I have admired the work of Cole and Jakob from Nordica Photography since the beginning of my own photography career; I remember seeing their photographs and being blown away by their artistic eye and vision. They were doing something special and it was cool to witness their business evolve and grow as I followed along as a blog stalker. I’m excited to share a Q&A session with them.
This past year, Nordica made the move from Vancouver to Sweden. How has that been for your business?
Couldn’t be better. Personally, Cole purchased his first home and Jakob was married in August. The business settled into the European market more seamlessly than we anticipated, so 2014 was a very busy year.
What has been good about the move? Any drawbacks?
There have been no drawbacks, really, and we are happy with how 2014 turned out. Completely relocating to a new market was a positive challenge, and we look forward to 2015 when we can expand the Nordica brand further in Europe.
I’ve seen your announcement that Cole and his family will be living in Vancouver for the Spring/Summer of 2015. What were the primary reasons you made this decision?
Personal reasons, mainly. And the fact that we want Nordica to have a pulse in Vancouver, too. British Columbia and Canada in general is a great market, and one we hope to continue working in for a long time.
It’s clear that you’ve been incredibly successful at photographing weddings all over the world—one glance at your website reveals that. What is a key factor that allowed you to break into the destination wedding scene?
The number one factor that has allowed for us to break into the destination wedding scene is having a strict discipline with our brand. We have a clear strategy for our brand that we stick to, no matter what.
Because you travel for most of your work, how do you build a relationship with a couple you might not meet until their wedding day? How have you navigated building trust with people you’ve never met?
We rarely meet or speak with couples before their wedding. This is the case for probably around 95% of the weddings we book, and often we book in 3 – 4 emails with everything being taken care of via emails and online. We are very open and honest with our brand, and tend to answer questions before they’re asked. That communicates value, and trust is built from this type of communication. It helps having references online because if a couple searches for this type of thing, they are going to find references from couples who we have worked with and their words develop trust far better than ours would.
Do you have a favourite wedding or place that you’ve photographed?
A marketing teacher once said that by rewarding the “winners” you’re recognizing the “losers”. That’s what we feel like when we single out individual weddings. There are many that have been fantastic, and almost always it has to do with the people, not the location.
Who are your ideal people to work with and what inspires you at a wedding?
People are inspiring. People view our brand as one that travels extensively and photographs at the most ridiculously epic places on earth, but at the end of the day, we’re inspired by different kinds of people. As for the ideal clients, we don’t have a specific kind of people, other than those who value photography highly and who we can have a drink with, months after their weddings.
You’ve photographed many, many weddings; how do you maintain a fresh perspective on the day for each couple?
One way that we try to keep things fresh by limiting the amount of information couples send our way before the wedding. We don’t really want to know too much outside of the absolute essentials, like our start time and location. By doing this, we are able to be somewhat surprised on the wedding day and it keeps us aware.
Aside from wedding photography, are there other type of work that you want to try out or grow in?
Our internal goal at the moment is to grow Nordica as an online brand, and we have taken the first baby-step towards this with our store,NordicaStore.com. There are other parts of photography that interest us as well, but for the moment being, we’re focusing all of our efforts on weddings. We’d rather be the best we can be at one thing, than mediocre at many things.
Tell us about any personal projects you’ve worked on that have brought you joy.
We understand that having projects on the side is a positive, natural thing for photographers, but we have focused all of our efforts on Nordica and our clients. Jakob did complete a 365 project on Instagram in 2013, and we have his book is for sale here. But other than that, we haven’t had too much time for personal projects, other than the random street photo here and there.
What helps you recharge?
Cole: Being with my wife and daughter recharges my batteries. When I’m with them, nothing else matters.
Jakob: I need my time to exercise. I try to get in a workout here and there whilst traveling, and when I have a day off, going for a run/biking/going to the gym is high on my list. It helps that my wife is a personal trainer, too.
Looking back to the start of Nordica, what did you set out to accomplish and feel like you have achieved? Is there any advice you’d want to give to your past self?
We haven’t really set out any specific goals for our business, but to have our brand grow internationally has always been one of our main focuses. And while we’re not there yet, we feel like we’ve got a solid ground to build from now.
If we were to sit down over a beer with the “Jakob and Cole of 2009”, we would probably say: “First of all: Raise your prices. Not in a year or two, now. And after that: stay focused and don’t get frustrated if things don’t happen right away. This is long-term business and brand building.”
Could you both share some of your major career highlights thus far?
-Creating a brand from an idea and watching it grow over five years.
-Knowing that my wife is proud of what Jakob and I have created. She has been by our sides through everything since day one.
-Starting from scratch and seeing Nordica become a profitable, healthy and somewhat well-known business.
-The many trips around the world, with South America, Africa and New Zealand being some highlights.
-Photographing many other wedding photographers’ weddings. That’s always a huge honour.
Looking forward, how are you wanting to see Nordica evolve and grow?
We’re working on that as we speak and look forward to sharing more of this in 2015. But we’ll just say we’re looking to take Nordica much further than where we are today. We’re in no way happy or content with where we are yet.
I would love for you to each share a favourite image you have created and the story behind it.
This image is from Ubud, Bali taken in December of 2012. Jakob and I were walking around the streets of Ubud taking everything in before we were to photograph the couple whose wedding was there. It was very humid, sounds were everywhere, and I remember we were very excited to be there. This boy and his buddies were kicking around a ball, and the buddies all of a sudden left him alone with the ball as Jakob and I looked at him. He looked shocked, but it was a moment I’ll never forget mostly due to the boy himself, but also what Jakob and I were going through at the time with the excitement of venturing so far from home for a wedding.
I tend to like the most recent images the most. This shot (below) from Iceland is one of them, and I love it mainly because of the connection between the bride and groom. Sure, there’s an epic waterfall, but to me it’s all about how the subjects interact and fit into the frame.
We’re excited to have you at CPC in April. What will you be speaking about?
In 2013, we spoke quite a bit about thinking strategically. 2015 will be the sequel.
Awesome! Looking forward to it.
Thanks for the questions and we look forward to seeing everyone in Vancouver next year.
You can check out more of their work at their website here.
Article by Sarah Nickerson.