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Featured artist: Nighted Life’s Nick Garcia

Chuckling at the thought, Nick Garcia describes himself as “thugged-out” when reminiscing on his teenage years. Sporting cornrows, driving a classic beauty and having money was enough to please Garcia at 18. “I never thought about doing anything creative in my life. I was completely different,” Garcia said before taking another sip of coffee. “If you would have told me that I would be running a publishing house or making a zine, I would have said ‘What is a zine? Why would I do that?’”

Bay Area native Nick Garcia is the founder of local publishing house Nighted Life and is a curator for zines and photobooks. Last year marked Nighted Life’s eighth birthday.

While drinking his hot cup of joe at Alameda’s Blue Dot Cafe and tearing off pieces of butter croissant into his mouth, Garcia describes what it was that sparked his craft.

As a teen, Garcia and his friends would often travel through the cow-filled dirt roads of Richmond, El Sobrante and Pinole. Traveling the backroads of the East Bay, they would find secluded places to get away from the stresses of young adulthood.

On one evening, while Garcia and friends were partying, they heard gunshots fired. The group got back into their cars, as they were quickly reminded of their secluded environment. While driving back on to the main road, they saw a man lying face down. Surrounding him was a pool of blood. The stunned group headed back to their friend’s home. Eventually leaving, Garcia got into his car and headed home. On the drive home, it started to rain and as Garcia proceeded on the freeway, his car spun out and hit the center divider.

“I blacked out and woke up to my car in center divide with traffic coming this way,” Garcia said while gesturing toward the oncoming cars.

After turning his car around on the freeway, Garcia arrived home to find his mother waiting for him at their front porch. “She knew and could feel the sense that something was wrong,” Garcia said. He recalls walking up to his mother and greeting her with silence as he was still in shock from his car accident. It was this moment that inspired the reoccurring themes of mortality and loss of innocence in Garcia’s art.

He describes zines as a “self-created paper objects” that allow an artist to express their creativity and views, describing them as “personal messages” reminding strangers of humanity.  The zines that Garcia create have a slightly darker feel to them while invoking a sense of nostalgia.

“I think a lot of it is dark but hopeful, something you consider morbid or sad, but is portrayed in a beautiful way,” Garcia said when describing his aesthetic.

Following his hardcover photography book Nighted Life, which includes images of people and places representing the Bay Area, Garcia will be releasing another hardcover book next year. The project will include images produced from a former crime scene photographer. It will showcase real crime scene photos, while including beautiful landscapes as backgrounds. Garcia plans to have the former photographer teach classes on crime scene photography.

“In his slides he would include flowers to soften the pallet after people would view these gruesome type books,” Garcia said.

As he juggles the demands of his publishing house, working a full-time job, and spending time with his family, Garcia still finds balance. He admits it can all be a little hectic but emphasizes the importance of keeping Nighted Life whatever he wants it to be so he can step away from it when need be.

“It’s kind of funny, it’s like my kids have no sense of what I’m trying to do,” he said when asked about his children’s artistic skills. “And it’s funny ’cause I feel like that’s how parenting is … it challenges parents to put other people’s needs in front of their own,” Garcia said. He goes on to describe his son’s talent for singing and his daughter’s love for drawing. He laughs recalling his daughter’s comment about how she would create her zines completely different from her father’s, by her adding more drawings rather than “a bunch of pictures of weird stuff,” as Garcia’s daughter said.

As he took his last sips of coffee, Garcia shares what taught him the most about his business. He expresses it was doing every step himself that led to his success. He goes on to explain that it is a more difficult way to go about doing things but has rewarded him, making him more confident in developing his craft. He recommends for those who want to create zines to just create them. “Make it for free, give it away as much as you can, give to as many people as possible. If people value it, then it’ll catch on by itself,” Garcia said. He encourages interested ones to take inspiration from anywhere.

Garcia describes himself as one who is never satisfied.

“There’s so many things I want to do … I just like to want to find everyone in the world who will appreciate it. I feel like that’s my role in doing this, to take all these things I’m finding and show other people,” Garcia said.

To see Nick Garcia’s work, check out