Jewel-toned birds swoop to pluck luminous berries, pages turn themselves and books dream on pillows in a new body of photography by local artist Natasha D’Schommer. Recently captured, these images from the historic MN Landscape Arboretum’s Andersen Horticultural Library currently grace the walls at Gallery 360. On display through July 10th, you won’t want to miss this Horticultural Cabinet of Wonders!
Natasha’s lens celebrates the beauty and history recorded in rare books and manuscripts. To gain a greater understanding of, and appreciation for her work, we’ve caught up with her to ask a few questions. Thanks, Natasha, for sharing your words and images.
360: What led you to photography?
ND: I started a photo-club on my block when I was about 10. We would carefully shoot 12 or 24 photos and then wait to get the prints back. When I was 16 I got my first job shooting for a local sports monthly. I covered the Minnesota State High School League Prep-Sports. I really enjoyed it. So, what lead me to it was that I had found a tool that kept me engaged in observing the world around me.
360: Did you receive formal training or are you self-taught?
ND: I was self-taught but went on to get an MFA in Fine Arts at Vermont College of Fine Arts.
360: How did you develop your signature style?
ND: I think style is very much like voice, it is the one you have and your job is to get it in tune.
360: Which artists have most influenced you?
ND: Growing up I very much admired Gordon Parks — his combination of journalism, portraiture, and poetry were very exciting to me. He was working in layers of creativity and voice. I had the chance to talk with him when I was 15 about becoming a photographer. I’ll never forget how seriously he took my questions. He told me he was “going to save a locker for me” and that really motivated me through my 20’s.
360: Were you drawn to working with books through a love of literature?
ND: I went to a small college in West Sussex, in the castle town of Arundel. There I had a marvelous Shakespeare professor, Peter Martin, who told us students we should try to get our hands on a Shakespeare First Folio — and, if possible bring it back to him. Within a year of that I was visiting family at Princeton University and had an opportunity to photograph the First Folio. Once in the library I knew I was seeing something in the books I wasn’t seeing anywhere else.
360: How do you select the imagery, from within each library, which you will work with to produce your finished pieces?
ND: I gravitate towards certain books, sometimes I am led by the fabulous curators, and sometimes it is a book I have been longing to photograph.
360: If you could visit any rare book collection to photograph, which would it be?
ND: This year I visited Lambeth Palace and had a tour and a chance to photograph a few books, I would love to go back.
360: What is the most important idea or feeling you would like to communicate to your audience through your work?
ND: A sense of beauty and wonder.
360: How do your photographs relate to a waning appreciation for book culture and the technology that is replacing it? Will the book survive the advent of e-readers?
ND: The book will survive. But the memories of generations of people who no longer keep journals and family photo albums will be much more difficult for younger generations to discover.
360: What advice would you give to an emerging artist?
ND: Start a ROTH IRA as soon as you can and contribute to it every year.