It’s true California is a state of mind. And for photographer Nico Guilis, who was born and raised in SoCal, it’s a never ending inspiration. The increasingly popular creative agency Find Your California is Nico’s baby. A quick scroll through the website, saturated in baby blue skies, beautiful women surfing and turqouise waters, and you can feel that it is Nico’s work.

For our Playboy Muses series, Nico shot Pamela Katz around New York’s Hudson River, somehow still channeling west coast vibes all the way across the country. Nico also took some time to explain how photography presented itself to her, and who her biggest inspirations are.

How did you get into photography?
My father gave me my first Pentax at 7. I would obsessively click the button because I loved that sound. He clearly saw something within me at a super young age, and I haven’t been able to put the camera down since then. I was also a painter and went to private art school at night after regular school. Both my parents were supportive of me being an artist. My mom wouldn’t let me skip class or quit on my dreams. Oh, the pep talks. I went to photo and film school for college. I’ve been learning technique and classic training since age 9. I think it’s rare to have parents recognize something within their children at a young age and support and cultivate it.

Tell me the inspiration behind Find Your California.
Find Your California spurred from me coming out of a long relationship. When I broke up with my ex-boyfriend, and I had to re-meet myself, I circled back to what made me happiest. Which was my California childhood and up bringing. I decided to start something that gave a California perspective no matter where I was. I spent my winters in Puerto Rico shooting skate and surf. I literally had zero idea what it would become to others or even myself, I was just so stoked to shoot and flow and travel. It’s rad being independent and in love with what you do. I think for others, Finding Your California is a circle back on happiness. It’s an energy, a light, a love, a freedom and since California is a nostalgic place for many including myself, it has been a really wonderful aesthetic journey sharing with others. It’s evolved to a pretty radical place

Can you talk about this gallery with Pamela Katz? What was it like working together?
Pamela is an amazing soul, and little love hippy child in New York. I decided to go with her up the Hudson River and scope out old cars and shoot on an epic, perfect fall day. We turned off GPS in the rental and followed our intuition to get lost and find some cool spots. That’s how I’ve always worked: unplanned, change in the back of car and create real moments that come to you. Pamela lets me work this way and will take off her shirt on an overpass because it’s a rad shot and meanwhile we are laughing and having fun. Most girls aren’t as free. That’s why I love shooting her - I don’t have to think and she lets me capture those moments on the fly.

Who are some people that you follow on Instagram that you find inspiring?
My favorite photographer of all time is Jean C. Pigozzi. He follows me, and when he likes a photo, I screen shot it and start to giggle like a teenager. I bought one of his books in Paris and have been collecting them since. We know many mutual people, and I am hoping to meet him soon. It’s weird when someone you respect so much looks at your work - you feel honored and shy at the same time.

To see more of Nico’s work, check out Find Your California.