Monday, January 7, 2013

Natalie Obermaier

Natalie Obermaier was born in Annapolis, Maryland, Americaʼs sailing capital, in 1978. Sadly, sheʼs never sailed a day in her life. Since graduating from Philadelphiaʼs Drexel University in 2001 with a degree in photography, she has offset her inferior boating skills by traveling extensively, making portraits in Turkey, Costa Rica, South Africa, Mexico, Western Europe, and throughout the United States. Her work has been exhibited in shows on both U.S. coasts, as well as a sprinkling of those other towns in between. Natalie has been living an incredibly happy life in Venice, California, since 2004. Sheʼs been working there, too.

View more of Natalie's work here:

Ashley Kauschinger: The portraits in the series, Cloister the Mews, creates a mixture between a spontaneous sense of play and revealing, direct eye contact. How do you interact with your subjects and what is your process of creating portraits? 

Natalie Obermaier: I suppose I have a knack for connecting with children. I have always felt that children possess a wisdom that we can't access anymore as adults and perhaps that allows me to approach them with a different level of respect than they are used to.  But it could also be as simple as me being on their level while shooting.  I tend to lay on the floor, climb trees, put myself into the tightest possible corner or whatever it might take to get an angle that gives them a stage and their own voice.  My directing style is very non-vocal and I often wonder if this allows my subjects a quiet place to be imaginative or if it results in an uncertainty that gives me a true glimpse into their minds.  Either way, the dance seems to work for me, but I usually I have to send the parents away because they want to correct posture or demand smiling good behavior, and that impedes the insight I seek.

AK: When did your interest in photographing children begin? What do you feel it has taught you about yourself? 

NO: College I suppose.  Most of the work that I was drawn to demonstrated a level of clarity in youth that was typically hidden in adults.  Masked adults.  Kids don't understand the concept of vulnerability but they live and breathe it.  Adults are all too eager to project an image of what society thinks we should be doing and feeling at all times.  

AK: How do you think your work has evolved over time, and what advice would your give yourself 10 years ago? 

NO: I think I now approach shooting with a confidence that allows me to give myself over to the moment and make the most interesting image that I can.  There are periods where I want to construct tableaus and assemble complex scenes, but I am usually happier when I return to my method of puzzling something together on the spot.  Photographers, I think, probably spend more time problem solving than dreaming up their next image.  And photography allows access into every world that you could imagine but once you arrive you have to tell the story.  This is something that I don't think I understood ten years ago.  

Photo 352 of 366

AK: What is your process of self promotion? How do you create a balance of making work, promoting it and living life? 

NO: I began a Photo Of The Day project this year and it has been one of the greatest disciplines of my artistic career.  An audience is a great motivator and knowing that people were paying attention helped hold me accountable.  I originally set out to give myself greater freedom with subject matter and style, but discovered that I was constantly raising the bar and really pushing myself to come up with a unique image each day that still possessed my voice.  I love the idea of having a concrete beginning and end to a project but I don't usually shoot that way, so I decided to auction off the 366 images taken in 2012 as one of a kind prints.  One print for each day of the year.  No more, no less.  The auction goes live in a few days and I will be exhibiting them here in Venice in January.  The auction will close the last day of the show, which will hopefully give the online world a chance to duke it out with the gallery goers.  Validation goes a long way and hearing a few people explain how much they looked forward to the daily images made it a very simple equation.  Making the work is living life.  

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