Auke Hulst interviews Catherine Nelson, one of the photographers whose work is being exhibited at the 19th edition of the International Noorderlicht Photofestival, Terra Cognita. Catherine says, “It isn’t hard to recognize paradise within nature.”
After artist Catherine Nelson (Australia, 1970) graduated from the College of Fine Arts in Sydney, she contributed to the visual effects of the movies Moulin Rouge, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and 300. Life was very hectic in this time, and took her to many places in the world. In 2008, she decided to dedicate herself fully to her own work: poetical landscapes in which photography and digital image editing merge perfectly.
The landscape you portray in your work at first looks idealized and fictional. Is it meant to be like this?
Normally I take hundreds of pictures of an area, preferably within a few hours, for the lighting conditions to not change. From those pictures, I construct an image that portrays my vision and experience from a specific place. That vision may be made up, but the place itself is very real. I grew up in Australia, where the seasons are less evident as in Europe, where I now am living for ten years already. I’m very sensitive to the changes the landscape goes through during the year. Snow, the colours of autumn, blossoms in spring – it all feels new and adventurous. And that reflects in my work.
You have worked as a designer in the film industry for twelve years. Has it influenced your work?
It was a very exciting field to work in, but also an indispensable learning experience. I have been exposed to every new development in the field of digitally manipulated images. Film has taught me to be very disciplined and to believe that anything is possible. Aesthetically, it has influenced me in a way that clearly reflects in my work: my work has a certain sense of theatre and drama. Animals provide dynamic, and I try to make story-telling images. Besides all this I sometimes change the lighting to create a dreamy atmosphere, where the border between day and night merge.
The worlds you portray are mostly of paradise. Or am I missing out on something?
My work is positive, without any dark connotations. When you love nature and respect it, it isn’t hard to recognise paradise within it. For many people these times are very uncertain, but nature is surely and always giving you a positive experience. That is why I think it is natural for a lot of artists to be drawn to nature. They are seeking something outside themselves and want to become part of something bigger.
Catherine’s work is shown at the Noorderlicht Photofestival in Heerenveen. For more information, see the Noorderlicht web site.