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Award-winning photographer, artist and creative director Nicole Wilson was born and raised in Hell’s Kitchen and grew up in Manhattan Plaza alongside Alicia Keys. Here’s Nicole’s West Side Story.

Nicole Wilson
Nicole hanging out in Central Park this spring. Photo supplied

So, what’s your New York story? Born here, or just arrived?
I was born and raised here in Hell’s Kitchen, where I still reside today. I come from a long line of artists, actors and musicians, and grew up in the heart of New York City’s Broadway Theater District in the creative artists’ complex, Manhattan Plaza, surrounded by working and celebrated artists of every kind. My parents originally moved to New York City in the late 1970s so my father could pursue his acting career. He was a Broadway actor for many years, and my mother is a psychologist specializing in the emotional lives of artists. It was a very colorful and creative childhood, surrounded by all the creative artists and artists’ families along with the backdrop of New York City in the 80s and ’90s, and it very much influenced the course of my life.

What was your first job? What do you do now?
My first job was working as a camp counselor at 43rd Street Kids — the local preschool that has only recently shut its doors. Most of us neighborhood kids went through there at some point. What I remember about that job was that fellow Manhattan Plaza alum and now I guess, world-famous superstar, Alicia Keys (who I grew up with) was my co-counselor at the Summer Program and we had a great time working together. These days I am an award-winning photographer, artist and creative director. I predominantly photograph campaigns for luxury brands, high fashion campaigns, and spreads for the likes of Vogue, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar and GQ Magazine (among many others), along with shooting celebrity clients and of course, many regular people as well who are looking for portraits, headshots, branding for themselves or to help promote their business.

What’s your favorite New York minute (or moment) so far?
I know this will sound a little strange, but during the pandemic, hearing everyone all around the city open their windows and bang their pots and pans at 7pm in support of our local healthcare workers who were actively fighting the COVID-19 crisis. It made me feel like all of us New Yorkers were all connected as a community in a way I’ve never seen or experienced before.

Share with us why you love Hell’s Kitchen
I love the sense of community in Hell’s Kitchen. Since I’ve lived here basically all my life, I’ve seen people come and go, but many people I grew up with have stayed or returned to the community. I run into people nearly every day who have known me since I was a small child. So, for me, there’s a sense of history and legacy in this community.  

Another thing I love about Hell’s Kitchen is the theater and Broadway community surrounding this area. I grew up in the Broadway community, since my father was a Broadway actor and both my parents placed a high value on the arts and, in particular, attending live theater. To this day I’m an avid theatergoer and never miss a chance to see a play or a musical.

What’s your superpower or hidden talent?
I would say my superpower is my passion for the arts and my artist’s “eye”. I don’t know if I’d call it a “hidden talent” since it’s what I do for a living but there it is. I can also play ukulele.

Nicole Wilson
Nicole taking photos on Pier 76 with a Hudson Yards background. Photo supplied

What else should we know about you?
Prior to photography, I worked professionally as a visual artist as well as in the film and entertainment industry, both in front of and behind the camera. As a visual artist, I fell in love with color, composition and portraiture. From filmmaking, I learned the art of storytelling, lighting, conveying mood and emotion, location selection, as well as directing and collaborating with a whole creative team. The combination of these creative backgrounds offered me a unique variety of skill sets that came together auspiciously when I launched my career in photography.

Nicole’s Favorite Hell’s Kitchen Places

Mama Mia — 621 9th Avenue (corner of W44th St)
I love the family that runs the restaurant. My family and I always go there for celebratory events. The food is delicious and affordable.

Mama Mia 44SW
Mama Mia 44Sw is a favorite place for Nicole. Photo: Phil O’Brien

44 & X — 622 10th Avenue (corner of W44th St)
The menu at this place is to die for. You can’t have a bad meal there. The ambiance is beautiful, and I love the Broadway Show-themed drinks.

Birdland — 315 W44th Street (bw 8th/9th Ave)
It’s an iconic Theater District jazz club. It has a very nostalgic feeling to it that harkens back to another time. You can always hear amazing jazz musicians there, along with great musical acts.

Chez Josephine — 414 W42nd Street (bw 9th & Dyer Ave)
It’s such an utterly charming place to grab dinner. You feel as though you’ve stepped into another world. The restaurant and its beautiful paintings and homages to Josephine Baker adorn the walls. There’s this lovely romantic lighting and ambiance, and it offers French staples with live piano music.

Pier 84 — W44th Street & 12th Avenue
I just love being by the Hudson River and walking my two dogs, Huck and Gulliver. It’s very peaceful over there and I love how they’ve built up these piers into outdoor spaces we can all use and enjoy.

Huck and Gulliver Nicole Wilson
Nicole’s pups Huck and Gulliver. Photo supplied

You can follow Nicole on Instagram @nicolewilsonphoto and @nicolewilsonnyc.

If you know someone who would make a great West Side Story (or you would like to nominate yourself) please fill in this form —

You can check out more West Side Stories and reader recommendations on W42ST’s Hell’s Kitchen Local App

Join the Conversation


  1. As a Facebook fan and participant, I have met so many interesting people in their lives. Through having Brussel griffons, I became acquainted with Nicole, and before long, was enjoying her postings of her talents as a photographer love the fashion and also her personal postings of her, her mother and father and sister, and of course her two little Griff. This was especially enjoyable, as we have three of our own. I do not live in New York, but was born there and moved to Florida with my mom and dad, brother and sister and my twin sister in 1948. I was three years old. We went back almost every summer to visit my aunt and uncles and cousins. They lived on Knickerbocker Avenue and my sister and I found this so exciting the noise the smells, we loved the knishes and the Ices, the big movie theaters. I still remember the automat. I love hearing about Nicole’s adventures, her photography and she shows pictures of her Griffy babies and about her family is probably the closest I’ll ever get to be in what I used to think was a New York city girl with lots of adventures.. thanks Nicole for sharing your stories your photos, your photography and Huck, and Gulliver. thank you, especially for always answering my postings with your sweetness and kindness. I’m glad we are Facebook friends take care and God bless you and your family.

  2. I am so happy to read this story, thank you for profiling her W42ST. Nicole is so very talented and special in every way. Her photography and artistry are brilliant, and she’s just about the coolest young lady you could hope to meet.

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