Sherrie Nickol: Capturing Real People With a Click of her Camera

What started out as an artistic project became the seed for an exciting business enterprise.  Award-winning photographers Sherrie Nickol and David Katzenstein were intrigued by capturing every day people in their every day moments: on the subway, the streets of New York, any location imaginable where ordinary people went about their typical day.  When the economic crisis hit in 2008-2009, the husband and wife team decided to use their recently created cache of studio photos of 100 people and turn it into a commercial venture.  A business plan was drawn up; investors were solicited and they created and launched the stock photo agency Citizen Stock. Today, the real people photographed for the collection number more than 2,500!

CitizenStock was launched in May 2010 as a source of fresh, new Rights Managed stock photography images featuring real people. The models aren’t models at all, but children, moms, dads, grandparents, skateboarders, lawyers, teachers, musicians, chefs, artists, office workers, clothing designers, shop clerks and small business owners, to name a few.

In addition to homegrown New Yorkers, the real people who model for Citizen Stock originate from many parts of the U.S. and from a diverse group of countries all over the world. Photographed against a white background, and in a series of activities and clothing, the real models offer a unique and accessible collection of images for the advertising, design and media industries. Citizen Stock offers a consistent blend of emotion and style and a depth of unique, high quality imagery.

Deriving extreme enjoyment from “taking a good picture of someone,” Sherrie delights in people’s reactions.  She recalled one man who was awed by his picture on the monitor. “Wow, is that me?” he exclaimed.  Using a conversational approach with each of her subjects, Sherrie gets her models to share a great deal about themselves.  “One of the models told me that no one has paid this much attention to him in 20 years!” she said. Impressed with the quality and quantity of photos, the man returned for a repeat session with his two young daughters. Emotionally empowering her subjects by allowing them the opportunity to express themselves in any way they choose, Sherrie often finds herself playing the role of “photo-therapist.”  

And what makes Sherrie special in other respects is that her talent goes beyond her work at Citizen Stock.  Crowd Scapes was an exhibit at Temple University in 2010.  “My husband and I have traveled a lot and done all sorts of photography.  A lot of it has to do with people and their interactions, either being by themselves or with a group of people.”  With each of her works, she hopes to elicit memories, “a special time in their life . . . something warm.”  And this takes skill. Not everybody can be a photographer:  “You have to have an eye.  You have to capture that moment, the shape of the face, or the body or what they’re trying to tell you.”  She is grateful to her teacher, Jerry Stratton at the University of Cincinnati.  “He kept encouraging me.” Eventually, she risked all odds and went to New York to seek her fame and fortune without any knowledge of what that entailed.  Coming from Osceola, Arkansas, a small town, Sherrie didn’t know any better except for the fact that this was the right course for her to follow.  Holding a camera “just felt right. I still receive so much pleasure from taking pictures.”

As for The Arts, Sherrie is adamant about its value:  “Photography is a different kind of art.  It’s a wonderful tool to communicate feelings or emotions…. It’s freeing for people.  Everybody has a story; everybody has a love, a desire. The Arts help you to communicate everything about life from the happy to the very sad.”

And as for Sherrie’s mission, it gives Citizen Stock’s models their 15 minutes of fame…and then some. Click!

Featured in The Wall Street Journal The Wall Street JournalNew York Culture:  The Everyman’s Photo Op

Like Citizen Stock on Facebook!


  1. I agree, 15 minutes of fame and more! Citizen Stock, the creation of Sherrie Nickol and David Katzenstein, is a library full of everyday people photographed in a vibrant and fun way. I am an art director and one of the thousands of 'real models' in the Citizen Stock collection. This website is a hidden treasure of images.

  2. With a heart as big as the delta from which she came, Sherrie Nickol is gifted with using a camera to bring out the honesty of her subjects. It is a double gift to be photographed by Sherrie. You feel the gift that she offers you as well as receive the gift of yourself in that moment. Her artful photographs allow us all to see life as it is, poignantly truthful at all times, through her very own lens – her heart. Her everyday portraits envelope the essence and the context of who we are. The photographs prompt subtle emotion that dips gently into the the mind to cause the viewer to relate with a…."I know that person"…."or, do I simply know that moment." A delightful, relevant connection to each other!

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