Nita Vera

Nita Vera 1By Nita Vera from the series Space and Relations Between

I recently returned from Encontros da Imagem in Braga where I was exhibiting with some talented and inspirational artists.  The theme of the festival this year was Love Will Tear us Apart.  I will be interviewing some of the featured artists in upcoming weeks, so if you see a theme emerging, this is why.

Nita Vera’s work took me aback in its absurd and witty approach to what could have been very difficult subject matter.

Growing up observing a ‘cruel and twisted’ relationship between her father and his mother, Nita never understood their way of behaving towards each other.  Her father was a photographer and after seeing some photographs he took of his parents Nita set out to investigate their senseless family dynamic.

They worked together in collaboration and performance; Nita directing and they acquiescing to her control.  The stark ludicrousness of the imagery makes the work both compelling and strange, an acute reflection of the interpersonal relations it seeks to represent.  A style that is evolving in her most recent body of work, a further examination of her family relations, this time between her and her parents.

Nita Vera is a photographic artist of Chilean and Finnish descent, currently living in The Netherlands.  Relatively young and with a background in fashion, her work has been published and exhibited widely.  Her subject matter often deals with issues close to home.  She is studying photography at the prestigious Royal Academy of Art in The Hague.

You were drawn by curiosity and confusion regarding your fathers relationship with his mother.  Can you describe this strangeness and how it compelled you to start this series?

I have always had really good relationship with my father as well as with my grandmother, and because of this it was really difficult for me to understand what was going on between them. Since I was little, I had noticed and wondered about the twisted relationship between my father and grandmother: although they were close, there was always friction between them. There seemed to be something that had been suppressed, something from the past that was never resolved and it was affecting not only them, but also me.

I started this project intuitively because I wanted to understand what was going on between them. When we gathered together with my father and grandmother, I saw a relation of power between these two generations. The way they treated each other caused me sadness, even pain.

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By Nita Vera from the series Space and Relations Between

How did you begin to visually interpret something you found difficult to express in words?

I started to think that behind this behavior there had to be something buried deep in the past, but the outcome was totally absurd and irrational to me. It was only in the relationship between my father and grandmother where I could see this kind of irrational harsh behavior. Realizing this absurdity, I used it as a tool for my visualization by making the images as absurd as I saw them myself. I thought maybe this could help me to understand their relationship better.  The absurdity of the photographs came from the relationship itself but it also helped me to avoid making the photo series depressing.

You mention that in directing your father and grandmother you realised that you were also creating self-portraits.  Can you talk more to us about how this work reflects you?

When I see these pictures, I see a connection between my father and I, the best father-daughter relationship that I ever could have wished for, but maybe exactly because of this, it is too close. I feel that there is something very similar between my father and I, and between my father and grandmother. It seems that the story repeats itself.

In my photographs, I do not talk only about the relationship between a mother and a son, but also about a relation between a woman and a man. In our society the man has often been dominant and powerful in relation to a woman. Therefore in these photographs the femininity reflected through an older woman is also present.

Nita Vera 2

By Nita Vera from the series Space and Relations Between

How did your father and grandmother respond to the work? Bearing in mind that it is dealing with an intimate and potentially embarrassing or vulnerable aspect of their lives.

My father and grandmother are very different from each other, so they also approached my project in totally different ways. For my father this was more like theater. He was just an actor, an anonymous person in my photography scenes where I was the director. Being a photographer himself, I feel that my father understood my need to make this series. When he first saw the photos, he did not recognize himself from them. He saw a cold and dominant person, not himself. But nowadays he has started to see himself in a different light. The pictures have acted as a mirror to see himself from the outside, and I feel that they have had a great impact on him.

In contrast, my grandmother took my project very personally. She felt that I was laughing at her by taking these photographs. She always let me photograph her, because this was a way for her to be able to be near me and spend time with us, although she did not like the way I did it. She felt that I was not showing her in a good light.

What impact did it have on your relationship with them?

Because I was making a project about my father and grandmother, we spent a lot of time together. At the starting point, it was easy and fluent to work with them. We always met at my grandmother’s home, from where we went to different locations to photograph. But at a certain point our relationship started to crumble. I felt that I was working with two little children. They would start to irritate each other using me as the mediary, I was the one in the middle of their fights. After a few months my grandmother passed away.

My father and I have always been really close, and these photographs helped to clear up our relationship.

I was intrigued by how something that has happened in the past can influence one’s life so much throughout their lifes. Could photography be used as a tool to understand one’s irrational behavior toward others, and can it be used to cure deeply-rooted behavioral patterns?

How does this work fit with your other projects?

This is the first time I relate my family to my own photographic work. However, I have dealt with personal subjects before, concerning the theme of femininity in our society investigating the ways women are expected to behave. Although my project Space and Relation Between is about relationships between family members, the issue around gender roles is also important.

What is next for you?

This project about family relations is something that I am still working with. This is a way for me to understand better my own roots and especially my family history. I want to continue working through an absurd and humoristic point of view to prevent a pathetic image that does not lead anywhere. I have a huge interest in human relations and alongside my family relations it would be interesting to work also with the relations between other people and try if I could use absurd photography as a form of therapy to help other people to see their own behavior models better. Beside my personal projects I am doing my degree in photography at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague.

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Images by Nita Vera from a work in progress.

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