I have been completely enamored by the work of New Mexico Contemporary Minimalist Photographer – Natalie Christensen. Her beautifully composed, minimalist images are both intriguing and mesmerizing. She discovers her subjects in the most mundane of spaces; office parks, apartment buildings and shopping centers.
But what she uncovers within these spaces is magical.
Her work is inspired by the everyday, commonplace streetscapes and architecture. She inspires me to see everyday objects in a new and different way. I am intrigued by her images, and her process of discovering these objects. What was once commonplace becomes a beautiful work of art.
I sat down with her recently to see what inspires her to create her visionary works of art.
A dumpster becomes a work of art.
I have been shooting consistently since September 2015. I started with my iPhone, progressed to a mirrorless Sony a6000, and now to a Sony A7rII.
How often do you take pictures?
I used to go out several times a week, however the administrative side of photography (and my regular consulting work) have taken so much of my time, I have cut back. I now devote Sunday mornings to going out for dedicated shooting time. It works best with my style of photography too. The streets are quiet and there are fewer people around.
What are trying to communicate through your photography?
I am my first audience, and what pleases me are the subtle psychological symbols and metaphors that are captured in a very formal compositional style, with gorgeous light and color. My work is firmly rooted in the minimalist genre and so it is clear what I am asking the viewer to notice. I feel that some of my most successful shots are also suggesting that something odd might be going on outside the edges of the frame as well, and can never be known only hinted at.
What’s the best advice you ever had about how to be more creative?
I don’t know that anyone has ever given me advice on how to become more creative. I have lots of discussions about photography with friends whose work I respect very much and one piece of advice that I try and follow is don’t wait to feel inspired. Just go out and shoot as a discipline and practice. It is the only way to improve your craft and artistic eye.
What inspired you to be a photographer?
I don’t think I made an active decision to “become a photographer”. I just loved doing it as a creative outlet and I began to get attention for the work on social media pretty quickly. That was definitely reinforcing to me – that people were responding to my work in a positive way. I don’t really remember all the steps along the way, but I began to take myself seriously as an artist after about a year or so. I started entering contests and juried shows (and got rejected a lot and still do.) but that toughened me up and I don’t find that difficult the rejection. I see it as something I have to do to get my work in front of people who make decisions about exhibitions, gallery representation, etc…
How did you get to where to where you are today?
Instagram has played a huge role in where I am today as an artist. It has given me an immediate audience and been a democratic platform to get my work in front of curators, galleries, museums, or other artists, businesses, etc… I think there have been several things that have helped me – regular sharing and engagement with followers on Instagram; submitting to juried exhibitions and photo contests on a very regular basis. Finding my style of photography very quickly and continuing to develop that style, finding great mentors in the photo world who were willing to give me guidance and objective feedback, and realizing that the art world is about relationships and following up with people – networking and making friendships. I do not have an art school background – I have never studied art or art history and so I have had to learn very fast what is expected of me if I want to be taken seriously. One of the best things I did (and I did this pretty early) was start asking myself what my work was ABOUT. What was I trying to say? What were my influences. Were these just some nice pictures or something more? Once I began spending some serious time (it has taken meat least a year of thinking, writing, and getting editing help) to get my artist and project statements to say exactly what I am trying to convey. That has paid off for me in that people are interested in the context in which I am working and they tell me they connect to it.
What is your photographic process?
I get in my car and drive until I see something that catches my eye – I am very interested in the little dramas that are playing out in spaces that are overlooked by the casual observer. They may be on their way to the more esteemed landmarks of New Mexico, but I can be captivated by the way the light is bouncing off a wall that happens to be an auto parts store. I want to tell those stories, but don’t know where they are on any given day, so I just roam until I get a glimpse of something that might be the needle in the haystack. When I find it – WOW! There is nothing that gives me more satisfaction than capturing that moment and making a photograph.
For more of Natalie’s work and current list of exhibitions, visit her website https://nataliechristensenphoto.com/about/