Capitol Communicator is running a series featuring in-depth profiles of communicators in the mid-Atlantic. In this “Up Close and Personal” profile, we feature Nicole Crowder. Photography for Capitol Communicator’s profile series is by Cade Martin. Wardrobe styling by Pascale Lemaire for THE Artist Agency; and hair and makeup was by Patti D Nelson and Janice Kinigopoulos for THE Artist Agency.
Nicole, please provide us a short bio.
I work as the senior features photo editor for The Washington Post in D.C., where I assign and manage the visuals for the Weekend, Sunday Arts, Travel, and Style sections. Prior to this position, I served as the photo editor for The Washington Post’s photo blog In Sight, editing and curating narrative photo stories from photojournalists around the world. Before my time at The Post, I served as the assistant photo editor for AARP Media. I judged the 2015 photo contest for CGAP – the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor – and, this year, served as a judge in the annual photo contest held by Photo District News.
What are the things you are most proud of?
I’m most proud of my ability to jumpstart ideas with little fanfare or hesitation. I learned a long time ago that going back and forth in my mind over whether I should start something, is it possible, will it work, how will it earn money, etc, is a waste of time. I have to use my energy now while I have it to propel an idea forward or else I would get mired down in logistics and never start anything. I’m an Aries, so part of our sign is being excitable about initiating projects and juggling multiple ones at a time, which I have been doing for years. As a creative person, it fuels me and I love that I can find an outlet for my interests and dive into each with lots of energy and keep them going as steady projects.
I’m also really proud that as a photo editor I’ve been able to give so many incredibly talented and fierce women photographers a platform to showcase their work through The Washington Post and, in many cases, be their first big client that helps them get more exposure and more work. I think there is a space for everyone to succeed and being able to help women do that is an incredible joy.
Who are your personal role models?
Aside from my grandparents, who have worked their whole life as farmers and give the best advice on staying in love and staying joyful, my role models are art directors and creative directors who have pushed their publications forward with innovative and ballsy work that didn’t seem to pander to an audience or a particular reader. They just wanted to do great work that is bold and dynamic, and they wanted to work with the best people who could deliver that. I look to other women that I follow on social media or know in person who are absolutely killing it in their respective areas, whether it’s in fashion, music, design, magazines or cooking. They’re all so inspiring because they flip the narrative of what “X” should look like by standing out and delivering thoughtful and beautifully curated content everyday. Women like Solange, Pum Lefebure, Frederique Harrel, my friend Mariama Bramble, Justina Blakeney, Grace Bonney, Bri Emery, my friends and designers Virginia Arrisueno and Morgan Hungerford West in D.C. So many more to name.
Did your role models offer professional advice that helped you in your career?
My role models offered advice through their individual crafts, but not directly. I watch videos they’ve made and just seen how they generally live and that is testimony enough and motivation enough.
What professional advice do you have for others?
Go bold in everything you do. Stay gracious, but don’t wait for anyone’s approval. And bold doesn’t necessarily mean loud. It means don’t be afraid to standout in whatever capacity you want to live or work. Someone’s bold is leaving their long-time friends and family on the East Coast to start a new, unknown life on the West Coast. Or bold might be to create a design that helps hundreds of people connect in a way they might not have before. Bold could be using your art one day at a time on social media to make a statement rather than your voice. Or perhaps it’s healing a relationship you neglected or lost years before. Or wearing the cherry red jumpsuit when you’re used to being the person in black dresses. Anything that makes you feel more alive and connected to your true self and brings you joy I say boldly do it.
For me that was leaving behind this idea that I’m a shy, introverted person. That’s what I was told about myself all throughout my childhood, and it made me believe my thoughts or art wouldn’t be heard. I decided to make bolder statements by redefining myself and fully harnessing all the creative energy inside of me. I did that by leaving home to attend college in a state I never lived before, moving to New York, being bold enough to photograph people and things that built the first portfolio I ever showed to land a job in the publishing industry, and then quitting my job years later to start an upholstery business, and creating side hustles while traveling and seeing more of the world. Living that way and being open has allowed for new opportunities to come up that I could never have dreamed. When you’re called to do something, you’ve already been given the skills and energy to do it. You just have to own it and do it.
What advice do you have on what’s appropriate attire at The Post?
My opinion might be a bit different because in my field those who work in the photo, art or design departments have much more leeway to wear certain colors and styles and prints than other jobs. “Appropriate” is relative to where you work. I can wear a bold printed dress with heels one day, or I can wear jeans and flats with a t-shirt and blazer the next. At the newspaper or magazine or in many tech companies, the art and photo departments vary in style choices. But I would say dress for your personality. Clothing and how we feel about ourselves in our clothes plays a part of how we work. If your personality is such that you have an affinity for bright colors or bold patterns or accessories, and yet you work in an environment that stresses dark suites and a white button up or grey dress pants with no accessories, then I think eventually that starts to play into your overall happiness at work because a part of you is being stifled. And if you’re in a corporate setting being stifled for 8-10 hours a day, every day, that can wear on your energy and motivation very quickly.
Where do you buy most of the clothes you wear at The Post?
Second-hand or thrift stores like the Goodwill or Buffalo Exchange. But a fair amount comes from H&M, Zara and ASOS. I’ve learned that my style preference is solid, neutral colors that are elevated by uniquely designed clothes with a different shape. I love asymmetry and different necklines.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
I’m currently planning a big creatives magazine dinner that basically brings in friends across multiple talents and asks people to bring their favorite magazines so we can just geek out over the designs and photos. I’ve always wanted to do this, so now I’m working on the timeline.
You can check out other profiles and news of interest to communicators at Capitol Communicator.