Byline: Marcy Medina
LOS ANGELES — Shooting fashion portfolios and directing comic commercials would be a handful for even the most prolific lensman, but Dewey Nicks has a few more surprises up his sleeve.
“You have a lot to live up to if you’ve got a name like Dewey Nicks, but he’s exactly who you want him to be,” says Lisa Eisner, friend and editor of Nicks’s latest oeuvre, the coffee-table book “Kustom” (Greybull Press, $65), which chronicles the world of custom style. The misspelling of the book’s title is the linguistic equivalent of cutting the arms off a Chanel jacket; it’s a sly nod to those who express their individuality by personalizing their possessions.
With so much of his work tethered to fashion, however, Nicks wanted to capture a group of people who weren’t rushing out to buy the latest from Balenciaga.
“They live in a world beyond trend,” Nicks says of his subjects in “Kustom.” “That’s why Valentino is a hero. Or Anna Wintour. There are so many in the fashion community.” But Nicks passes over the legends, aiming his lens at a more varied, though no less studied, world of style.
“The people in the book are his heroes,” Eisner adds. A zaftig Anna Nicole Smith, a prim and erudite Kitty Carlisle Hart and a souped-up vintage Camaro are among the images that bleed off the oversize pages of “Kustom.”
“Lisa wanted it to be glamorous and ragged and ugly and beautiful all at the same time,” Nicks says.
Now Nicks is editing 40 hours of footage for his first feature film, a college comedy starring James King, the model, and Jason Schwartzman of “Rushmore.” Nicks has fixed upon the same youth culture that he so effectively packaged in cheeky ad campaigns for Tommy Hilfiger, Quiksilver, Guess and Isaac Mizrahi.
“I felt confident I could develop the characters, but I wondered how to make this interesting and fun without making another ‘American Pie.’ How do you balance a love story with Farrelly brothers-style humor? The photos in “Kustom” are like backyard movie experiences, but the guys in the book really are jumping their motorcycles through fire — and that’s real plastic surgery.”
While Nicks hopes this is the first in a string of movie projects, still photography remains the focus of his work.
“I’ll never stop taking pictures because you can be inspired instantaneously,” he says. “In a movie, maybe you can get lucky with an actor’s performance, but all that other magic has to be set in place. The randomness is where I find humor.”