Amelia’s Magazine | Natalia Calvocoressi: “I need a Spy Camera!”

LouisaDAll Photographs courtesy of Natalia Calvocoressi

Louisa Lee: When and how did you first become interested in photography?

Natalia Calvocoressi: I started to become interested in photography just before I left school where there was a darkroom. Then I picked it up again when I went to Camberwell to study graphic design. I took an elective in photography and from then on spent most of my college life underground in the dark room. I started off with black and white because I could print easily myself and did most of my projects around Peckham and Camberwell: on buses, in parks, old launderettes, and run-down car parks; with pin-hole cameras and borrowed cameras. I then bought myself a Pentax manual film camera. I did a project with my friend Sarah Cresswell, who is now a fashion photographer, in a field somewhere in Buckinghamshire, using mirrors to distort the landscape. That’s when I became really fascinated in creating pictures that blur the lines between fantasy and reality, that seem a little out of the ordinary. One of the first photography books that got me really into photography was the work of Anna Gaskell – I find the contrast of childhood innocence with a sinister undertone, in her photographs, intriguing.


LL: Which people or places inspire you most?

NC: I am very inspired by Scotland. I grew up in Edinburgh and go back regularly, particularly to the Highlands. I enjoy re-visiting places and seeing how they have changed. I often return to certain themes when re-visiting a place. For instance, some of my photos have quite a nostalgic childhood feel to them, perhaps a result of returning to somewhere that meant a lot to me as a child.  I’m inspired by things every day. Often I’m reluctant to read my book on the bus because there are too many things going on out of the window I don’t want to miss. Recently, I was at the bus stop on my way to work and the morning sun was shining brightly through the trees and casting an intense glow onto the patch of grass outside a nearby block of grey flats. There were a few crows in the patch of light and quite a lot of rubbish and it looked really beautiful. I wish I’d had my camera on me! My friends inspire me – a lot of them are photographers, illustrators and designers. My younger sister is my ‘muse’ – she’s used to me pointing my camera at her. Like a lot of photographers, Antonioni’s film ‘Blow-Up’ made a big impression on me. It sparked off my obsession with discovering things in photos you don’t see at the time.


LL: Your work has a cinematographic quality to it. Are you mainly influenced by photographers or do other art forms influence you too?

NC: Photographers have a huge influence on me, but yes, I’m influenced by many other art forms too. I love Gerhard Richter’s paintings especially the ones which emulate snapshot photographs. One of my favourite films is ‘Morvern Caller by Lynne Ramsay – the beginning with the coloured fairy lights turning on and off, intermittently lighting up the dark room. Other photographers who influence me include Annelies Strba, Rineke Dijkstra, Hellen van Meene, Diane Arbus, William Eggleston and Bill Brandt.  I’m also influenced by Andrey Tarkovsky’s photographs, video artist Pipilotti Rist and the London School painters like Kitaj.


LL: Mario Testino has said he very much likes your work and is looking forward to discovering what comes out in the years to come. How do you feel about this?

NC: I’m thrilled! I once showed him my work and he was really encouraging. He really liked my photos, which was great, was extremely thoughtful and took a great interest. That was the same day I found out I got into the RCA so I was very happy.


LL: Would fashion photography be something you’d ever consider getting into?

NC: I’ve done some fashion photography in the past. I took the photographs with another girl for the RCA fashion catalogue in 2003 and have worked on a couple of other fashion shoots. At the RCA I enjoyed creating the sets and finding cheap props. I wouldn’t like to be a fashion photographer though – I don’t think I’d be very good at it. Some of my photos are quite fashion y but I prefer to take pictures alone. If I had control over clothes, make-up (or no make-up!), location, props etc, then maybe… I also don’t like to be under pressure behind the camera. A lot of my photographs happen by chance – I catch an unexpected moment and grab my camera. I often think when things are too planned, staged or set up it can ruin the spontaneity of the photo.


LL: How do you achieve the grainy, vintage quality in your photographs?

NC: By using an old Pentax film camera and experimenting with different films – sometimes old, out-of-date film. Also experimenting with printing techniques. I like the feeling of nostalgia so try to create old-looking photographs, so a lot of the objects and locations that I photograph and look for are old. I like to try and tell stories with my images, and I also like there to be a sense of mystery and ambiguity which perhaps gives a vintage feel.


LL: Windows and mirrors seem to be a recurring motif, are you aware of this and if so is there a particular reason for it?

NC: Yes I know! I think it all started in that field with Sarah. I look for ways of framing my shots, and I therefore often capture scenes using the outlining effect of door frames, windows or mirrors.  I look at the landscape through the window on a train and see it as millions of landscape paintings flashing by. I used to sit in the car when I was a child and draw the outline of what I saw – tracing it on my knee. There’s something quite intimate about a portrait of a person in a mirror, especially if they’re not looking directly at you. I like the idea of shrinking what I see into a frame – perhaps I was inspired by childhood trips to Bekonscot miniature model village, which happens also to be in Buckinghamshire! In ‘Scale’ by Will Self I found an articulation of my desire to distort scale.


LL: What’s the single most important thing you’ve learnt about taking a photograph?

NC: To be spontaneous and brave. I would like to be braver when it comes to photographing people, especially on the street. Sometimes I don’t have the nerve to point a camera at someone in the street close up. I need a spy camera!


LL: Is this the same advice that you might pass on to someone interested in getting into photography or is this specific to your working method?

NC: I’d definitely tell people to be bold and also experiment with techniques and styles as much as possible. I remember being told at college that some of my photographs were good but I should not be afraid to take hundreds and hundreds. That was really good advice because there is no point being precious about taking photos.


LL: What’s the next place you’d like to exhibit your work?

NC: My last exhibition was at the Islington Arts Factory in Holloway. It’s an old converted church and you can see the dusty broken church windows when you look up from the exhibition space – very atmospheric. Last summer I showed a few photos in the Royal Academy Summer Show. Next I’d like to exhibit in a small-scale, structured space.  I really like the Victoria Miro gallery!

Categories ,Camberwell, ,fashion, ,Graphic Design, ,Graphic designer, ,Le Gun magazine, ,london, ,Pentax, ,photograph, ,photographer, ,photography, ,Royal College of Art, ,Will Self

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Amelia’s Magazine | An interview with Augusta Akerman

GUS AKERMAN aka AUGUSTA AKERMAN is an incredibly talented polymath, cost since training as a photographer, shop Akerman has turned her hand and eye to a variety of creative endeavors: Art Direction, Set Design, Still and Fine Art Photography, Illustration and costume design. Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Augusta with regards to this skilled multi-tasking whilst picking her brains for any tips she has for budding creatives…

The work is rooted in a sense of humanity, questioning human behaviour and ideas of natural selection, photography and illustration lend themselves to this action of watching and recording the minutie of everyday life (See Amelia’s Magazine’s Review on the new Tate Show exploring the Voyeristic nature of the Camera). With this in mind lets delve into the interview…

What came first photography or illustration?

I started taking photography seriously during my A levels, although I had been taking photographs for a long time, it was my Design Technology teacher who encouraged me to use them as my final piece. As for drawing, it is quite a new thing for me, I was very unconfident with my drawing skills at school and quit Art as a subject due to an ongoing struggle against Art teachers who despaired at my dysfunctional representations of still lives and self-portraits. Whilst at Glasgow School of Art I started to keep small drawing books that I would show to no one, and then suddenly I realized I was drawing every day and forcing people to look at them!

How did the illustration drawing book project develop?

The book project developed over a long period of time in which I drew every day. It started as a way to try and improve my drawing “practice makes perfect etc, etc” and ended up being a culmination of everything I did that month. The shows I went to see, the books I read, the conversations I overheard until I then put the drawings, scribblings and photographs into some kind of order. The book as a format is such an amazing instrument for an artist to explain themselves, and without sounding too dictatorial, can direct the viewer through handpicked images in sequence with a kind of reveal. I love making the books, as everything however small or silly suddenly becomes something in its own right when put alone on a page or sat opposite another image.

What inspires you on a day to day basis?

It changes all the time. Mostly its social histories, how people lived and how they survived, what they did/ do with their time. I’m inspired by a lot of literature from science fiction to The Moomins especially ‘Moominvalley in November’ which I re-read recently and found it to contain such perfect descriptions of the funny character traits of humans. The Imperial War Museum is one of my favorite places and one I find especially inspiring as well as the British Museum with its collection of the ‘Lewis Chessmen’. Working on jobs where you meet so many different people every couple of weeks, becoming very close very quickly due to waking up at 5 in the morning looking awful! And spending the whole day together whilst having to be completely silent during takes is quite inspiring.

You’ve been involved in a range of projects from photography to short films as well as illustration. Could you perhaps talk a little about how you manage all your different projects?

Working freelance I think is the most wonderful thing, although tough and discouraging at times I think that it allows me to really enjoy all the projects I happen to be involved in, be them personal or as part of a bigger production. Creating a website for me was also a fantastic way to keep working privately and still have the chance to allow others to see the work I was making as an artist who is also looking for a job! Balancing working as part of the Art Department for productions and Photography I find is very natural. I enjoy creating sets and props, thinking about characters and colour and then find that Photography allows me to see the reality as an image. I feel that when I take stills on a film I have worked on as an art director or part of the art department I am more sensitive to the character within the set environment we have created, celebrating the set and including it within the photograph with I think is sometimes unfortunately overlooked when filming begins. Where illustration and drawing is concerned I draw with the hope of perhaps making a new book or exhibiting, this is generally done in the studio in my spare time.

How did these projects develop? And in a difficult market do you have any tips for graduates/art students currently thinking about job prospects outside of the relative safety of university?

After leaving art school I spent months on the internet looking for Photography jobs or jobs that would allow me to still be involved in making things and thinking about artists and talking about creative making to people. Which is I think what many recent graduates miss when coming out of university and not having anyone to talk to about arty farty things. After a while I started e-mailing Photographers, Art Directors, Production designers all people whose work I had seen and really enjoyed. Some got back to me some didn’t, but through the safety of email I managed to convince some people that I was hard working and a willing assistant. For someone coming out of University I would say once again that making and maintaining a website is such a fantastic tool to show people that you do work, you do make things and that you are interested.

What has your favourite project been so far?

Most recently I made a short film with my brother, a collaboration between several art schools in different countries. It was his project but I said I would like to help out, we made huge Bauhaus inspired costumes out of paper and fabric and filmed still tableaux’s of them destroying their property, it sounds crazy but it was so much fun! I also recently worked on a short film called ‘AilemA’, about a young girl coming to terms with Dyslexia who mixes words and drawings together on paper and all over her bedroom wall. I made a lot of the artwork for the film and used many of my drawings to cover a wall in the girl’s bedroom. It was not only the fact that I got to do a lot of my particular style of drawing for the film but I also had rather sentimental feelings for the story due to being a dyslexic myself.

What was your experience working on short film Rain? How did this opportunity develop?

Working on ‘Rain’ was a fantastic and yet surreal experience for me, the Production designer and I went to stay in the location for nearly two weeks, we dressed the sets all day and then withdrew to the attic to sleep at night. It definitely was one of the bigger short films I have worked on highlighted by the fact we had to have a rain machine on constantly throughout the whole shoot. I was fortunate to get this opportunity through the fantastic production designer; Miren Maranon, who I often work with. She is fantastic to work with and extremely talented I owe a lot to her.

What was your role on set?

Usually on set I work as a standby art director, art department assistant or stills photographer. I do enjoy working on set but my favourite part is definitely the pre production. Coming up with ideas and colour palates, finding and making props, its always quite sad breaking down the set at the end of the shoot.

You have shown in an extensive range of galleries – what is the nature of your work in these exhibitions?

In most of these exhibitions the work I have shown has been Photographic with perhaps some of the handmade books. It is only recently that I have shown a video piece and have never had a show based solely around the drawings. The subject matter of the exhibitions is dependant on what I am interested in at the time. For ages I was obsessed with this book ‘England in Particular’ and would go to National Trust properties photographing Dovecotes and village Yew trees. Although coming from a fine art background my photography has more of a documentary style to it. Whereas my illustrations are not realistic at all, but completely the opposite, they try to get the right size, shape and proportion but fail and maybe because they fail so spectacularly I like them.

Who are your favourite designers/photographers/illustrators?

I have many favorite artists, designers, and photographers. The ones I can think of at the moment are… the photographer Rinko Kawauchi, sculptor Richard Long, writer and illustrator Tove Jansson, writer and illustrator Rudyard Kipling, photographer Martin Parr, writer Douglas Adams, photographer Tierney Gearon, photographer Richard Billingham, photographer Homer Sykes, illustrator Pauline Baynes, artist David Shrigley and artist Louise Bourgeois. The list could go on and on….

Do you look at any blogs or use twitter to communicate as part of your creative practice?

No I do not really use twitter, but I do look at quite a lot of blogs to do with fashion, drawing, photography, magazines, news and opinion etc. I really respect people who create blogs and websites in their own spare time about the subjects they are enthusiastic about. It’s interesting to see how this generation has become so confident in themselves as a singular inventor or creator. Drawings and artwork don’t have to hide away in the corner of a studio or under a bed, someone somewhere will accidentally come across them and think “hey! That’s great!”

What role do you see photographers and illustrators playing in society?

A role with as much importance as anything else, illustration is such a natural way of communicating ideas to people and provides a kind of escapism for both the drawer and the viewer. Photography has provided us the perfect mirror and document of the time we live in and the ability to really see the past. Both mediums contribute to society by allowing us to take a step back and enjoy human invention and imagination.

What’s next for Augusta?

Not long ago I moved into a new studio in Elephant and Castle with my friend Carolyn here we come up with lots of ideas for projects and spend the evening drawing and talking, mostly talking! We are hoping to have a small exhibition in the studio later this year. During the summer I am starting work on my first feature film, which is so exciting, fingers crossed it will all go well!

Could you tell me about your short film plan for the summer?

Im not sure how much I can say! Its a kind of dark british comedy being shot in and around London about a burglar. The production company and crew is made up of lots of people I worked with before so I am very excited to see them all again. We have been discussing the films atmosphere and colour palate for some time now and I cant wait to get started in the next couple of weeks choosing materials and seeing locations.

Categories ,AilemA, ,Augusta Akerman, ,bauhaus, ,British Museum, ,Douglas Adams, ,Glasglow School of Art, ,illustrator, ,Moomin, ,Neve Campbell, ,photographer, ,Rain, ,Richard Billingham, ,Rudyard Kipling, ,Set Design, ,The Imperial War Museum, ,Tove Jansson

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Amelia’s Magazine | An interview with James Morgan, director of the video for Cucurucu by Nick Mulvey

Nick Mulvey by Kaja Szechowsko

NIck Mulvey by Kaja Szechowsko.

Nick Mulvey, former founding member of Portico Quartet, releases new single Cucurucu accompanied by a stunning video shot on Nihiwatu beach in Indonesia by National Geographic director James Morgan, filmed in March 2013. Nick says: “I felt this song needed a video with wide expanses. Space to wonder. I didn’t have to look too far for the right film maker – James is a friend of mine, and I’ve loved his work for National Geographic. I knew he’d understand what I was after and have something special in his vaults…” So we caught up with James Morgan to find out more, and see further examples of his beautiful photography.

Can you tell us a little about the locations in this video – how did you come across them and is there any interesting history behind any of the locations?
All the footage for this video was shot on the island of Sumba in Indonesia. I was there in March last year shooting a documentary about the practice of ritualised violence and local esoteric beliefs. You can see more about that here. The opening shot is actually of a shaman gathering sea worms at dawn from the ocean, the colour of the sea worms serves as an augur of the coming harvest. For Cucurucu we decided to focus just on the story of these two boys riding their horses at the beach. 

Sumba-Pasola-by James Morgan

Two young boys and their horses play in the ocean in Nihiwatu, Sumba.

Can you tell us a bit about the boys and their horses?
The two boys are called Laiya Kula and Honga Dedu, we met them in a village in eastern Sumba. I’ve worked in Indonesia on and off for a few years so have a reasonable grasp of the language, I was also working with a producer and frequent collaborator, Johnny Langenheim, who is based in Bali and speaks Indonesian fluently. The horses are what makes Sumba unique in Indonesia, as I understand it they’re a result of Sumba’s place on the old sandalwood trade routes to China and Arabia. Now they’re very much a part of the culture. On another day we were invited to the funeral of a wealthy local landowner where a huge number of pigs and buffalo were slaughtered and, in testament to the man’s status, a horse was also killed quite violently. It was hacked to death with machetes and ran around for a good few minutes, it’s entrails splashing out onto the crowd, before it finally died. I find things like that hard to watch but in a lot of ways its less haunting than getting our horses vacuum packed and passed off as beef lasagne. 

Sumba-Pasola-man chewing betel by James Morgan

Ratu Dangu Duka chewing betel before the Pasola in Sumba, Indonesia.

How did working with Nick come about and how did you come to work on this ‘Cucurucu’ track?
I’ve known Nick for a few years and always been a big fan of his music so I was very excited when an opportunity came up to collaborate. 

Sumba-Pasola-man in hut by James Morgan

Tradition dictates that Almarhum Keledepiku must throw the first spear in the Pasola, a responsibility that he has inherited from his ancestors.

Is this the first music video you’ve been a part of, and if so how did you find melding the images with the music?
Yes, this is the first music video I’ve done. The past few years I’ve been focused on long term investigative photojournalism stories looking at underreported environmental and human rights stories. But even with that work, I’ve always been trying to push the boundaries of multimedia, combining sound and visuals to create a more atmospheric form of journalism. Music videos are definitely something I’m keen to work more on. I’m planning this year to keep up the journalism but also to explore more experimental areas that allow me to create more richly textured and layered films. 

To see more photography and film by James Morgan visit: Cucurucu is released on 3rd March 2014 through Fiction Records.

Categories ,Almarhum Keledepiku, ,Cucurucu, ,director, ,Fiction Records, ,Honga Dedu, ,Indonesia, ,interview, ,James Morgan, ,Johnny Langenheim, ,Kaja Szechowsko, ,Laiya Kula, ,National Geographic, ,Nick Mulvey, ,Nihiwatu, ,Pasola, ,photographer, ,portico quartet, ,Ratu Dangu Duka, ,Sumba

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