Dressed in spooky bone masks, flowing renaissance cloaks and gilded crowns; the woman in Nona’s photographs appear to be fierce warriors and beautiful queens. Yet they also drift and blur within the frame as if they are long-dead spirits. This creates an intriguing visual tension between power and emotional fragility. Her photographs possess a strength that only occurs when emotion is infused into the creative process, for example she sometimes incorporates her personal fears into her work. An Ophelia-reminiscent image of a woman floating through ghostly waters was inspired by a personal fear of what lurks below the dark surface of the water. In the following conversation, the Amsterdam based photographer shares with us her thoughts on the emotional connection between art and artist.
On capturing femininity —
Female beauty and nature is a timeless subject when it comes to art. I usually tend to be more drawn to women in photography because in my opinion it’s easier for them to be more soft and dreamy. I find images of strong women compelling. Women have a powerful, sexy yet fragile appearance that I love to use in my work.
In my pictures I want to say what I feel, what I identify with. As a woman I find it easier to speak from the world of “the feminine”. For the most part, I love shooting ladies that are comfortable in their skin. That’s the quality that shows most in a photo; the level of relaxation within the subject and how they work their clothes, sexuality and overall essence. I feel really lucky to be surrounded by many strong and beautiful female friends that always support me in what I do. Most of the models I use in my work are friends of mine.
I am constantly seeking beauty though I want my art to be sensuous without being sexed-up. I want to show women as more than just a stereotype, an object or character.
I want to challenge the mass-mediated beauty standards by showing more varied representations of powerful women. Seeing is not enough; you have to feel what you photograph. I feel most connected to my work when capturing the both strength and softness of the feminine aspect.
On the most challenging aspect of being an artist —
Staying focused. I am a huge daydreamer and it is easy to become distracted when working on my own work at my own pace. I have always been a slow maker and worked intuitively. The important thing is to set aside time every day to work on my art, though sometimes it is quite hard for me to find spare time while also working a full-time job as a social worker.
I am a firm believer that an artist has to be observant even on the simplest things in life, for these images can potentially make the greatest and most inspiring stories. Mostly these simple things in life can only be found in moments of boredom, solitude and tranquility. I try to escape the madness of the city as much as I can to reside in my favorite part of the woods of Holland and Belgium, where I get most of my inspiration.
It reminds me of a quote I always carry with me while being one with the woods:
“One can be instructed in society, one is inspired only in solitude.”
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
On what excites her most about creating photography —
To realize my dreams and being able to scour the insides of my imagination, learning about myself and others through a practice. It’s the whole process of turning an idea or vision into something tangible. It’s the best feeling to hold a print in your hands that comes out exactly the way you wanted it to be, though I also deeply love the the element of surprise while working with film or polaroid. That magical moment when a photo comes out looking completely different from how you remember the location and setting, yet capturing the moment of the shoot perfectly, as if the 35 mm film feels like it’s exactly interpreting and translating the energy and experience of the shoot.
I started doing photography mainly as a hobby next to school and my years as a ‘Social Work & Psychiatry’ student, but photography has always been my primary interest since childhood. During my teenage years I never thought of doing photography as something artistic. I’ve always carried my Pentax (my first analog camera) with me on holidays, parties and random afternoon walks in the forest since I was fifteen years old. At that time it simply was a way of capturing a feeling or a moment and preserving memories, mostly combined with dark elements. Almost serving as a visual diary.
It has only been three years now since I’ve used photography as a portal to my unconscious & intuitive self. I think my work is like a physical medium of my emotional spectrum. At that time I realized that photography offered me the opportunity to express my creativity, making my fantasies real. A place where I can endlessly play with reality and create my own ethereal worlds. Most of my ideas are primarily from my readings and pure observations about society and my surroundings, yet also heavily influenced by music.
Over time I have been defining my own style and I think my photographs mostly portray the unattainable and dark parts of life through blurry and faceless portraits, strong shadows and dark silhouettes, with attention to mostly natural light. Each single picture from my lens has their own significance and sentimental value to me. I want all of these images to tell a story. As if I give people a sneak-peek into my personal ominous yet soothing paradise, trying to represent the way I experience and see my surroundings. I love to challenge people to think beyond the obvious. I want them to be confronted with their own mental processes of comprehension, dreams, memories, fear and reasoning.
It´s such a huge compliment when people tell me they are intrigued by my art and feel emotionally connected to it. I started selling my work in antique Italian frames since 2013 and every time I feel so grateful when I receive pictures of my work hanging in other people´s homes across the world.