An Interview with Portrait Photographer Natalie Dybisz

January 26, 2010 | Mark Goldstein | Photography Techniques | Comment |

6. What's your favourite ever image, and why?

My favourites inevitably change over time, at the moment one that springs to mind is 'The adjustment'. It's not a nude, so no-one can harp on about me using my body to get attention. It's not a trick image (only very subtlely) so no-one equally can be distracted by the 'hows' and the mechanisms of the production and query me as to how I 'did it'. And, whilst it is a slight 'composite', ie. one small part layered in Photoshop, it's not heavily processed, so people don't go on about my 'digital techniques' more than anything. It's an image that uses shape in a way that I think is interesting, and I think it has my style because of these eye-catching sweeping shapes that are, as I say, not too OTT (over-the-top) and 'Photoshopped'.

7. What has been your most interesting or dangerous assignment?

I have not done that many 'assignments' in terms of being given a brief by another person or client. Most of my work has been produced as independent, wanton self-portrait shoots, so I'll choose from those. By 'dangerous' I can probably only say the recent four trips I have made to derelict mental asylums, most of them with my boyfriend, Matthew, with whom I collaborated to make the images when we got there. These trips involved sneaking through fences and over walls to get into the abandoned, deteriorating buildings. The roofs and ceilings were in extreme disrepair in most of the hospitals, and there were warnings of asbestos etc. I felt the most unsafe when we entered a particular block of West Park hospital, in Surrey, on our third trip. Although we were on the ground floor, there were large gaping holes in the floor, and the floor was slightly caving in as we walked over it. It has been raining, so it was probably even weaker. It smelt, and I suddenly got a chill down my spine. I was keen to get out of there.

An Interview with Portrait Photographer Natalie Dybisz

8. Has the recent recession impacted on your business, and how have you dealt with it?

My work with companies, presenting at tradeshows and events, was the area that was most hit by the economy. My number of print sales, however, went up. I expected it to be the other way round. I am very surprised to be making most of my living from print sales at the moment. However, selling prints is a funny business, you never know when you will get interest from a buyer. I think that it's important to keep marketing oneself as much as is palatable, and if you do have to find other ways to bring money in (a manual part-time job for example), make sure you don't neglect your art.

An Interview with Portrait Photographer Natalie Dybisz

9. What is the one piece of advice that you would give to other budding photographers?

Get a written agreement for every prospect or project you find yourself getting involved with. Don't let anyone (galleries, agents, publishers, and other kinds of companies) bulldoze you into doing something straight away, or giving something upfront, by using the excuse that time is tight or a deadline is approaching. Your rights are worth time, and if they are proactive enough, it doesn't have to take a lot of time to make an agreement anyway.

Of course, sometimes you have to take a bit of a risk, put your trust in people, people you may have just met, or give a bit of effort to something before it becomes worthwhile or profitable. Just don't be scared to value your own time, and your work. Consult other people's opinions in situations where you find yourself offered something. All these people want something from you.

An Interview with Portrait Photographer Natalie Dybisz

10. Finally, how do you think photography will change in the future, if at all?

That is a tough question, because I feel as though I have entered photography at a huge time of change, with the way we produce, and share our images online. A lot more artists are entering photography through new means, and not having to go via traditional routes of art and photography degrees. I think the situation will continue this way, with more people taking advantage of the platforms the internet provides to be able to share our work with the world without moderation or qualifications. I think it will become a lot more competitive and people will have to do more to be able to 'shine', which involves promoting oneself in stronger different ways too. This is something that is largely against convention for artists, it has traditionally been seen as unsavoury for an artist to talk about him/herself and to self-promote.

However, in my view, being self-promotional is not about trying to convince people, in words, that you are good. It's about doing your thing, but engineering the means to have people see it, and let them decide whether your work is 'unique', or witty or dazzling. If you find yourself having to textually accompany your work or CV with dazzling superlatives, then you have a problem. Not only are you stating things that are rather glib and meaningless (no-one is unique, for example), and emotive (an opinion that is further superfluous especially if nothing is given to back it up) but you're doing the stating yourself (which can come across as slightly arrogant). I think that is something to try and avoid. Stick to the facts, write -whether in third or first person - what inspires you, what you try to achieve, what responses your work has elicited, what you have achieved, what you hope to do next. One can write pages about them self that highlight one's achievements and sell oneself successfully, without ever having to fall back on flimsy efforts to puff one's own feathers. Best to leave the more mindless 'sensationalism' to your PR people, your viewers, reviewers, buyers, clients, etc.


Natalie Dybisz, aka “Miss Aniela” -

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