This is Nicky. A Hungarian photographer and general ledge, he has lived, partied and done all the illegal things with the Britpoppers of the 90s. He is an award-winning videographer and photographer who has lived in Shanghai, London, Bangkok, New York, Hong Kong, KL…
How did you end up taking ekkies with all my music idols?
I was at the right place and the right time arriving in London in the middle of the early 90s Britpop scene. I used to hang out in Camden almost every night at joints like the Camden Palace, The Good Mixer pub and the Electric Ballroom. I was drinking and partying with Blur, Oasis, Suede, Pulp and many more, while selling shoes during the day to the Spice Girls, Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson. Our shoe shop was right next to the MTV building.
Who partied the hardest?
It must have been me because I can’t remember much of it. I once saw a guy with Amy Winehouse on a magazine cover and asked my friend ‘Who is this Pete? He looks familiar.” “Nicky – it is Pete from the pub” I played pool with Pete Doherty almost every day for something like 18months, but couldn’t remember him as I was always high. Second place: Boy George. He partied like there was no tomorrow.
You went through the clichés of rock and roll without actually being famous –
If I was telling you all of it, you’d need to censor this article. I remember one time I woke up in a different country without knowing how I got there. I was in London and woke up on a bus somewhere in France. I had so much substance in me that I couldn’t read for a few weeks after that – my brain didn’t process the words.
TELL ME ABOUT THE CAR CHASE IN LONDON
I was involved in a major car chase across South London because my friend who was high on GBH and E’s got road rage. Ignoring the red lights, we slammed into parked cars, I saw wing mirrors flying in the air and we were thrown around like dolls. It happened in broad daylight, mid-afternoon and only one person followed us. We must have looked like real gangsters. The whole thing ended with a movie-style scene as we drove into an abandoned factory, one car following us slowly. We stopped and waited, with him just meters behind us, for a few intense minutes. Recognising the danger in the situation that he was alone, he finally decided to drive off. The next morning our friend was arrested.
You nearly died man. Twice.
Yes, this relates to the brutal amount of substances I took and what almost led to me dying. I didn’t eat or sleep for days. See, I don’t like idolising that lifestyle because I know where it leads. It took years to end and that’s why I don’t like to emphasise it. I think the real meaning here is that I repositioned myself using all the experiences and imagery I picked up from magazines and Bripop’s visual world.
Then beers helped your career?
I was in a pub, sharing a pint with a doctor from Oxford heading up the unit of Tropical Diseases. He offered me a job over our second pint which turned out to be one of the best projects I’ve ever worked on – documenting the work of doctors while doing malaria treatment and research in malaria-ridden rural areas in Cambodia.
From there you became a photographer?
Basically all the music magazines and papers I was into – Q, Melody Maker, NME – unconsciously gave me a direction, a vision how to make people or subjects look iconic, which helped me to build a career later on in photography. I have 50 magazine covers with various magazines and I think it’s because I understand how a cover works; when I was a young kid I was fascinated by them. This led to me working with me major publications such as The Financial Times, Wallpaper etc, you can see them here.
Your style of photography is SO INTENSE I can’t look at them all at once. You’ve won loads of awards – career highlights?
- My first official book ‘Hudec by Nicky Almasy’ released in 2017. Doing the press for that and signing copies at the opening ceremony were definitely one the highlights of my life.
- winning the best architecture photography two times, in 2012 for ENR and in 2016 for Arcaid Awards. The first one, ENR even used my photo for the official poster for their New York opening gala.
- I also worked as the construction photographer for 5 years on the second tallest building in the world, Shanghai Tower, which opened a lot of other doors for me.
- I’m writing a book at the moment that will collect all the most interesting stories of working as a photographer for magazines in Asia for 15 years.
I need a glimpse of your life in the places you have lived:
- London – homeless in the streets for a few months, but my youth spent there was a crazy ordeal itself.
- New York – Ending up working for actor Gabriel Byrne and hung out with Keanu Reeves (nice guy), Liam Neeson and Macaulay Culkin who was like meeting Mickey Mouse. He was the strangest most surreal dude ever.
- Shanghai – working in Chinese films as a part time extra. I ended up in Jackie Chan’s 2008 movie, Forbidden Kingdom. I also hung out with Christoper Makos, personal photographer of Andy Warhol.
- Kuala Lumpur – My whole story of me joining AirAsia officially as a photojournalist. The process took me years to land in getting the dream job of any photographer.
Craziest work story?
My chief editor in Shanghai smuggled me into an enormous landfill outside Shanghai to take photographs for the magazine. We had this story where we were covering how one piece of trash makes it through the whole city, eventually ending up in the landfill. We needed the final shots but by the time we were closing the issue we didn’t get the permits to enter. The idea of smuggling me inside with my camera was really stupid, actually. I don’t know how no one saw that. We approached Shanghai’s biggest landfill by car. Imagine the smell of the landfill that belongs to a city with a population of 25 million people. You could feel the stench for miles. We hailed down a truck that was bringing rubbish in, paid the driver RMB100 and I hid under, right by the steering wheel.
When I got in, he dropped me on the side of one of the ‘roads’. I found my self in a small town of trash; the piles were high as apartment blocks. The stench wasn’t in your nose anymore; it punched you in the stomach.
Needless to say, I got caught in minutes. It was a very unlikely sight; a tall, white guy walking around with his camera where only Chinese people worked. They took me to the main building for a small interrogation then they dropped me outside at the gates, without one single photo on my memory card.
Main photo: Credit: Peter Herman