Natasha Ion: Newcomer

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Tell us more about yourself and your practice.

I’m a student in Scotland, living in France currently, really just beginning to learn the ropes in film photography. I study History and French, so any photography or art I do is entirely self-taught and often inspired by works I see in books or on the internet. As well as film photography, I also do digital collages and have experimented with mixed media, for example using tracing paper and printed photos together in a piece.

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What was your creative process for this series or for your work in general?

Perhaps because I’ve never learned photography or art in any kind of structured or taught way I don’t tend to work in series and sometimes one roll of film can be an odd mismatch when seen together. Often I simply use the scene or setting I have in front of me and work with what I can in that moment. This is especially true when I take my camera hiking; there’s nothing you can really plan when you’re constantly moving through new spaces. I find that when I create indoors in a more studio-like setting I am often more experimental, as I have the time and means to be more conceptual in what I’m doing.

What work inspires or has inspired you?

I’m a big fan of Martin Parr, not so much in terms of stylistic elements that I can take away but in the thematic exploration of consumerism that permeates his work. Regarding work which has inspired mine aesthetically, I am constantly enchanted by the surreal use of colour and light in Edie Sunday’s images. I find them uniquely intimate and open, and especially like her experimentation with double exposures. Similarly, Jackson Akitt’s self-portraiture speaks volumes to me and I love their use of hard light against shadow. In terms of collages and experimenting with images, although I usually do digital collages, Charlie Elms’ surreal hand cut collages inspire my imagery a lot, with a regular juxtaposition of the ethereal with the mundane.

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Are there any artistic movements you enjoy in particular and why?

One of my favourite artistic movements has to be surrealism, with its exploration of the human imagination. I find its historical context and rejection of realism during a time of such uncertainty fascinating. The use of banal, mundane situations as the sites of revelatory pieces of art is something that anyone can engage in, while the broader context of upheaval and uncertainty is certainly as true today as at the beginning of the 20th century. I also love absurdism, primarily as a literary or theatrical movement, but one which seeps into art as well. I think the idea of purposelessness and chaos which is such a common theme throughout the movement gives an artist great freedom, with no technical or thematic restraints.

Do you have any opinions or ideals underlying your art?

I see my work far more as a mismatch of assorted images with no real link, as opposed to a body of work with a constant theme underlying it. I’ve found often that without even really meaning to, I get a real sense of emptiness when I look at photos once developed. With the black and white photos I take I often find it interesting to take the colour out of what we most often associate with colour; landscapes and nature, perhaps peaceful if taken in colour, become isolating with just the harsh contrast of black and white. What’s more, when edited to introduce a colour not in the original scene - pink or orange, for example, the image gains a surreal quality. With my photos where I play around with light, I can look at the same picture on two separate occasions and see something completely different - the emptiness can, on a second look, be replaced by a pleasant stillness and calm. So I suppose something key underlying my work is changeability, and an urge to experiment more and more.

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What sort of sources of inspiration have already influenced your artwork and why have they influenced you?

Something that has been of great inspiration to me generally, but specifically in terms of experimentation with light, has been the If You Leave showcase. The great range of artists featured allows a diverse perspective, and a very large number of artists do play around with light as a medium with film. This could be external natural light coming into a room, artificial light inside or outside, or simply soft natural light outside; many of the artists in the showcase certainly made me more conscious of light when I’m shooting, even if it isn’t the primary character in the image. I’m also a big fan of Trent Parke and his use of hard, often harsh, light to make contrast the centrepiece of his pictures. What I find especially unique about lots of his black and white photos especially is the existence of hard and soft light distinctly in contrast with each other in the same image.

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Any words for aspiring artists?

Experiment, take inspiration from artists but never let that get in the way of your own style and vision; don’t try to be something you’re not because it’ll end up falling short.

Is there anything you’re currently working on?

At the moment I’m trying to begin work on portraiture and photographing my everyday life around me. Often in the past, regular photography has been the exception rather than the rule in my life, for example only taking cameras when I go away. Since moving to France, however, as well as absorbing a lot more queer photography in general, I am becoming more interested in documenting queer culture in the different places I live in. So in general at the moment, I’m trying to improve my portraiture and would like to do a series with queerness at its heart.