The Velvet Bird
By Inta Nahapetjan
Archival Pigment print
Inta Nahapetjan (Yerevan, Armenia, 1988) is an Amsterdam based photographer. After completing her study in Museology at the Reinwardt Academy in Amsterdam, she turned to photography, and graduated Cum Laude from the Amsterdam Photo Academy in 2016. Ever since, Inta’s career as a photographer has ran its course and her work gained national and international attention through exhibitions and solo shows amongst which her participation at The New Dutch Photography Talent, GUP Magazine/Gallery in 2016. Inta’s works have also been published in significant magazines such as Dans Magazine (2017), the NRC magazine (2018) and her work “Papillon” has been chosen as the cover image for New Photo – Dutch Photography Talent in 2017.
The working method of Inta entails full control over the whole making-process of a picture: from the selection of the model to the styling, the art direction and the ultimate shot - for this reason, Nahapetjan’s work is also suitable for commission. Influenced by the artistic climate she grew up in, her work is centered around the concept of the extreme, in all its different facets and gradations. Fascinated by the peculiar lifestyle of artful characters, Inta attempts to capture the essence of the creative intensity common to all her models. Following them closely for a period of time, she manages to fixate a moment of their lives in which this intensity is concentrated: the result are a mixture of lust, beauty and darkness, which engage the viewer, remaining a mystery at the same time. The red thread throughout Inta’s work is constituted by the search towards the core of this extreme, and all her pictures reflect the impossibility of fully pinning down this border line between elegance, attraction and inexplicable sorrow. Her body of work contains the restlessness of the ultimate quest: the one towards the understanding of beauty.
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.