Interview: Diana Cheren Nygren
Luca Curci talks with Diana Cheren Nygren during Venice International Art Fair 2021, at Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello.
Diana Cheren Nygren is a fine art photographer from Boston, Massachusetts. Her work explores the visual character of place defined through physical environment, color, light and weather, its implications for our experience of the world, and what place reveals about the culture around it. Her photographs address serious social questions through a blend of documentary practice, invention, and humor. Diana was trained as an art historian with a focus on modern and contemporary art, and the relationship of artistic production to its socio-political context. Her emphasis on careful composition in her photographic work, as well as her subject matter, reflects this training. Her work as a photographer is the culmination of a life-long investment in the power of art and visual culture to shape and influence social change.
Luca Curci – What is art for you?
Diana Cheren Nygren – It is hard for me to answer what art is. To some extent, I think art describes the aesthetic decisions involved in shaping almost every manmade object. But I think there is also a valid use of the word which refers to object or works which have no function or purpose except to convey an idea conceived by their creator.
LC – According to you, what makes a good photo? Which details do you focus on?
DCN – There are good photos and photos I like, and they are very different things. Both are subjective to varying degrees. I used to like black and white photography but recently I’ve been much more interested in color, so I am drawn to color photographs, and the use and balance of color itself is a lot of what I respond to. There are a lot of strong and appealing photographs that are rooted in color and structural composition. I tend to like very graphic and geometric compositions. I think my favorite images, however, are those in which you can either search through the image and find a variety of stories being told, or those in which there is an enormous amount of ambiguity about what exactly the story is. I like a picture that’s slightly off or slightly confounding.
LC – When you take photos, are you usually inspired by the situation or do you find inspiration in yourself?
DCN – Generally I shoot photos when I am inspired by the situation. I find the more you do that, the more situations you seem to find that inspire you, so I am inspired to take photos often. Several times a day the sky seems to do something that I think warrants taking a picture. It is only in about the last year, driven in large part by being confined to my house, that I have begun to work on projects that I shape based on an internal drive or concept. I’m finding that a lot of fun. It is a significantly different practice however. And takes a lot more work.
LC – Where do you find your inspiration?
DCN – I find inspiration literally everywhere. I think that’s part of what drives one to be a photographer, and it is also a byproduct of being a photographer. The more you shoot, the more you find inspiration. But part of the beauty of taking photographs is that the practice forces you to slow down and notice more of what is around you. I think I find the awesomeness of nature the most inspiring, but I then often don’t know what to do with or make of those images. They are brief enthusiasms. Typically pictures with people or urban settings hold my attention longer.
LC – What is the most challenging part about creating your artworks?
DCN – Most of my recent works involves compositing several images together. I use images I have already shot, and combine them to make a point or tell a story. I feel really good about the work that has resulted and I feel confident that it has a distinct voice. But the process of finding images that are going to work together can be painstaking. Usually when I start a project, a number of images will come to me right away – I know what I am looking for or what will work together. But after the initial rush, finding more images to work with as I develop the series becomes a little like pulling teeth. Definitely the most challenging part, however, is coming up with the next concept.
LC – What is your creative process like?
DCN – I tend to be fairly all over the place. I just have to keep making and see what works. I am usually working on several projects at once. I get bored quickly so it’s good to have different things going on so I can jump from one to the other. And I am more likely to make ten images so I can wind up with two that I am really happy with, than to labor over one image until it’s perfect. It has taken me a while to accept that this is just how I work and not try to fit myself into someone else’s mode of operation.
LC – In which way the artwork presented in our exhibition is connected with the festival’s theme?
DCN – The theme ‘’Future Landscapes’’ really resonated with my the first time I saw it since that is exactly what the work I have chosen to share is about. I am capitalizing on the fact that we both tend to read photography as capturing reality, and more easily conceive of things we see concretely before us. With digital tools, I am able to create something that feels real, but is in fact my imagining of one possible future landscape. By giving form to one vision of the future, I hope I push the viewer to take an active role in ensuring that the actual future takes a very different form.
LC – Can you explain something about the artworks you have in our exhibition?
DCN – The work that I have in the Venice International Art Fair is from the project ‘’When the Trees Are Gone’’. The pictures are composited from 3 earlier series: people at the beach, layered geometric urban architecture, and dramatic skyscapes. The project imagines city dwellers searching for moments of relief in a world shaped by climate change, and the struggle to find a balance between an environment in crisis and manmade structures. My hope is that the pictures will encourage conversation about how we can design cities moving forward to allow not only for climate change, but for the need to connect with nature and find escape even within the city.
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
DCN – This exhibitions my first time working with the ITSLIQUID Platform. I have a number of friends in Italy, so I was especially excited to be able to reach across the ocean and show work in Italy through this platform.