Bright Beauty With Natasha Wilson
Hot colours and desert settings are the hallmarks of photographer Natasha Wilson. She talks to Glorious about finding her style and what’s coming up next…
Photography by Natasha Wilson
With an eye for bright colour and a love of the Sonora desert where she grew up, Natasha Wilson’s stylish photography is bold, distinctive and much sought after. She went to a trade school for photography in 2011 after showing an aptitude and love for the medium from a young age, and has developed her own personal style ever since. Sisterhood is much in evidence in her work, with women, often in groups, grouped and cloned to dramatic effect. Natasha has recently moved on to work in film and she has a short film to be released this year.
Glorious: How did your photography journey begin?
Natasha Wilson: I started taking creative photos of my friends in wigs on disposable cameras when I was about 10 years old, got into film photography in high school, and then went to a trade school for photography in Massachusetts in 2011. Instagram and social media as a whole played a massive role in the start of my career and continues to be a part of my success today.
Glorious: There is a strong theme of sisterhood and community in your work, is this on purpose? What draws you to photographing these groups of women?
Natasha Wilson: I’ve always felt a strong pull to sisterhood and community connection, I think partly because I grew up as an only child in a semi-desolate /underdeveloped part of the desert so that sense of belonging and connection was harder to find. I haven’t thought about it in an inward sense until you asked me this question, but I realise I probably portray a sense of connection and support in a lot of my images as a visual comfort to myself and the viewer.
Glorious: There are a few examples in your work where you repeat the same model, is there a lot of setting-up involved when approaching these kinds of photos?
Natasha Wilson: Yes, a small and ongoing series I have been creating is called Me vs I, where I clone the same model using Photoshop. Shooting in harsher lighting conditions, even ‘high noon’ is actually preferable for these images as it creates crisp shadows that make the photo seem more realistic (and less Photoshopped) to the viewer. I use my tripod and have the model move around the frame while I continuously shoot. Once I upload the images, I stack the layers in Photoshop and use a masking tool to bring in certain subjects until it fills the frame.
Glorious: Are you interested in playing sports and does this influence the sport themes in your work?
Natasha Wilson: Hot Yoga is my favourite currently. I am testing my flexibility everyday and it just feels good to move around. I have taken some inspiration from Acro Yoga and applied it to my posing references for some recent shoots (like the Nike image with the two models in the sand). I love capturing movement in general throughout my work, and I feel like people have more freedom to express themselves when they can move around in a shot and not be so static.
Glorious: You describe yourself as ‘desert born and raised’; have you done many shoots in the desert?
Natasha Wilson: I really feel like I was ‘blind’ to the Sonoran desert’s beauty my entire childhood. I saw it every day and it felt so bland and beige, I really just longed to see big green trees and flowers and anything with colour. Once I moved away from the desert and got a taste of other landscapes, I was able to see my home with a new perspective. I have a newfound appreciation for monochromatic landscapes, saguaros and mountain backdrops, which have been a common theme in a lot of my work.
Glorious: There is a strong sense of freedom and movement in your work, is this intentional, or is it because your settings are commonly outdoors?
Natasha Wilson: My biggest priority in every image I share is to have a feeling or story be told to the viewer. It’s hard to allow myself to just take a photo that’s ‘pretty’. With the weight of where the world currently stands, I think it’s important to showcase freedom, strength and resilience through art as much as possible.
Glorious: You have a consistent use of colour throughout your work. What is it about soft hues that you are attracted to, and what role does colour have to define your vision?
Natasha Wilson: When I was about 20 years old and still figuring out my photography ‘style’, I once heard a client describe my work as ‘soft’ and ’ethereal’ – this immediately propelled me to do the exact opposite. I wanted tons of colour, harsh lighting and photography challenges that would set me apart from the rest of what was popular on Tumblr and Pinterest at the time. Since then, I have learned to tweak and mix colour palettes depending on the mood and storyline of each series, but I am also changing colour palettes to reflect each subject. The pastel image of Mei (with the roller skates sitting on the wall) is a reflection of her style. Her aesthetic is mostly pink and lavender pastels, and so I wanted this series to be in her world, with a palette that matched.
Glorious: Do you try to include elements of yourself in the people you are photographing?
Natasha Wilson: Through my personal work, yes. Most of the series that I create are a reflection of my current state of mind. I always tell the subject that I am photographing the story that I am trying to portray, and the feeling and mood that I want them to get into while we shoot.
Glorious: Are there any settings/ places where you would like to shoot that you haven’t done so yet?
Natasha Wilson: I have a bucket list for sure. The longest list I have is for a bunch of untouched locations in China. But I am always adding to the list and try to travel to at least one new country per year.
Glorious: In some cases, your work is quite surreal – do you take any references from film? Any in particular that have influenced your style?
Natasha Wilson: I reference posing with films. I love that feeling of being in the world that you are viewing. A common shot in film is when two subjects are having a conversation, there is one person close to the camera, out of focus and facing the subject. It’s not really used in photography because you can’t hear the dialogue, but I think it really brings the viewer into the shot. I’ve used that reference in the turquoise cloning images with Widny, where two of her have her back towards the camera out of focus. Midsommar and The Holy Mountain are two other movies that I have referenced posing from.
Glorious: Are there any female sportswomen who you would love to include in one of your shoots?
Natasha Wilson: I think any woman in her power is inspirational and I would be honoured to photograph them.
Glorious: What are the major differences/challenges between your commercial and personal work?
Natasha Wilson: Commercial work tends to get ‘watered down’. There are limitations on how creative you can get, and a lot of specifics on brand/product or logo placement in the frame; this tends to make movement within the subject a lot more static versus being able to capture a genuine moment. I think they are good challenges to have though, as it keeps your brain moving and seeking different perspectives and angles of how to troubleshoot. It’s helped me become a better director in general and troubleshoot quickly in my own personal work as well.
Glorious: Who else in the photography world inspires your practice?
Natasha Wilson: Sally Mann will always be my first inspiration. The way that she captures emotion moulded my creative voice in photography. Current photographers that I am inspired by are Michael Oliver Love, Michal Pudelka and Cho Gi-Seok.
Glorious: What’s happening next for you that you can share with Glorious?
Natasha Wilson: It’s been two years in the making, and a huge labour of love, but I have a short film that I directed and creative directed that will be coming out this year. I am super excited as it is my first motion piece and blends my world of colour and fashion with a documentation on a subject I hold close to my heart. Stay tuned for details!