Hello. My name is Nathaniel Plevyak, and I am a photographer living locally in Forest Gate, East London.
I have called East London my home since 2006. I grew up in California and moved to London in 2006 to study film at the University of London Queen Mary. I went on to receive a Master of Fine Arts in Film from the University of South Wales, Newport Film School. I began my career as a runner, before working in both production and post-production as a cameraman and video editor. I have worked with various advertising agencies, organisations, and charities making short films and creative video content.
Notably, after graduating from the University of South Wales, I worked for several years at the Iris Prize, a film and media organisation committed to increasing audiences for LGBTQ+ stories, whose projects include the annual Iris Prize LGBTQ+ Film Festival (irisprize.org).
OK… I haven’t exactly lived in East London since 2006, but it is where I feel most at home.
I forgot to mention I also moved to West London in 2009. I lasted for three months before moving back East. No comment!
I guess you can say I discovered a love for photography by accident. In 2019, I went on a three-month expedition of South East Asia. I bought a Canon 550D and made a pact with myself that I would take photos throughout the trip and post at least one photograph everyday on Instagram. I succeeded (despite some absolutely wild overnight bus journeys in Vietnam searching for WIFI at rest stops), and in doing so re-discovered my creative flare, and became obsessed with still images.
This wannabe gap-year was important for my personal development and helped me discover a fascination with landscape and architecture, and how humans live and behave in various surroundings and environments. This still undoubtedly influences my work today.
The pandemic and Black Lives Matter marches in London saw a noticeable shift in my photography, from mainly street and landscape to a more documentary/journalistic approach.
On Monday 23 March 2020, then Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the UK would be going into what would be the first of three national lockdowns due to the ongoing threat of COVID-19. A week before the announcement I began my most ambitious project to date – a two-year photographic journal documenting life in London during the global COVID-19 pandemic. A documentation of the everyday.
The aim of this project was to not only document for historical purposes, but also to convey the emotions and memories of living in one of the busiest and most visited cities in the world during a global pandemic. Two photographs from this project were selected for the prestigious ‘Edition 365’ by 1854 and the British Journal of Photography. Three photographs were also exhibited at Hackney Museum’s exhibition ‘We Are All in This Together: Hackney During the Pandemic’.
NEW WORLD ORDER is the most commended photograph from this project and the photograph I am most proud of in my career. It has been shortlisted at competitions, won awards, and has also been sold as an original NFT (non-fungible token). You can also buy a print on my website here (sorry cheap plug). To me, it captures the essence of the pandemic. So many people ask me if it was set up… it wasn’t!
Documenting these moments in history had a profound impact on me, and as a result, I continue to photograph key historical moments/events, such as: the Sarah Everard Vigil, Trans+Pride, the London Marathon, Prince Philip’s death, and the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. And since 2021, I have been documenting marches organised by The People’s Assembly, as well as recent Right to Strike and Union marches -basically any protest against the current government.
I can honestly say I am happiest when photographing.
A sunny day in London wandering the streets with my camera is so therapeutic, and tonic for my mental health.
I take my camera everywhere, except of course on a night out (apologies if you have seen me in Maxi Grill on Woodgrange Road in the early hours of the morning).
Observational photography is another term I like to use to describe some of my work. If I find a location I like, or a certain viewpoint or visually striking landscape, I will often just stand there and watch life happen before me. There have been times I have stood in the same place for over an hour waiting for a ‘moment’ to happen. How do I know when I have captured that moment? Honestly, countless times it has been after walking away and saying to myself, ‘are you sure that was the shot’? Only when I have returned and changed my angle or perspective slightly, and inevitably something totally unexpected happens in front of the camera, do I feel I have the shot. This is exactly how NEW WORLD ORDER came about. I waited across the street from this surreal location for over a half-hour. But my god have I taken a lot of s**t photos.
My favourite places in London to photograph are in and around the Olympic Park, Hackney Marshes, and Hampstead Heath. The Olympic Park became my go-to place of peace and relaxation during the pandemic, and Hampstead Heath is just perfect. Swimming in Highgate Men’s Bathing Pond is a favourite summer activity of mine, and I will inevitably spend the rest of the day walking around with my camera capturing British Summertime at its best.
What next? I took around 74,000 photos over two years for my photographic journal of life in London during the coronavirus pandemic. From the outset a book has always been my end goal. I have the five-year anniversary of the beginning of the pandemic as a date in my head for publication. It’s a mammoth task… watch this space! I have also started a new project taking portraits of members of the LGBTQ+ community.
I am really enjoying getting into portrait photography. If anyone reading this would like their portrait taken or knows someone who would like to collaborate, please do get in touch. Presently, all my photography is digital, but I am keen to get into analog photography. If anyone has experience with medium-format cameras, please do get in touch. I would absolutely love to start shooting on film.
Currently, you can see a selection of my photographs on display at The Stow Brothers E11 Art Wall in Wanstead. Big shout out to them for exhibiting my photographs in their lovely, bright space. The staff are fab! If you are in the area, please do have a look and tag us on Instagram.