South African photographer Natasja Fourie uses her work to explore the hidden fragility of the human condition. Her work focuses on portraiture and reveals the naked form, quite literally, stripped and laid bare for viewers to explore the endless and often paradoxical complexities of identification. In April 2011, Fourie won Best International Photographer for a competition held during a showcase of the very best of contemporary photography in New York.
The Cape Town based photographer also showed her work as part of the New York Photo Festival in Slideluck Potshow XVI. The slideshows featured a range of photographers across the globe and were curated by Whitney Johnson, the newly appointed Director of Photography for the New Yorker. Dazed spoke to Fourie to discuss the themes of her work...
Dazed Digital: Please introduce yourself in a sentence.
Natasja Fourie: I tell a human tale...my work deals with depicting human vulnerability and is focused mostly around naked portraiture.
DD: How has growing up in South Africa shaped or influenced your photography?
Natasja Fourie: Although I don't believe my work is bound to a place or time, I do agree that having grown up in a place as complex as South Africa must have shaped my views on human behavior and planted some seeds around the complexities of human relationships.
DD: What kind of equipment do you use and why?
Natasja Fourie: I am not committed to any format or married to any camera. I shoot with both analogue and digital cameras. My outlook is about life not photography, more about image making than photographic or technical perfection.
DD: Your work features a lot of naked portraits, why are you drawn to this style of photography?
Natasja Fourie: The most beautiful and vulgar things are produced by the human body. I tell a human tale, a mortal tale. I have an obsession with the naked portrait. The naked human body raises intense psychological issues. My portrait work deals with all those complex feelings when one is stripped naked, the feelings of shame, amusement or indifference. Everything comes back to the body and often also sexuality.
DD: Tell me about your project “The Ice is Getting Thinner”.
Natasja Fourie: “The Ice is Getting Thinner” truly portrays my obsession with the relationship between the human mind and the universe, life, love, and the naked portrait and can almost be seen as a poetic self-portrait.“The Ice is Getting Thinner” is loosely inspired by the poem "Mont Blanc: Lines Written in the Vale of Chamouni" by the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Many of the landscapes were shot in Chamonix Village earlier this year and then contrasted with portraits of my lover and friends.
DD: How do you chose relevant works, old and new, to include?
Natasja Fourie: I shoot a lot of work without any premeditated ideas. Arranging the photographs starts with a process of free association and finally I string them together like a remembrance of a dream. I read this poem before I visited Chamonix and somehow it kept gnawing at the back of my mind. Some of these encounters are real, most are accidents and some are absolute fantasy. In the poem Shelley realizes that knowledge is a mixture of sensory awareness and the concepts of the mind and I often adapt this attitude in the processing of my work.
Like in the poem the photographs convey the power of the natural surroundings that embrace both creation and ruin, and contrasts them with the force of the imagination. The bodies and portraits are frozen while they become compelling signifiers of the lived experience. My lover is heavily featured in this series to contrast the pure and lucid spheres of the male mind to the visceral, intuitive female characteristics of the body.
DD: And tells us about your other project 'Time.Space.Woman'...
Natasja Fourie: "Time.Space.Woman" deals with the the intricate universe of what it is to be woman and what it is to be mortal. The portrait work is concerned with the admittance of humanism, about identification. Here I employ photography not to produce documentary transparency, but ambiguities, as the bodies and poses are often momentarily frozen. In my search for identity and intimacy the body becomes a compelling signifier of the lived experience.
DD: What future projects do you have coming up?
Natasja Fourie: I’m working on a portrait series with a female model in Bermuda, I'm playing with the concept of a tormented woman on an extended beach holiday, contrasting the beautiful natural surroundings with the woman’s mental suffering.