Questions & Answers with Nádia Maria

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Nadia Maria 2017
Nádia Maria is a contemporary photographer currently residing in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Her work had been featured in National Geographic and Paris Vogue. After featuring her stunning ethereal portraits in my previous posts Heavenly Bodies and Transformations I contacted Nadia who kindly agreed to an informal interview. Further information about this exciting young talent can be found at her website http://www.nadiamaria.com.

Many thanks to my friend Jason Lock, himself a professional photographer, for his invaluable assistance and suggestions in relation to this interview.

AS: Your website gives the indication that you are professional trained, but by obscuring the informative text and concentrating on the creative element it suggests that inspiration is more important to you than technical acumen. Is this the case for yourself?

NM: Training has its importance, or rather, construction has its importance. However when I want to give concrete expression to an image that has suggested itself to my Self I have to, it a sense, deconstruct my training. Only then can the image be set free.

AS: Do you think that studying the creative arts is important for inspiring/aspiring photographers?

NM: I think everything you study, question, observe, believe you know, is important and collaborates with the image.

AS: Where would you say the major influences come from for you photography?

NM: Art, literature, meditation.

AS: Which artists and writers have provided you with inspiration?

NM: It depends a lot upon the moment. I’m always discovering new things, but I have some favourites: Rilke, Fernando Pessoa, Sylvia Plath, Alejandra Pizarnik, Borges, Murilo Mendes, Khalil Gibran, Hilda Hilst, Manoel de Barros, to name a few … I find that one thing leads to another, a piece of music will lead me to myths that leads me to philosophy. There is a whole universe of inter-connected inspiration out there.

AS: In your own field what photographers you admire?

NM: There are so many, but for their complete bodies of work it would be Sally Mann, Masao Yamamoto, Francesca Woodman.

AS: Of the photographers you mentioned I would be most familiar with Francesca Woodman (I have written an article called Angel about her), whose work leaves me with a sense of awe. When did you discover her work and is she a conscious influence?

NM: I discovered Woodman while I was at school. I have always enjoyed long expositions, and when I studied photography I used to make the exercises all “wrong”. I had an open shutter craze and one of my teachers said that I should take a look at her photographs; that I would identify with them. I felt an affinity, but in a different way than my friend thought I would.
I definitely admire her work but she isn’t a conscious influence. Woodman reflects the world that she saw and I reflect mine. Sometimes artists worlds cross but they are private reflections of particular kinds of self-knowledge.

AS: Where does that particular kind of inspiration come from in your work?

NM: From reflection, internal dialogues, dreams, the void…

AS: Do you create a narrative before creating the images – or – is it the case that you create images first then work a narrative around the picture?

NM: Usually there is a narrative before the image, but sometimes the images give me a narrative, however it is always a leap into the abyss.

AS: Do you use any analogue process in your work or are you totally digital?

NM: I use both.

AS: How does your use of analogue influence your work?

NM: I have a greater affinity with analogue as it what I started with, but it is becoming harder to work with today here in Sao Paulo, Brazil. My photographic thinking is built on analogue so even when I am using digital I keep what I can from the analogue process.

AS: When using digital, are you imagining the final image before actually capturing the image?

NM: Yes I usually see it in my mind beforehand, however sometimes there is an element of chance where the unconscious manifests itself.

AS: There is a major up take in photography due to the digital world and the access to smart phone technology. People consider themselves ever more creative and explore the world of Instagram etc – do you think that this hinders or promotes the conceptional/experimental genre of photography?

NM: Well, everything has its positive and its negative side, don’t you think?

AS: I do certainly agree that everything has a positive and negative side. What are the positives and negatives with the ever increasing popularity of social media on the arts?

NM: The most striking positive I think is the increased visibility and reach a work can have, and all instantaneously. A few years ago that wasn’t possible. The negative side, and unfortunately I have experienced this myself, is the devaluation of creativity, a lack of sensibility, a levelling effect.

AS: Where do you see your future as a photographer?

NM: Who knows where this will lead me. Maybe the photograph will cease to exist as it now. Maybe I will no longer feel the need to be a photographer.

AS: And finally (and this is an old chestnut) what advice would you give for future generation of image makers?

NM: Whenever I am asked I always quote Jung: “Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” That about sums it all up.

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Unearthly Raptures

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Another time, a different season
Another place, without reason
You and I indivisible
With desires non-negotiable

Instead I observe obsessed
Your body remaining uncaressed
Breasts uncapped by my hands
Your thighs undiscovered lands
Leading to untouched territory
An unchartered perilous country
Where there lies unknown pleasure
Unearthly rapture beyond measure
Your eyes cause ecstatic distress
Your lips an agony of excess
Your breath to me untasted
My lust so terminally belated.

With desires non-negotiable
You and I indivisible
Another place, without reason
Another time, a different season

Transformations

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Nadia Maria
As I noted in my previous post on the brilliant Brazilian photographer Nadia Maria, Heavenly Bodies, she derives much of her inspiration from the fleeting visions glimpsed before sleep and from dreams themselves, hence the dark evocative atmosphere she portrays so poetically in each image. Nadia Maria manages to capture perfectly the sense of imminent transformation that we all experience when we dream, where nothing is as it appears to be and everything has the potential to become something other. Here on the night-side the uncertain self is confronted with all the sublimity and terror of being.

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Bewitched

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Ellen Rogers-Valerie 2015
The work of English analogue photographer Ellen Rogers evokes many different epochs and styles: nineteenth century fin-de-siecle Symbolism, the Golden Age of Hollywood and the Swinging Sixties. Rogers skillfully combines these disparate periods in her hand coloured photographs to create a unique and evocatively timeless realm overlaid with a ritualised erotic charge and an mysterious occult significance. The avant-garde films of occultist and author of Hollywood Babylon, Kenneth Anger would appear to be a touchstone, especially Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome that starred the Scarlet Woman herself, Marjorie Cameron.

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Dreams of Desire 52 (Raoul Ubac)

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Raoul Ubac-Sleeping Nude 1939
The German born photographer and artist Raoul Ubac settled in Paris in the early 1930’s and under the influence of Man Ray promptly embraced Surrealism and its techniques, particularly solarisation and collage. During the course of the 1930’s Ubac explored the boundaries of experimental photography with his bold and radical innovations. In The Battle of the Amazons  and The Triumph of Sterility (featured below) Ubac took a solitary female nude figure and created a photo-montage before subjecting the print to the technique of virage  (toning: where different chemicals are substituted for the silver salts during the development) to achieve  startlingly different results from a single source image, some verging on the edge of abstraction and in the process subverting the notion of photography’s unquestioned realism.

Pay Close Attention

 

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Pay close attention.

Open the door, no,
Not that door, the right door
The one on the left straight ahead,
That’s it just keep on going
Nearly there now, I think;
Step inside the dissolving mirror
And what happens?
What do you see?
Come on, spit it out
I need to know
No, you can’t
Or won’t divulge.
Time now to recast
This production its
In a terminal turnaround
However the show goes on
Between the ivory thighs
Of Lady Babalon lies
The possibility of
A new beginning
Even in fact
The Second Coming
But not very likely,
In all probability
It will be
Yet another
Botched Messiah
Jesus the doomed sequel
Christ one point five
Leaving us with the
Ashen taste of revelation
My God I am tasting stars
But they are burnt-out
Extinguished, just inert
Dead heavenly bodies.
This jerry built universe
Badly designed
By a preening savant
Does it ever end?
No, the joker
Hits repeat
And it replays on
And on and on
This infernal loop.

The final curse
Is that we once saw
That unknowable face
Of the untouchable
Goddess up above.
Giving us
A distant glimmer
Of hope in this hell
Of eternal exile
Down here,
Down below.

Blood & Fire & The Night

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Born into a world not
Of mine own creation,
Sickened by the strictures
And structures installed
By unincorporated architects
Malignant divinities
Hybrid Demiurges
Absentee overseers:
Overhead ravens circle
Watching their prey below
Dying by increments:
Yes the twins will reign
Down terror in heaven,
Feast on the bluest meat
Drink the bloodiest wine
Kiss each other’s crimson lips
Transferring an inherent corruption
Mouth-to-Mouth:
Tonight the city is alit
With the fires
Of long ago summers
Raging again
Throughout my veins
My body always betrays
Our confused desires
That then putrefies
Sending coruscating poisons
Through our comprised systems.

How could we begin to ever comprehend?

Heavenly Bodies

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Nadia Maria
The ethereal portraits of Brazilian photographer Nadia Maria evokes the mysterious borderland between waking and dreams. Citing the hypnagogic visions glimpsed in the moments before sleep as the primary source of her creativity, Maria shows solitary figures (usually women) enmeshed in constellations of stars or seemingly about to undergo a transformation to an entirely different order of being. These photographs confront us with the beautifully bizarre revelations that we each experience nightly when we close our eyes and that we seek to dismiss  every morning; though no light is strong enough to totally dispel that blissful darkness that is the source of all true inspiration.

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Modern Hotel Rooms

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We get along better
Far away from home
In modern hotel rooms.
They become us
No horror here
Not when you are
This high up anyway
The Thirty Third floor
Down below maybe
With it uncertainties
And the people
Walking between
Fearful terraces
Realm of coruscating
Trapped sunlight
Down there
Out of place
We feel and are
Not for the likes
Of you and me
Better to stay
Up here watching
Inside a cliff face
Cloud-scraping
Rarefied altitude
Closer to a heaven
Of promised oblivion
Then the hell
Around every corner
Down there, below.

Hotel rooms have to be
Absolutely modern
Belonging to no one
Except the absentee owners
Hilton-Tetragrammaton Inc
Trading as the Very
Heavenly Heaven Hotels
Registered in Paradise, NV
Ten miles above the Strip
Somewhere in the stratosphere
Belonging to the now
Existing only for a moment
Nothing of other past
Occupants must remain
As our traces in time
Will be likewise eradicated
For you and me dear
Are ourselves only
Temporary residents
Restlessly shuffling
In between places
Solace seeking
Desiring respite
From ourselves
Here in these rooms
Devoid of relevance
Of even semblance
Except the resemblance
To other rooms
The urgent necessities
Of our inmost beings
Can be unleashed
We can be free
Not to be ourselves
Shed the accumulations
Of settled habits
The accrued hours
Between these walls
So neutrally tinted
May we be granted
Requisite anonymity
To become, at last
Something other than
What we have become.

Dreams of Desire 51 (Erwin Blumenfeld)

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Erwin Blumenfeld-Nude 1939
Erwin Blumenfeld was one of the most celebrated fashion photographers of the 20th Century, renowned for his vivid and innovative colour photography  that graced the cover of Vogue more times than any other photographer before or since. He was also a member of the German avant-garde, a close friend of the savage Berlin Dadaist Georg Grosz (see Eclipse of the Sun) whose techniques of photo-montage and collage he used throughout his career. His discovery of Man Ray shaped his earlier black and white nude photography leading Blumenfeld to experiment with solarisation and double exposure.

With Hitler’s rise to power, Blumenfeld, a Jew, moved to Paris in 1936 where he was discovered by Cecil Beaton who got him a job at French Vogue, however he was soon on the move again with the Nazi invasion of France, this time to America. In the United States he continued his connection with Vogue which allowed him to pursue his lifelong obsession with photographing beautiful women away from the genocidal horror of a war-torn Europe. It has been remarked that Blumenfeld found shame thrilling and he certainly instilled that sense of illicit eroticism into his images.