"Take a deep breath and look into my eyes. I know what horrifies you most is the idea of being useless. Hear the silence. Your own silence. Feel the sea inside yourself and the atrocity of your sunsets. Don't be shut up tight like a box. Get back, back, back to you".
Though we are different from the rest by the physical appearance and the things we believe in, there’s something very strong we all share: emotion. Nonetheless, not many artists can grasp the genuine nuances and fragrances of an emotion without exaggerating its sharp corners. Still, I found one photographer whose creative fissures inside her own feelings are growing into a photographic journey of wonder.
Natalia Garbu is an artist who is constantly exploring the alive stillness of nature, playing with the role of the individual inside this pulsatile puzzle and juggling with personal deep connection to the notions of life and death. Her photos are surreal with an aura of inner movement creating a counterintuitive tranquil feeling. This allows a four-dimensional perception of time to be revealed in a two-dimensional work of art.
With her most recent project called Wonderlands, Natalia is trying to go beyond the borders of reality in order to imagine poetic compositions. These are creatively fused with dream-like elements inspired by the relation between the subconscious mind and the deepest emotions of an individual.
“The Wonderlands project idea came to me when I was in Ukraine, in an artist residence, far away from big cities and mostly being alone, healing myself from blackness and despair in the middle of nature, finding it as a source of power, a way back to yourself. So I started to learn how to heal through the photographs, trying to condense my dreams and thoughts into the frame”, Natalia says.
It could be great if you could first tell us more about your background. Where are you from? What is the impact of the medium and studies upon your photographic first steps? What are your artistic influences and inspirations (not only photographers)?
My first photographic experiments began when I was 15-16 years old, using my dad old cameras: Zenit and Zorikii, I was taking pictures of people and nature morte mostly. I remember those portraits… I was so impressed by how static and immortal they were and impressed by that role of God you were given that could stop the time, the life, the motion. I am from Republic of Moldova, where I started to learn photography and continued my studies in Barcelona, Spain. Studies are important, but these are just a small part in creating yourself as an artist. The studies were as the trunk for the tree: holding the brunches and the roots together. Regarding influences and inspirations, they have been changing all the time, as I was constantly trying to absorb the techniques, the ideas, changing and looking at the world differently. So, as all people are a mix of experiences and knowledge, I was influenced by literature, cinema, photography, painting, in this way names like Cartier-Bresson , Arbus, Tolstoj, Bergman, Kandinsky, Fellini, Majakovskij, Kahlo, Pasolini, Koudelka, Rothko, Tarkovskij, etc, had a great impact on my life. And here I stand: a bundle of past recollections and future dreams.
How did you first become interested in photography? And why did you choose photography as your artistic medium?
As a teenager I loved to write poems. At the age of 14-15 I was writing some really morbid and macabre poems about love and death, but for some reasons I had to stop, and shut up like a box. After a while, I realized that there is a different way to express your feelings, this is how I discovered photography. It was the best way to tell the story that I had inside. Painting, writing made me feel that I am present in all my actions, I wanted to hide, to be just an observer – so this is why I felt safe to adopt this visual language.
How would you describe your photographic voice/language and creative process?
I would call it visual poetry, like a mind game - I can use symbols and keys to show the message. In the end, you do not see the message I had thought of, but the message your mind is giving to you. Isn’t it magic?!
Where do you find those things that make you want to create?
I do not look for them; blossom and birth appear suddenly, abruptly.
You mention that you are focusing on the lost connection with ourselves and nature. How is this idea reflected in your photos and how did the series Wonderlands develop?
Wonderlands project reflects the bridge between our inside and outside world, the bridge between fantasy and reality. The human is in the middle of nature, nature as the remedy of the past, present and future illness, as a source of power, which we forgot, which can help us, which can make us feel alive again.
Your photos seem to hatch on a lyrical escapology, molding and manipulating the image through the medium of words and emotions. What is the relationship between visual and narrative used in your creative act?
I think I was trying to create a multi-dimensional world, using the visual as an aspect of communicating the message and the narrative as a means of completing it or giving it a different sense, as not expected. Narrative and visual create a message together, but still, they can also live independently from each other.
How do you find your subjects? Who are your subjects?
These are the people whom I sense, even if I see them for the first time, the ones who have a story inside, who want to tell something through their body, eyes or state of mind.
What’s the main stimulus behind your collection?
This is how I talk to others, through the pictures, even if I am happy or I bleed internally – I talk, and this is the most precious stimulus in the creative process.
Where are you heading to? What are your future plans?
To enjoy this adventure and I am ready to go wherever it makes its path to. No plans, no expectations, just the joy of the ride.