“I know some magic words that open many doors.”
Natasha Gudermane (born in Latvia) is a contemporary photographer currently based in Paris, France.
Her recent series “Mademoiselles” is an intimate exploration of Paris. Entering the home of strangers and asking them to take their clothes off in front of the camera is not an easy task.
How did Natasha Gudermane achieve that? “I know some magic words that open many doors.”
Interview with Natasha Gudermane
Natasha, your recent project is called “Mademoiselles”. What is it about and why did you decide to take on that particular subject?
I started this project not with the presumed idea but with a bunch of questions.
Being a foreigner in Paris I was feeling slightly derooted. I tried to get closer to the things around me by studying and understanding them. And that is by photographing them.
I did not really know what to expect, it was an exploration. I would not like to state my conclusions, I would like viewers to make their own impressions.
A photographer has many “tools” at hand to bring across his message: lenses, lighting, framing, color treatment etc. Can you elaborate a little bit on the techniques you used for this particular project in order to link form and content?
“I wanted it to be as still, as silent as possible.”
I only used available light for this project, and no photoshop. I wanted the photos to be exactly the same as I saw them in reality.
The choice of “a slow” mechanical camera was important here, too. I wanted it to be as still, as silent as possible, and this kind of camera suits best for it.
This project was shot on film. What do you like about analogue photography? And what is it that it can teach us about digital photography?
We do not treat expensive and rare things the same way we treat things that are numerous and costless.
I noticed that shooting with a film camera changes my whole attitude.
It demands much more concentration in the moment.
Every shot becomes important, precious.
Because the film is limited. Because you cannot control the result immediately by checking it on the screen.
For me shooting on film always gives more powerful results than shooting with digital camera.
How do you realize a project like “Mademoiselles”? From the idea, the research, finding the characters, getting to know them, interactions, earning their trust etc.?
All this is quite intuitive. I cannot always explain my choice of models. Maybe, I sense something in them I can identify myself with. I don’t know.
I usually prefer not to see the flat of my model before the day of shooting, and instead to be inspired by the moment, by the person and by the place – to improvise.
How do you connect with your subjects? Especially keeping in mind that your images are quite intimate and you didn’t know all your subjects beforehand.
I know some magic words that open many doors.
Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide is known to work very slowly. She once said in an interview that she’d rather miss a good photo than to interrupt a conversation with the people she’s taking photos of. To her “respect” and “complicity” are fundamental. Can you identify with that approach?
We live in a very visual society where images seem to lose their impact because of the sheer amount of visual imagery. What do you consider to be the biggest challenges contemporary photography is faced with? And what are the most important changes recently in photography?
I personally think that there are more and more wonderful photographers in the world.
“When we are able to explain everything with the words, we risk to miss something very important”
What I find annoying though is the intellectualization (contextualization) of photography. A single image does not seem to have the right to exist any more.
Photography now should represent a body of work always followed by the text of presentation and explication. I think it is dangerous.
Photography has a big part of spontaneous, intuitive, unconscious element – and when we start putting everything in order, like in a business plan, when we are able to explain everything with the words, we risk to miss something very important. The irrational, maybe?
Statements and explanations also allow visually poorer images to survive, by compensating the lack of aesthetics or intensity with the interesting words.
What does a single photograph need in your opinion in order to stand out and get noticed? Especially keeping in mind the abundance of visual imagery in today’s society?
Good question. But the answer is very subjective, since what stands out for you or for me may not be that outstanding for somebody else.
That’s like the general question about beauty: why one object or person attracts us while the other does not?
Besides the harmony of all the elements, here again there is a big part of irrational.
Susan Sontag once said “The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually in one’s own”. How has photography changed the way you look at the world and what have you learnt about yourself?
I’ve learned that I actually love people more than I thought I did.