The role model for Nikolai's photographic career was his uncle – "the coolest" of his Colombian mother's five brothers – who tragically died in a boat accident on assignment in 2003. "I only met him four times while on family trips to Colombia. I remember going to his work one day. I was fascinated by the whole news agency, by his pictures on the walls, the stories he could tell," says Nikolai. "I grew up with this idol." His uncle's death prompted the then 19-year-old Nikolai to take up photography, shooting on a Canon film SLR, before switching to a Canon EOS 350D.
After his military service he studied for a degree in economics and psychology, but photography kept calling. Following a year out taking photography courses at Rampen film school in Copenhagen, he won a place to study photojournalism at the Danish School of Media and Journalism. "I've never felt more in my true environment than when I was there," he says. "We were in sync, all going in the same direction, all so interested in telling stories."
While at the school of journalism, Nikolai won several awards in the international College Photographer of the Year competition, including silver for his student portfolio. In the year he graduated, 2012, he was selected for the Student Focus at a major international photography awards ceremony.