Natalie Christensen is a minimalist photographer based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her work is known for its extraordinary use of color, light, and geometric shapes.
How did you first get started with photography? Has your style/aesthetic always leaned towards minimalism, or is it something that you gravitated towards over time?
I found photography as a creative outlet about 2 years ago after moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico. I had never considered it as a way to make art and sort of happened upon it by accident. This is an incredibly beautiful state and it has inspired so many artists. I didn’t say to myself, “hey, I think I will become an artist!” It just happened very organically and without a lot of conscious planning. I was attracted to minimalism pretty early on, I found that I had an affinity for it, and realized that if I was going to be taken seriously as an artist I needed to hone my eye in this direction and practice it as much as possible.
Do you tend to take photos on an image-by-image basis, or do you lean towards making images in series?
When I first began to pursue photography I was taking images without any thought about series work. As I progressed in my style I realized that my photos have certain commonalities and I was developing a series without a conscious plan. I now take images with a series in mind, however some of this is influenced by the art world and the expectation of work being organized in this way.
How do you think series differ from just taking images on a standalone basis?
Series work requires more planning and there needs to be a cohesiveness, or an arc to the images. They also require an ability to speak and write about the work, and this is something I initially found very difficult to do. I think many artists struggle with this and the trend in photography now is very much weighted toward this skill. Taking images outside of a series can be more spontaneous and fun, however the question I have is often “what do I do with this image? Where does it fit in my overall body of work?” I do think that taking individual images can spark ideas for new projects, and is a good practice for me.
What does your process look like from start-to-finish in creating your images?
The concepts came from looking at my own photography and noticing patterns that could be repeated. The reaction to my work on social media was also helpful feedback. I tend to shoot nearly every day and I don’t really go out with a plan in mind. I am very drawn to quiet places with few people and a lot of negative space. I edit my images in Lightroom and that has been a big learning curve for me...I am self-taught and spent many hours trying to figure out what I needed to do for my images to look their best. I print my photos, often in larger sizes, and so the editing process is critical to a good print. In terms of curating, I get lots of input from people I trust - other artists, curators, and gallerists have been very generous in helping me, and so when I am submitting my work for juried shows, contests, etc, I don't just rely on my own curation. It is very difficult to be objective about my work, as I think it is for most artists.
Clearly light is extremely important in crafting your images. How do you time your lighting? Do you often have to wait for the perfect light?
Actually, the light here is so bright almost any time of day. I tend to shoot at mid-day and early afternoon because it works well for my life and other responsibilities. It started as a convenience and has worked well for me in terms of how I want my work to look. I am trying to convey a surreal quality in my photography and the harsh light contributes to that in my images.
Your work is amazing for making beauty out of the simplest of things. What is it about minimalism and minimalist photography that speaks to you the most?
I think it has to do with the hidden nature of it and the quietness of the style. These photographs are just waiting to be “found” - even though they are right in front of us, they can’t always be seen. It is like meditation, a focus on one thing to the exclusion of all else, to find transcendence.
Any upcoming projects that you can tell us about?
I am involved is a really exciting collaboration with another minimalist photographer in London. I hope to make an announcement about that soon!
How do you hope to see your work progress in the next 5 years?
My goal is to show my work in art spaces, and so in order to do that I need to shoot all the time and continue to refine my eye and my ideas about the work.