Two weeks ago, I promised you that I would bring in more interviews to Pudge, and I am excited to kick that promise off with Natasha, who is a photographer I met a couple weeks ago in a bubble tea shop on 24th street. Below, she talks about travelling the world, feeling in between two cultures, and possibly living in a Wes Anderson film.
where are you from?
I was born in Singapore. I lived there until I was about 12, and then I moved to a suburb in Chicago, Illinois. I lived there for about a year and a half, and then I moved to Houston, Texas, and I went to high school there. And now I’m here.
do you think any of those places affected who you are in one way or another?
I think definitely. I went back to Singapore over break recently, and there’s a difference between what I experience now and what I saw there, and I feel like it is not part of my culture anymore. Even though I always say I am from Singapore, that’s not really something that I…
do you feel kind of in between? That’s how I feel about my country. You’re not entirely from there anymore, but you’re not exactly from here, either.
Why New York?
New York has definitely been a place that I wanted to live in at some point in my life. It’s always been something that I wanted to do. I applied to SVA, and being in New York was one of the big factors of me deciding on it.
You said SVA was the only art school you applied to?
How did your parents take it? Did you ever experience any trouble?
No, no, my parents were the people who encouraged me to apply here. It was something that I didn’t think I could do. I wanted to choose something more practical over something that I wanted to do, but ultimately, this is something that is more important to me than anything else.
How long have you been doing photography?
I started taking pictures around when I was 14. It was something that I always was interested in, and I picked up a camera and just decided to do it.
What kind of photography are you interested in?
Um, I don’t really have a specific thing. I feel like I go through phases. I used to do a lot of fashion photography, and that’s not something I’m interested in at this moment. Whatever I think of, I’ll just do it, and I don’t feel that it is necessary to bubble myself into something particular.
And that’s the best way.
You had a photoshoot, I believe you called it “Dollhouse”, of a girl in an abandoned ruined place. Where did you find it?
My friend actually drove past it. That was a really long time ago, three, two years? When I lived in Houston, there were a bunch of burnt down houses, so we went into one of them and we shot there.
Are all your photos of friends, and do you prefer your models to be friends?
Sometimes. It doesn’t really matter to me, as long as I can be comfortable with the person.
What inspires you?
My experiences, the things that I see and am surrounded by. The people around me, life, in general.
Are you ever satisfied with your work?
I don’t think you can ever be fully satisfied with your work unless it pushed you to want to keep creating. Not all the time, but sometimes I’ll be okay with something. “Oh, that was allright.”
Do you think of photography as work?
Not when I am doing personal stuff. Personal work is not work to me - it is something that I do for myself, it is something that I enjoy doing.
Film or digital?
I like film a lot, but I feel that it is not as stable as digital. A lot of my personal work is shot on film, and now I am starting to do a lot of digital because of school, and I am starting to get used to it. There’s a lot of advantages to digital, and a lot to film, as well. I don’t have a preference, I guess. [During the first semester], we did black&white film - I’ve never done it before, and we did the whole darkroom process, printing and stuff, and it was definitely difficult for me to get used to it, because I was so used to using colour. And I think colour is so important in my work, so I struggled in black&white.
Colour usage is definitely one of the first things I noticed when looking at your photographs. Other than that, do you have favourite elements in your photographs?
Light. I feel like I shoot a lot of natural sunlight. Or even fluorescent light. Light is my favourite thing.
Do you like shooting in the studio?
I don’t have a lot of studio experience. None of the work I am doing right now requires me to go into a studio, but when the time comes, I’m sure it will be interesting.
Imagine you were trying to describe your work to someone who has never seen it. How do you explain it?
My work goes through phases. I used to photograph a lot of beautiful things, and now it’s more of a documentation of my experiences, and the changes in my life, and, oh, I don’t really know. That’s really difficult actually. I photograph my life.
Have you ever explored self-portraiture? Is it something that is interesting to you?
A little bit. This semester I’ve been working on a series of self-portraits, but I haven’t released any yet. I don’t do enough of it. I feel like everyone, when they start taking pictures, everybody does lots of self-portraits. I never had that phase, so I am going through it, I would like to explore it.
If you could talk with five people in the world, dead or alive, who would it be? One by one, or all together, however you choose.
Oh, wow, oh my God. I have no idea. I would really like to talk to Alex Prager. She does the “Face in the Crowd” photographs. I’d like to talk to Duane Michals, I think his work is really interesting. I have no idea, this is hard.
It is difficult - it’s like when they ask you what your favourite movie is, and you suddenly forget every movie you have ever seen.
Yeah! I don’t know, can I get back to you? There’s so many people in the world, it’s just too hard.
What artists are you looking at?
A lot of Alex Prager. Also Ryan McGinley is interesting.
Do you find it necessary to have your work online and push it through different platforms?
I definitely think that exposure is always a good thing. There’s a community of online zines for artists, and there’s so many platforms for artists to showcase your work, and I think you should definitely take advantage of it.
First impression of New York?
First time I came to New York, I was 15, and I really liked how alive it is. There’s always something going on, there are always things open, and it’s so exciting, everything is here, and I think that’s why I like it so much.
Do you find that, being in a class and living in a dorm, your work gets influenced by your classmates and friends, and vice versa?
Definitely with two of my good friends - we help each other out, and it’s good to know people who are more photo-oriented, because you have them look at your work, and give you feedback.
Do you have a specific process when it comes to your photos?
When I have ideas, I like to think them out a little more before I make them happen, because I want to make sure that I execute it properly.
Is having a concept important to you? Is it something you think of consciously?
In some ways, yes. And sometimes, concept is really important, but sometimes, it’s not. When I am doing a project, I can have a conscious concept that I think of while I am photographing. But then when I am taking pictures, say, diary photos, there is no concept other than to have a visual diary.
The most surreal moment of your life this far?
Two summers ago, when I was seventeen, my mom and I took a trip to Alaska, and we drove to the Yukon territory, and we were at Emerald Lake. I haven’t seen a lot of nature in my life, because I always lived in cities, and it was very surreal for me to see mountains and lakes.
Did you take photos there?
I did, of course.
Dream city/country to visit?
I really want to go to Iceland. Iceland is beautiful, I really want to see the Northern Lights, and I just want to go there.
Two, three hundred years from now, imagine people find your work, but they only find one thing, and it is the one thing that they are going to remember you by. What do you think it will be?
I don’t know if I’ve taken it yet!
What kind of music do you listen to?
Mac DeMarco just dropped a new album, and I really like it. I like Sufjan Stevens. What am I even listening to, I don’t know. I like relaxed, easy-going music. Oh! Another band - Blood Orange.
Are you scared of anything?
Heights. I’m terrified of heights.
Have you ever been on a rooftop here?
I don’t have a rooftop in my building. Any rooftop? No, I haven’t.
Would you go?
I would, I would do it, even though it scares me.
Would you want to live in a Wes Anderson film?