Flickr awards student’s talent

Michael Pasco
Managing Editor

Nicholas Scarpinato’s photograph, “The Keepers,” was the cover of Poictesme in 2012. Photo courtesy Nicholas Scarpinato.

Nicholas Scarpinato, photo and filmmaking senior at VCU, was named for Flickr’s “#20under20,” a celebration of the website’s most talented young photographers.

The top-20 photographers were selected by judges and photographers Lou Noble, Cuba Gallery and Rosie Hardy as well as Flickr CEO Bernardo Hernandez.

Attending high school in Stafford, Virginia, Scarpinato received traditional fine art training in painting and illustration. It was not until he entered VCU’s Art Foundation Program that Scarpinato discovered his talent for photography. 

“I was using a flip camera for my photo classes,” Scarpinato said. “Everything changed for me when I borrowed my dad’s DSLR.”

Scarpinato now shoots using a Canon EOS 5D Mark II. 

He said he considers his sophomore year a turning point in his career. 

“One of the most helpful classes was one I took (that) year, Sculpture 1,” Scarpinato said. “It made me think of the way people perceive my work and how to think about concepts.”

He gets his painter’s style from the work of Robert and Shauna Park-Harrison. Similar to the couple’s process, Scarpinato likes to print his photos out, paint all over them, scan them back in and go back to editing.

In 2012, Scarpinato was awarded Canon’s “Project Imaginat10n” for his photograph titled“Twin Peaks.” The project curated photos to inspire short films directed by Eva Longoria, Jamie Foxx, Biz Stone, Georgina Chapman and James Murphy.

Scarpinato was featured in 2012’s Poictesme, the art and literature journal at VCU. “The Keepers” and “Twin Peaks” are featured on the front and back cover respectively. 

Scarpinato’s work was displayed in three local gallery shows in 2013.

Scarpinato has been a member of Flickr since December 2011. The website is a photo-sharing and hosting service owned by Yahoo. Its tools, reach and ease of entry allows it to serve and support an engaged community of photographers. Each photographer for the “#20under20” was selected in 2013 based on creativity, technical talent and portfolio strength.

“The Helpers” (2012) was selected as some Scarpinato’s best work by Ivan Shaw, Vogue’s Photography Director for the Flickr-hosted gala at Milk Studios on Oct. 1. Photo by Nicholas Scarpinato.

“Flickr exposed me to a lot of things I never thought were possible in photography,” said Scarpinato. “I’ve become obsessed with it.”

Scarpinato finds inspiration in Tim Walker, a fashion photographer for Vogue Italia. Scarpinato’s work has grown from being based on locations to being inspired by people. 

“I have a certain infatuation with my portraits,” he said. “I like to photograph people I’m allured to.”

Scarpinato recently worked with each student in his class to develop a film titled “Come Darkly Near.” Released in May 2014, the film followed the lives of five people in a small town as they struggled with their friend’s kidnapping. The short film was successfully crowdfunded through Indiegogo with a goal of $5000.

Photographers selected for “#20under20” will have a showcase at Milk Studios in Manhattan, New York on Oct. 1, and will have a chance to receive additional awards. 

Winners will be crowdsourced through hashtag campaigns on Twitter. Fans can tweet using the hashtags #MostCreative, #StrongestPortfolio or #StrongestTechnique, in conjunction with #20u20 and the name of the photographer they nominated for the event.

Each winner will be featured across Yahoo and Flickr over the course of the year.


  1. If you have a twitter and would like to help Nicholas win the 20under20 contest hashtag #Flickr20u20, tweet nicholasscarpinato with the hashtags #besttechnique, #mostcreative, or #strongestportfolio #nicholasscarpinato

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