Lumia Nocito, DJ, Photographer, Model & Influencer, New York

Lumia Nocito, DJ, Photographer, Model & Influencer, New York





Maddy Black

Can you start by introducing yourself and telling us a little about what you do?

Sure. I guess I do a lot of things. My name is Lumia Nocito. I’m from New York City. I work in fashion, I work as a photographer – actually, not so much as a photographer anymore. I model and I DJ too. I do influencer work. I also have my personal work. I make things at home that no one ever sees [laughs].


What was your trajectory? How did you start doing all this stuff?

Well it all started with photography, which I started doing when I was very young. When I was in high school I met Petra Collins through a friend and I ended up assisting her for a few years. By the time I got to college she was, like, my mentor. That was how I ended up in the fashion industry. While I was assisting Petra she would put me in her shoots sometimes, if they needed an extra model. That’s how my modelling career started, which was really unexpected. Then I was working in the fashion industry as a model primarily, and eventually was able to also work as a photographer by the time I was in college. The influencing and DJ stuff came naturally, later, from being in that industry and in those circles. 


Do you see yourself continuing to work in a way that is spread over lots of different areas? 

I think I’ll always do a bunch of things, but I am really focused on DJing and music right now. The other thing that I’m also doing right now is producing music. I’ve definitely turned to working on DJing and music stuff over photography. Equally – with modelling – that was never something I was trying to do. It just happened naturally as a consequence of me being in the industry and those spaces. I think I’ll always do modelling and influencer work but the DJing and music stuff is where my creative focus is.

Is there anything that you’ve learnt from one area of your work that you’ve been able to apply to another? Like has your experience in photography ever influenced your approach to music, for example?

I think everyone in the fashion industry has really good people skills. When you attend events as an influencer, a model or a photographer, you do have to be able to talk to people, and that’s definitely a skill that has been applied to my whole life. 

Also, with photography, there’s an element of time pressure. You have to shoot ten looks, you have to prep everything, everything has to go smoothly… Time to re-shoot typically won’t be written into the job description. You have to get what the client needs done in this short period of time that’s been allocated to you. Working under those kinds of time constraints as a photographer has helped me with DJing and performing live. As a DJ you can’t have a do-over. It’s that same pressure to deliver with the time that you’re allotted.


Do you think you respond well to time pressure?

Yeah, I do actually. I think I’m good at time management and organisation. Because photography is freelance you never really know what your schedule is going to be ahead of time and you have to adapt quickly. If I got a photography job, it meant everything else I had planned in the week leading up to the job gets put to the side. I spend the whole week prepping instead. Now I spend days prepping for a DJ set in a similar way. 


As a photographer, model, and influencer, you work with images. Our culture is more image-saturated now than ever before. What’s it like to work within that context?

As a photographer I do feel such a big responsibility, because images are so, so disposable now. Whenever I get a job I’m always asking myself why I want to take the job, if I want to make more images, if I want to contribute to what’s already out there, what purpose those images would serve… At this point in my life, I’ve realised that I’m not interested in making images that are just pretty. Within fashion photography it’s very easy to constantly be putting out images that are meant to be visually pleasing and not much else. Like, when you make a moodboard, pull references and copy other images for your own work. It’s not only unoriginal, it’s also kind of singular – like, this is just a visual experience then. People don’t make a moodboard and create a visual experience and then inject meaning into it afterwards, you know?

Instagram must be complicated to navigate as a photographer. On the one hand you have this amazing marketplace of the thing that you’re creating. But, on the other hand, it can cheapen images in a way that must feel counterintuitive. As a photographer you want images to have value. 

Yeah. Exactly. Before I started music and DJing and was primarily a photographer, that was something I was really wrestled with. I ended up taking a year off from photo work. Initially I had to take jobs because I needed to live. Eventually I got to a point where I was able to pick and choose a bit more. At this point I’m really picky about photography. I’m super happy shooting one campaign a year, a campaign that I want to do… But I usually say no! Literally for that reason.


Who would you say are your current creative influences? Who inspires you?

I think it’s normal to pull from life, right? With photography it’s always just my friends. I love to shoot people, in fashion and in my personal work. My personal photography work is always with my friends and the people that are close to me.

In music right now… I guess it’s my friends again who inspire me [laughs]. I just had one of my friends talk on a track, and I really want to get more of my other close girl friends to talk on some of my other tracks. I didn’t realise that that’s such a big parallel, but yeah.


How do you take time for yourself?

I think if you’re freelance, it’s really good to take weekends off when you can. That was the hardest thing for me when I first got out of college. I was working so, so hard, and then I ended up getting burnt out in my early twenties and it sucked. But, you know, sometimes you do have to go through that in order to learn how to have a better balance. I think it’s really important to try and prescribe yourself breaks. It’s hard to have your own schedule. But the nature of freelance is that you never know when you’re going to have your next job and that is always really chaotic. Suddenly you’re working crazy hours or have to work with a really tight turnaround period. So you have to really set time aside. 


I feel like the inherent unpredictability of freelance means you can get stressed even if you’re not working. 

It’s really easy to overdo it without even realising that you’re overdoing it.


What is your daily routine like at the moment?

My sleep schedule is a bit fucked up at the moment from DJing late. But usually I wake up, go for a walk, then start work. Last month I was in the studio a lot. I was working on music every single day. Right now it’s a little bit different because I have more influencer work and more DJ sets this month. So I’ve been out shooting stuff and playing gigs.

"If you find something you’re passionate about... run towards it."

How is it living in New York, and how do you find it working as a creative?

It’s cool. I feel like there was a slow period after Covid where people didn’t feel very inspired. But now I think New York is definitely back. It’s really different now after Covid because I feel like there’s so many more people here. It’s not as quiet as it used to be. But with DJing I’m gonna be travelling more. I’m going around Europe this summer, so I’m expecting my perspective on New York to change.


What advice would you give to someone with similar career inspirations?

I think it’s really important to do what makes you happy. I started so young. I met Petra when I was 16. This was a time when I knew I had to pursue photography even though I didn’t know anything about the industry. I think it’s really important that if you find something you’re passionate about to run towards it. It’s corny but, like, the universe will hold you if you pursue what you feel you should be pursuing and what will ultimately make you happiest. I think people really struggle when they’re young with all these preconceived notions about what you’re supposed to do. Taking the leap to being freelance can be really scary. Try and follow your gut. 


With creative work, I feel like it’s so much more about self-esteem than people realise. Like whether you end up taking the leap into that space really depends on your own self-concept.

It’s so true. I think it’s important to take risks and be open to trying new things. I’ve really only been DJing for a little over a year. I’m 25 now and have been doing photography for over a decade. Especially in fashion, people – I think – are less inclined to try new things. Like you’ll be a stylist for 20, 30 years. Which is totally cool, but I think it’s important that people know that it is possible to try new things and start different career paths at different points in your life. It’s scary to do, and it can mess up with your sense of identity or whatever, but you can be aware of that fear and let yourself be scared and do it anyway. I love to learn new things personally. 


Can you talk about some challenges you’ve faced in your career?

The burnout thing was really hard for me when I first got out of college. There is a thing when you’re an artist where you’re constantly trying to figure out what your work is and your practice, and that’s always hard. I remember one of my professors told me that you don’t ask an artist how it’s going in the studio and they’re like, “It’s going great! Everything’s perfect!” You ask them what’s happening in the studio and they’re like, “I’m so unsure… I don’t know what’s going on.” You go into the studio and you’re banging your head against the wall. Recognising something like that as part of the process is really important, you know? Because it’s not always going to feel right when you’re trying to figure out the work. I had this with photography for so long. I wasn’t sure what my practice was… but that’s what comes with time and commitment.

There’s also an element of dealing with people on sets. Not everyone is always gonna get along. It’s difficult for people who aren’t artists to work with artists because artists can be so particular. As an artist, I think you have to try and be as accommodating as possible when you’re working with other people. Do your best not to be super difficult and particular. 


What are you looking forward to? What’s next?

Europe. I’ll be doing lots of DJ gigs in London, Paris and Ibiza, in late June and early July, which is really exciting. I’m probably gonna release a song in a really chill way… in July [laughs].

"Try and follow your gut."

A little softlaunch. 

Exactly. Just to let people know what I’m up to. I keep a lot of my personal creative projects quite hidden from public view. For instance, I make all these sculptures at home which no one knows about. Only my close friends who come to my house have seen them. So I do wanna put this song out, let people know what I’ve been up to creatively. And then I think I’ll have a proper release in September, which is really exciting.


Amazing. It feels like this conversation is very timely, you being at this exciting personal and professional juncture with your music. Thank you for speaking with me. What’s your song of the summer?

Una Pena by Stimming. It’s really fucking good.


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