Monday, December 5, 2016

Between Darkness and Light | An interview with Nona Limmen

When did you decide photography was your passion and can you tell us how you found yourself a "career" as a photographer?

It actually all started when my mom gifted me her analog Pentax camera as a gift for my 15th birthday. I've always had a fascination with freezing time in a photograph. Throughout the years I studied and explored my mom's camera and its endless possibilities. I liked trying out different styles and tried to find my own. My Pentax camera was exclusively analog and it took me huge amounts of (wrongly) developed 35mm film to finally understand this instrument, a frustrating yet fascinating road to knowledge. 

15 years later I still love working with analog cameras. There's nothing more exciting than 24 hours between the shoot and seeing the actual photos on the contact sheet. You never know if the photos will turn out the way you wanted to, but the thrill of not knowing for sure makes it even more exciting. I also barely retouch any of my photos, all of the elements need to overlap each other in a natural way. I think it's important to embrace the unexpected and not striving for constant perfection. To me 35mm film makes a photo more magical; it makes reality look like how you would imagine it from a dream.

Your work is very unique and has a very ethereal and dark mysterious undertone to it. Where do you find your inspiration for your work and are there central themes you like to visit and re-visit?

It excites me to be able to scour the insides of my imagination, learning about myself and others through a practice. I like the ability to stop time and create my own version of reality. 

We live in unpredictable times. Everything around us changes very rapidly: the weather, people, landscapes, time. I mostly get my inspiration from these themes. For some reason my mind wanders off to a different (better) world while working with photography. Almost as if time stands still for a moment and I allow myself to immerse into a Utopian place where I feel safe. To be honest, inspiration comes to me from everywhere, but I only choose the ones that haunt me or stick with me. I mostly get inspiration in moments of solitude and tranquility. My ideas are primarily from my readings and pure observations about society and my surroundings, yet also heavily influenced by music. I also have a notebook where I keep a lot of ideas of themes for future projects. 

While working with photography it feels like I'm always projecting a part of my soul on a tangible piece of photo material. Each single picture from my lens has their own significance and sentimental value to me.

Are you self taught or did you study photography? 

I am self taught, but maybe I'm planning on doing some photography courses in the future when I want to try out something new.

A lot of your photography features a mystical and almost macabre aesthetic whilst maintaining a somewhat dreamy ethereal theme to it. There is also quite a strong feminine presence. Can you explain the importance of the imagery in your work and the ethos behind it?

I love to challenge people to think beyond the obvious, just like I love to challenge myself when it comes to making new work. (Analog) photography offered me the opportunity to express my creativity, making my thoughts and fantasies real. A place where I can endlessly play with reality and create my own worlds. 

I prefer the overall simplicity of film and working with natural light and shadow, there would be no good photos without those two components. Photography is the art of drawing with light, you can create many different feelings in an image by just understanding shadow and light. 

The contrast in dark and light tones and the colors look so vibrant and thick that I really don't need to adjust anything when scanned correctly. It's a fantastic process. 

Playing with light and shadow is possibly also one of the reasons why silhouettes and dark shadows are a returning theme in my work. 

Are there any artists you admire and would love to some day work with?

Oh absolutely! I admire a lot of artists that I was lucky enough to discover through social media, such as fellow analog photographers Laura Makabresku, Ellen Jane Rogers and Krist Mort. I also deeply admire the work of illustrators such as Sarah Sheil, Bill Crisafi and Black Typography.

Luckily I already had the chance to work with some of them, such as Chelsea
Wolfe and designer Agnieszka Osipa. It was a dream come true forming a team with these two talented ladies. 

Is there any subject matter or person you would love to shoot but haven't yet had the opportunity to?

I'd love to do a portrait shoot with one of my puberty crushes Ville Valo. And Peter Steele from Type o Negative or Lux interior from The Cramps if they both of them would've still been alive. 

You predominately shoot black and white. What is it about black and white tones that you love most? 

For some reason I'm very sensitive to black and white photography, it fascinated me from the beginning. Black and white excites my imagination, it makes everything more magic and in some way it hides a part of reality. It also turns a picture into a visual memory of a forgotten time, especially when you look at all the images during the early days of photography. The glory of the first 150 years of photography was overwhelmingly in black and white, mainly focused on contrast, light and composition. Sometimes colour can skew the story, black and white pictures lead you directly to the narrative.

Is there one piece of your work that you are most fond of or proud of?

It depends on my mood actually. Lately I've been really proud of a project I did one month ago. It's a photo from the "Yana" series that contains lots of swirling black smoke with a beautiful lady arising out of that darkness. We almost set the forest on fire with these dangerous smoke bombs but I'm glad this project turned out exactly as how I wanted it to be. 

What can we expect from Nona Limmen in the future?

Since the summer of this year I've been planning on working on my first photo book. I thought it was time for something a little different and a photo book would be the perfect way of turning all of my photos into a new form of artwork. I think it's another way of working with time. It's a lot of work and I have to pay attention to every detail, but I can't wait to see the end result once everything is finished. 

I also want to exhibit internationally, preferably in Iceland or in Scotland, where at both places I left a small piece of my heart. These countries give me endless inspiration and it would be a dream come true to have my work hanging there.

I'm also doing some collaborations with some great bands whom I deeply admire. I can't give away too much yet, but there are enough exciting things to look forward to!