Nik Daum


Written by Charlie Cole
29 Sunday 29th July 2012

Your photographs vary so vastly, from a prayer scene to a pile of gutted frogs. What draws you to a shot?

My camera is a shotgun. Firing enough wildly inaccurate shots, it will eventually hit something. Then I can hold up the victim and brag about how good a shot I was. 

It's not any particular subject that I find appealing, rather that certain something that's just out of the ordinary. And these moments can happen anywhere, any time. Even the most boring place has something unusual about it. 

I wish I could just sit around longer to observe. Most of my photos are from walking around, and my impatience causes me to miss a lot of cool details.

What do you think connects all of these shots?


This is partly due to my reluctance to engage with or get noticed by the people in front of the camera. Language barriers don't help either. But since I'm more of an observer, the people tend to look more like observers too–both nameless and small in their world. And I'm sure if the camera was pulled back farther to show me taking the picture, I'd look the same.

Does photography inspire you to travel, or vice versa?

I live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world (San Francisco). There's plenty of green grass here, but the grass is greener everywhere else. Maybe some of the grass is even sand, snow, or crumbling rock with cow patties on it. It's hard not to lust for new scenery. 

Others' photos inspire me to visit specific places, and my photos are a favourite souvenir. Well, photos and salt water taffy.

Have you ever had an unfortunate experience with anyone you’ve tried to photograph?

I try to avoid taking photos of people directly which minimises that issue.  But I did get reprimanded in Bangkok when trying to take photos of the King's motorcade when it was passing by. Even now, I'm not sure if my behaviour was just disrespectful or made me look like an assassin or something.

Apart from photography, you get involved in so many other creative mediums. Which would you say is your favourite?

Definitely drawing. But for me, drawing means Dordles. A "dordle" is not quite a drawing and not quite a doodle.  I think up and/or draw many of them at work during downtime or bouts of boredom. Over the years, I've generated hundreds of them that live here

At the end of last year, a successful Kickstarter project let me turn 45 of them into colour postcards. It was gratifying to send them to backers all over the world as tangible objects.

What do you do to relax when you’re not shooting?

The usual: eat candy, drink tea, browse tech news, go on bike rides, and kill a few zombies online. That, and foster a loving and wonderful relationship with my wife who supports these leisure activities.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve come across that you just had to take a photograph of?

My wife and I were walking around a hillside neighbourhood in Jingdezhen, China when we stopped at train tracks to let the massive vehicle pass. The tracks cut across the main street in the area, so it was pretty full with activity despite how hot it was that day.

As the train rumbled by, I looked over and was surprised to see a young girl squatting and going to the bathroom on the street. Not only was she alone, but also positioned maybe three feet from the moving train. She seemed totally unfazed, like this happened all the time. 

I took a photo, but it didn't turn out very well. (See below)

You can see more of Nik's work at

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  • Guest: Jane.cole
    Tue 31 - Jul - 2012, 13:21
    Challenging art but thought provoking too. Good to read articles that make your brain work....and give insight into the lives of these talented people.