My Sunday Interview with…Natasha Hemsley
by Rebecca J Gerken
Earlier this year, fine art photographer Natasha Hemsley entered The Grand Prix de la Découverte International Fine Art Photography competition and came second in her category. Currently embarking on a new project in collaboration with myself, we had plenty of time to catch up about the competition, her work and her much-loved Scanograms…
RG: How did the competition come about?
NH: As an artist, putting yourself out there is extremely important for getting your work recognised and as I had just finished my first major body of work, Death’s Diary, I decided to do something more with it. Google is a wonderful tool…so I used that, literally just typing ‘fine art international photography competition’ and this one came up. That’s how it came about.
RG: What was the process like?
NH: It was quite simple at first: you just had to submit your image, title and the money, of course, to enter the competition. The judges just looked at the photos; they didn’t look at anything else, just the image itself. After that they told me I was in the next level, the next round, the top ten of the category, so to speak, and then they judged all those and I came second within the Still Life category. By this point I had submitted my image as a full sized jpeg and they also asked me to send in a print which was a little bigger than A2 in size. I did that via theprintspace in London because their Fuji Matt C-types are the best at producing the blacks in my photographs. I just love the blacks you get with Scanograms. I love dark things, things in the dark, in the night. It’s important to my work. I had it framed and it was exhibited in the Expo Centre in Paris.
RG: Did you attend a winner’s reception or such like?
NH: Yes, there was a prize giving held at the Centre but there was also a champagne reception held at the American Centre, just opposite the Eiffel Tower, across the bridge.
RG: How did you feel knowing you had come second in your category within an international competition, your photograph being exhibited in another country?
NH: I felt quite professional, although I felt nervous at the same time because it’s a foreign country. However, it is very close to home, being France, so it wasn’t complicated to get there and I went with my mum which helped as she can speak a little French.
RG: Do you have more planned for your series?
NH: I’m hoping to try and exhibit them again to get them out there a bit more and I’d love to remake my publication, which I completed for a university project, as well, with more images which should be interesting. I don’t think Death’s Diary is ever going to end. As long as my cat keeps catching, I’m going to keep documenting.
RG: Can you tell my readers a little about the project we are working on together at the moment?
NH: Well, it’s not got a name at the moment but the idea is enough for now. We are going out at night time, in the pitch black, looking for road kill and photographing it in its liminal state between life and death. Whether we are photographing for the animal’s sake, for remembrance or for prolonging it’s time in this life though it has passed on, I don’t know. It’s important knowing when to photograph and when to let go.
I have a quote from Henri Cartier-Bresson on my website that sums it up quite nicely, “Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.”
RG: For this project you’re using a camera. How have you found going back to the traditional form of photography compared to the scanner you use for your Death’s Diary project?
NH: It’s quite a jump because with Scanograms you’re making the image with your own hands, in a way. You’re positioning the animal on the scanner so it’s very tactile, using your hands, and it’s quite personal, whereas with this other project, I’m not touching anything, in a sense. I’m pressing the shutter, changing the aperture and shutter speeds to get the exposure I want but the scene is staying as it is, as we found it, which is quite new to me. I’m not making the image, the image is there for me to capture.
RG: What is it about the cameraless that you are drawn to?
NH: I was inspired by the Shadowcatchers exhibition at the V&A a couple of years ago. It was fascinating how they made these beautiful images and yet there is no camera involved, no pressing of a shutter. I think it is quite a creative process and it is about artistic as I could get without picking up a paint brush. Some of my other works are Chemigrams which is quite painterly. In a way, you’re painting with chemicals rather than light. I rather enjoy that. It’s a different process, I suppose, it’s unique and I enjoy trying out new things and experimenting a lot.
RG: My topical question for you is following along a similar theme to the question I asked Sayuri Webster in my last Sunday Interview. Since recently having exhibited in Paris in print form, do you think we will see the day when the exhibition print as we know it (hanging on a gallery wall, a physical document) becomes null and the photo book becomes void?
NH: No, I don’t think so. The exhibition is important in the short term but the book is a permanent engraving. They work hand in hand.
RG: Short and sweet. Thank you very much for your time, congratulations on your second place victory and I’m very excited to hear that Death’s Diary is set to continue for a while yet!
For more of Natasha’s images, visit her website: http://www.natashahemsley.co.uk
Don’t forget that another interview will be heading your way next Sunday – double bill!