouldn't have made it this far. You really have to learn to drown the noise out and focus on your work.
B: If I asked you to pick 3 images that best represent who you are as a model today, which one’s would they be and why?
BN: There so many lol. Just trying to pick one has my brain fried, BUT probably my lion shoot. I think it’s such a visually appealing picture and I've gotten so much feedback for it. My black widow series (a series based on me killing myself while I have sex with myself just like a black widow does). It’s really crazy, out there, and really stirs people up. A shoot I did depicting Adam and Eve where I’m being offered an apple and I have 4 hands touching me and covering my privates.
B: Looking back on all you’ve done, what is the best lesson you've learned as a model?
BN: Hard work really makes a difference. I feel I could be the most amazing model in the world but if I didn't work hard and promote myself, no one would see it and we would not be having this interview. Hard work without a doubt.
B: As exposed as you've been on film there’s bound to be some secrets. Can you tell me 4 things about yourself that even people who know you might be surprised to know?
BN: 1. I want to be in better shape. 2. Being a model and having so much attention makes me even more lonely because when you have so many people wanting your attention it make you feel no one sees you as just a person, only as a model. 3. Sometimes I feel like the attention gets overwhelming and I want to disguise myself and do some regular job like filing papers. lol 4. I have conversations with God more often that I tell people.
B: Well, I got four, LOL. What projects can we expect from you in 2013?
BN: Traveling to new cities and shooting. Arranging more opportunities where my fans can meet me. Crazy concepts.
B: Any last words for your fans?
BN: I’m so grateful for the attention I've gotten as a model and so humbled how much you guys love me. I hope to influence a person or 3 lol and I hope my work gets to a point where it becomes timeless, known and re-blogged even when I’m no longer here on earth.
B: That’s one wish he doesn't have to worry about because it’s already come true.
©2013 – Sean Dibble