Natalie Curtis is an emerging conceptual artist and photographer, currently known for her abstract exhibits at Galarie Arnaud in Paris and Recontre Photograhique d’Arles in Arlon Belgium. Both exhibitions include portraits of bands such as Elbow, The Charlatans, Doves and actors Sam Riley, Samantha Morton from the film Control, a rather poignant film for Natalie. If her surname rings a bell it should, she’s the daughter of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis. However word to the wise, don’t ask about him.
Instead, Natalie talks to Hunger TV about her own work, from creating abstract art to sending Chloe Sevigny a Valentines card .
WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN UP TO RECENTLY?
I haven’t been away since the end of last year, but there’s quite a lot going on in Manchester to do with music which I’m involved in. I’m currently listening to a band called Naked On Drugs they’re my favourite, and I am actually doing something with them next month. I also recently did an interesting shoot with SWAY Records, it was for a Valentine’s Day card that they sent out to supporters of the label – it involved naked guys wearing only knitwear and brandishing my horse riding whip and a Samurai sword.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA?
SWAY had taken some naked photos previously and they tweeted the pictures to me to ask what I thought. So we had a meeting and I thought, fuck it, let’s do a shoot in my flat. I came up with the ideas as we went along, it was all very spontaneous.
DO YOU PLAN YOUR IDEAS IN ADVANCE?
It’s quite often a spur of the moment thing and in this case I was just using the space we had. All they knew was that they wanted to do something where they were naked and the Samurai sword was involved. I started to think it could be used as an interesting Valentine’s Day card so that’s why it was used for that concept. I didn’t want the images to have a comedy effect but to be more serious, it was interesting seeing who we heard back from and who we didn’t.
WHAT WAS THE REACTION TO IT?
People seemed to like it, but then there’re the people we didn’t hear from, so I don’t know what their view was! Inside the card stated ‘Manchester Is Paradise’. We sent one to the actress Chloe Sevigny because she had a really terrible time in Manchester, there were people in Manchester that didn’t like that she had done all these interviews saying how shit it was. Generally we sent cards to people who had bad Manchester experiences just to let them know that it is in fact good again really!
WHO HAVE BEEN SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE MUSICIANS TO PHOTOGRAPH LATELY?
Myself and a character called Atrocity Boy who writes a blog – he writes reviews of gigs and I take the photos – have been working together quite closely recently shooting the local Manchester scene. There is a bigger project that we’re working on, the whole concept is that the reviews we do are out of the ordinary, so I made the conscious decision not to do live shots but instead taking photographs inside within a small space. They’re not regular reviews and so I have a lot a freedom and don’t necessarily have to take shots of the bands performing, in fact last time I consciously decided not to. The collaboration has developed into a bigger project that we’re currently working on, and we’ll announce more details soon.
WHY DON’T YOU WANT TO DO LIVE SHOTS?
A lot of the time I find it quite boring unless it’s a special set of circumstances. I don’t like doing shots for the sake of doing gig shots.
YOU EXHIBITED YOUR CONCEPTUAL WORK AT GALERIE ARNAUD IN PARIS AND ALSO RECONTRE PHOTOGRAPHIQUE D’ARLES IN ARLON BELGIUM- HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?
Paris was organised by a friend, film producer Michael H Shamberg, he connected lots of people together and so we put on the exhibition for a charity that Michael had set up. And with the Arlon exhibition, the organisers contacted me and I loved my initial ideas. In terms of the pieces I contributed it was all photos performers, but they were in situations the public normally wouldn’t see them in, people in their private spaces. I had pictures of the band Elbow with armchairs on their heads.
DO YOU THINK OF IDEAS FIRST AND THEN DECIDE ON THE MEDIUM OR DO YOU PICK UP THE CAMERA AND LOOK FOR A SUBJECT?
That’s a good question, a bit of both really, I mean sometimes something just happens and it needs photographing while other times I have an idea of something that I want and go about making it happen.
HOW MUCH ARE YOU INFLUENCED BY THE EXTERNAL?
My work is about my environment and what is going on with me so there’s no point thinking about other places because when things are great elsewhere it can be easier to think ‘Oh I should be here or there’, but I don’t think it’s good to get in that mind set when what’s important is around you. I’ve got friends all over the place in other countries, so I am connected to other places, in terms of what generally is going on in the world. I’m not looking at issues head on, but then again I don’t think you can make work that isn’t influenced by what is going on in the world in some way.
WHAT QUESTION ANNOYS YOU THE MOST?
When people ask me family questions.
TELL US WHAT YOU’RE WORKING ON THIS YEAR?
My website is my next big project, and i feel like I’m going through a transition this year, it’s the first time I’ve really been sure of what I want.