Nina Garner‘s work, is delicate, earthy, and intuitive. CSA co-founder, Kristy Bishop, had the chance to interview her and learn in depth about her travels, familial influences, and process. Read on to learn more about Nina’s work.
KB: How has living and traveling in Japan influenced your work?
NG: It’s hard to say exactly how living and traveling in Japan has influenced my work because I have a complicated relationship with my Japanese heritage. I am half Japanese (Okinawan, to be exact) but I don’t fully speak or understand the Japanese language so there has always been this barrier there. I think some of my work, especially my most recent work, has been about that barrier and documenting my travels as an outsider and using photography as a means to communicate with my Japanese family. Photographing someone can be a really intimate thing and it doesn’t take much language to do it. So in way, we are speaking to each other, even after I’ve returned home and I work with my negatives and produce a new piece. For me, it’s a constant dialogue.
KB: When creating a piece, what is your work flow like? Do you plan a piece out or is it more intuitive and fluid process?
NG: I usually just start with a photograph and let things flow naturally from there. I hardly plan out what I’m going to do. If I do, things just don’t seem to work out. Things can be so perfect in my head and then on paper it’s just a sad copy of that perfection.
KB: The materials that you use are a beautiful mix between natural finds and synthetic man-made objects. How have you come to that juxtaposition in materials?
NG: I love using natural materials (dried flowers, leaves, insects) because they are so pure, straight from the ground and they produce a nice earthy palette which gives my work an aged appearance. Lately though I have been draw to bright colors and textures natural materials just do not possess like neon pink. So I have been experimenting with this mix of natural and synthetic materials. I think I’m trying to find a balance between rustic simplicity and the hyper cute.
KB: What is the most unique or significant item that you’ve included in a work?
NG: This might be a little weird to some people but over the years I have been collecting my own grey hair. I’ve used this hair in a piece before and plan to use it more in the future. Though I’m still pretty young, I have a lot of grey hair and it’s a constant reminder that I am getting older. It’s a little grotesque, I know. But it’s helping me find the beauty in aging.
KB: What role does family play in your art?
NG: Family plays a huge role in my life and therefore naturally that transitions to my art. I love my family and I treasure the time I spend with them. In a way, my work helps me strengthen those familial relationships. For instance, my Japanese Grandfather is struggling with cancer. Even though he is so far away, it is difficult to know he is suffering. This has been a difficult stage in my life and a big influence on my work right now. I plan on creating a series that honors him and the beautiful life he has lived.
KB: What makes you choose a certain book to be the canvas of a piece?
NG: I have a collection of old books that I work with. I like books that are interesting colors and shapes. But I don’t really think about it that much when choosing. Whatever jumps out at me at the moment is what I’ll work with.
KB: Are there any new materials that you can’t wait to try out?
NG: I’m really interested in working with more textiles, silks and tulle. I’m also excited to get a new batch of insects from my friend’s farm on Johns Island, he’s been collecting some that he’s found in his barn.
KB: What makes film photography a special medium to you?
NG: I love film photography because it’s a slow medium in a world of instant gratification. You can’t rush the process, you have to be patient. Also nothing beats looking at a new batch of negatives and seeing all the possibilities.
KB: What do you like to listen to in your studio? Any podcast or music recommendations?
NG: I have a number of things I keep on rotation while working in my studio. I’ll either be listening to Morrissey or watching crime shows on my laptop. I also really like This American Life and I’m relistening to Serial (I still don’t know what to think!). I’m also a big fan of the podcast from Adam and Joe on the BBC. If you like British humor and nonsense then check it out.
KB: Every artist has a creative block at some point during working. What do you do to get your head and hands back into creating?
NG: When I’m in a rut it’s always good for me to go out and just shoot some new images and be re-inspired. Or just going out and finding new materials to work with is helpful. Other times I just have to sit and work through my block. I’ll sit with something for hours not liking what I’m doing then suddenly something will just come into place and I end up loving it.