Ballerina Erica Horwood
By Inta Nahapetjan "Ballet"
Archival Pigment print
Inta Gagikovna Nahapetjan was born in Yerevan, Armenia in 1988. After her early youth in Tallinn (Estonia) and Kentucky (USA), she moved to the Netherlands at the age of ten. Following her Museology studies at the Reinwardt Academy in Amsterdam, Nahapetjan took on photography professionally through a study at the Photo Academy Amsterdam in 2012 from which she graduated Cum Laude in 2016.
Her fascination with people stems from her childhood. Raised in an artistic environment, her mother, a soprano, regularly took her to the theatre, ballet and concerts which had a major impact on her work. She follows her muses for an extended period of time, capturing their extraordinary lifestyle and story spontaneously, or in carefully staged settings. This way the model and Nahapetjan's vision become one new story.
How did you get into photography? Are you self-trained or did you study?
Through my background in Museology Studies, I felt more and more attracted to photography. During that period I met a man who encouraged me to further develop this interest. He taught me a lot about photography and together we bought my first professional camera. I decided to study at the Photo Academy in Amsterdam. This study turned out to be an inner search for me and it was wonderful to see how everything came together in the end.
Are your photographs shot in an instant or slowly composed?
My pictures always ask a lot of preparation. It begins with finding the right person and then developing a concept by making mood boards and sketches. I think about the feeling I want to convey and start searching for a suitable location.
Are you more drawn to interior or exterior spaces? Why?
It depends on the subject and the person I photograph. I love anything that’s theatrical, whether it is a wild landscape, a fancy brothel, or an imposing mansion. As long as it evokes a dramatic feel. When I am in the studio shooting, I like to create a dramatic effect by directing or styling my model in a certain way.
What is distinctive about your approach? What is the link/theme between your photographs?
I usually follow my muses for extended periods. They share a form of eccentricity, a distinctive lifestyle or a passion. I love to photograph artists, painters, actors, dancers; the characteristics of people whose artistic world fascinates me. Their openness and reticence; extroverted and introverted at the same time, often even trapped imprisoned in their inner world. What I recognize in my models is their desire for independence and their longing for personal appreciation. My quest for these free unruly people coincides with my personal search for beauty. My goal in my portraits is to capture how these elements are embodied in the eye and the position of their hands as an expression of their soul. I like to pull people out of their comfort zone, for example by asking them to take off some of their clothes. I try to catch the introspectiveness of extraverts and vice versa. It brings something special to light; people start to reveal their sexuality, brutality or vulnerability.
Please describe where you live. What inspires you visually about the place?
I live in the heart of Amsterdam, on Dam Square, there is my little palace. Looking out of my window, I have a wonderful view of some of Amsterdam’s main tourist attractions. It is a very inspiring place. The Nieuwe Kerk is inspiring through its exhibitions of art, photography, cultures, and interesting people. I love how this view shows historical heritage and at the same time the banalities of modern day tourism, such as garbage on the street. Sometimes my house does not feel like my home, but more like a historical place that I may dwell temporarily.
Are there any websites/magazines that you look at for inspiration? Do you visit galleries – if so, which ones and why?
I really enjoy browsing through photography books. My biggest source of inspiration is the work of Helmut Newton. What appeals to me is the elegance; women exude in his photographs. I also think Ellen von Unwerth’s free interpretation of fashion and nude photography playful and positively impudent. In addition, contemporary photography magazines and frequent visits to exhibitions of photography museums in Amsterdam, such as Foam, or Huis Marseilles, inspire me.