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!

GEM Magazine April 2012

Olivia Bouler: Taking Flight

Read about why twelve-year-old Olivia Bouler believes The Arts are not only the conduit through which she channels her energy and enthusiasm for her causes, but also a respite for coping with her emerging adolescence.

Gem Magazine Long Islandgemmagazineli.com

Gem is the sparkling new lifestyle magazine for the Long Island woman. Gem is genuine. Gem is engaging, lively and fresh. The Jewel of Long Island.

Marla Lewis: Grammy Winning Songwriter for Kids, Parents, and Teachers

“I never expected to win a Grammy,” says Wantagh Award-winning singer/songwriter, Marla Lewis. “I just love to write songs that teach, entertain, and sometimes raise a smile. I’m really proud of my work.” 

After 25 years of writing songs for adults and children, Marla’s tune, Leap of Faith, became part of a compilation CD called All About Bullies…Big and Small. The CD won a Grammy for Best Children’s Recording.

Leap of Faith is about a timid little girl named Faith who finds her courage.  On the playground she sees a bully push a small kid down. Before she can even think about being afraid she stands up and says, “Cut that out!/Leave that kid alone right now!” Everybody in the playground stops, stares the bully down, and cheers Faith. The bully turns and walks away.  Everyone is jubilant, and Faith discovers how much inner power she has.

 During the course of her career, Marla taught ESL (English-as-a- Second Language) in New York City schools. She utilized her musical talent to teach lessons across the curricula from grammar, to math, to social studies, science, and literacy skills.  For example, to teach irregular plurals Marla created a chant “One Foot, Two Feet” and added movement to act out each body part.  “The combination of aural, visual, and kinesthetic modalities accommodates children’s varied learning styles,” says Marla.  For a kindergarten math lesson, she has the children sing this ditty:  If you know how to count you can add by one.  “I also use folk songs, for example, Follow the Drinkin’ Gourd,to teach kids about slavery, and how the slaves used the North Star to find their way to freedom.” 

Marla uses many of her songs in her original professional development workshops for teachers. One workshop deals with how music and movement facilitate literacy.  Another workshop teaches collaborative songwriting.  “I wrote one of my favorite songs, We Love to Read, with a second grade class! The kids were very excited about learning to read. They were amazed at how those  ‘squiggles on the page’ became letters. We had a magical time working together!”

“You don’t have to be a musician to do this.  You just have to enjoy the music and . . . know how you’re going to use it to teach the lesson.”  This is what classroom teachers do best and to this day Marla’s music is sought out by education practitioners around the country to integrate her songs into lessons of their own invention.

To produce professional quality recordings meant finding resources:  “Funding in the arts is not easy.  I have recorded two albums for kids and they each cost me about $30,000.  I used all live musicians; I didn’t skimp on anything, but I didn’t exactly use a New York City studio, either.”  With the staunch support of a producer, Bob Stander of Huntington, Marla sold over 3,000 CDs, and won Parent’s Choice Awards for both We All laugh in the Same Language (2005) and  I Love to Talk to Plants (2008). 

Although retired from public school teaching, Marla continues to pursue her art by producing videos at home and uploading them to her YouTube channel.  “The Arts are the most positive aspect of man and womankind . . . if we made a time capsule to show another species in space what we’re about, we’d include our greatest achievements, which are our works of art, scientific discoveries, and speeches made by our greatest leaders.  I honestly don’t understand why drama, music, art, and dance are not valued as much as science, math and social studies.” Further, Marla adds, “The arts empower us and give us the ability to make a difference. “

To find out more about Marla Lewis and her music visit her website  “We all Laugh in the Same Language!”

Olivia Bouler: Taking Flight


Twelve-year-old Olivia first gained fame two years ago when she offered her paintings to people who donated to the National Audubon Society in response to the BP Gulf oil spill. To date, she has created more than 500 paintings and raised more than $200,000 for the Audubon Society. She’s also published a book, lobbied on Capitol Hill for environmental reforms and spoken to school children in different states and countries about her passion for animals.


In August, she was honored for her work at the International Year of Youth Culmination Celebration at the United Nations and personally invited by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama this past December to attend a holiday reception. Over the February winter break Olivia traveled to Costa Ricato study bird wildlife in their natural habitat. Her first gallery show is in the planning stages for this coming season.

And if she had not had the opportunity to pursue the arts, Olivia emphatically exclaimed, “Oh, my God! My life would be over!”  The Arts have not only been the conduit through which she channels her energy and enthusiasm for her causes, but also a respite for coping with her emerging adolescence:  “I’ve seen other kids who don’t have the arts and they turn to the wrong things . . . if they had considered taking [an art class] instead of another class with another grade and another period of the day, it would have saved them.” And it’s not even about being able to draw.  The ability to freely respond to any given moment has transcended to her writing skills.  Praising her English teacher, Olivia can compose two pages to a written prompt within 10 minutes.  Playing the saxophone challenges her to take risks and improvise:  “You just keep on going;  just pick up that pencil and start writing. I can tell you there are brilliant writers [in my class] there are brilliant players, brilliant singers [who will] never be heard because they are so scared of doing a solo because they’re afraid of what people might think; they will just not get up in front of that stage and expose themselves even in a group.”

Besides the arts’ capacity to instill courage for anyone who dares to accept the risk, Olivia is cautious about protecting her personal boundaries.  “Kids, personally, don’t like me in school.  I’m just too different, and bouncy and boisterous.”  Despite composing a song to perform for the school talent show Olivia decided that it was too revealing emotionally and decided to do another selection.  ‘It’s really good, it’s really put together and I may perform it at another event where kids won’t attack me because kids [can be] monstrous.”

It’s this secure sense of self-esteem that the arts have armed Olivia to pursue her dreams.  For as long as she can remember she always wanted to “do something crazy, radical, and kind of awesome with my life.”  Her “epiphany”, if you will, was the moment her parents put a pencil in her hand.  Since picking up that pencil, she has 30,000 people who follow her on Facebook and is more determined than ever to do something really amazing for the arts and the environment:  “We are like birds! We have to sing our song before our time goes out . . . we have to sing our songs NOW before it’s all gone.”  By her example, we can be certain that her message will resonate for all humanity and be realized in our lifetime. “Go birds!”

Contact Olivia on her website and Facebook!

chandra thomas: ACTOR-WRITER-PRODUCER-YOUTH ARTS EDUCATION ADVOCATE

For as long as she can remember, chandra thomas ACTOR-WRITER-PRODUCER-YOUTH ARTS EDUCATION ADVOCATE credits her family for instilling a love of storytelling. Entrenched in her upbringing between Harlem and Long Island was the importance of enduring the history of her family, expressing her insights and opinions about everyday occurrences, from the mundane to the sublime: “Learning about my world through stories became a big influence in terms of my own journey to this quadruple title world that I now live in.” Drawn to work that tells stories, chandra is inspired to tell “unique, stories that aren’t just recycling of stories we have already heard.”
chandra-ACTOR has the capacity to delve into a character’s spirit through their need to tell their story. She actively seeks subjects whose stories might not have been told.  Her mother is an ardent believer in the importance of the arts and took chandra to her first play at the age of five to see Big River.  Although awed by the spectacle and magic of live theater it wasn’t until she was in high school when she went to see Rent  that she had her “aha” moment:  “I saw people who I knew…people who were in the neighborhood that I grew up in, friends that I hung out with, family that I recognized.  There were people whose stories I had never seen on a stage, no less a Broadway stage, before.” Armed with this new vision, chandra-PRODUCER makes it her mission to promote points of view that might not have otherwise been heard.
And this is why chandra-YOUTH ARTS EDUCATION ADVOCATE  co-founded viBe Theater Experience whose mission is to empower teenage girls through the collaborative, performing arts.  For ten years she has been working with teen girls form all over New York City to create original plays, performances, music, poems, videos, poetic performances originally derived by the young women in a collaborative environment:  “It’s really about the girls speaking from their own voices; it’s often the first time girls [have their voices] validated…to be able to say what they have to say [and that] it’s important, that someone wants to hear it, and very often it’s the first time they discover they are not the only one [who shares similar experiences].”  Using the arts as a vehicle, these young women develop skills such as literacy, critical thinking, cultural competency, marketing, advocacy:  “Our goal is to create well-rounded, well-informed young women who are prepared to meet all challenges, all triumphs ahead…we’re preparing young women to make decisions about what their future is and create the path to achieve that future.”  Girls have gone on to medical school, some in politics, law school, English teachers, and some even become artists! One particular story stands out for chandra: She came to the tryout on the arm of a viBe Alum and spent much of the session detached from the discussion.  When asked why she was interested in being a viBe Girl, she sat there stunned.  In the most eloquent terms, she described how this was the first time she was in a space “where people just listen to me.” Not only did she thrive as a member of the project, but also went on to receive a full scholarship to St. John’s University; a girl who never even considered going to college as an option before working with viBe!  “She found the core of her real story,” interjects chandra, “she had all these other things around it, but it was really…she didn’t know that [she] could afford it.”  Had she not been in the kind of supportive environment she might not have realized her destiny. Today she’s interested in being an English major; this is a “viBe success story. Even as this young woman has academic pursuits outside of” The Arts”, this is a success story as viBe uses art as the vehicle not the destination.”
chandra-WRITER  upcoming play, a one-act called Standing At…  and tells the story of 2 women from the South Bronx  who are long time friends, and one is surviving HIV.  It has poetry woven throughout, original songs that capture traditional Gospel songs, and  ”it’s that storytelling.  “It comes right back to where I started—that storytelling.  That really specific story of two real people being in the same space and how much beauty there is right there.” The play opens March 30th at HERE Arts Center, 145 6th Avenue, NYC.  Follow chandra  on her website, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.