Photography Talk With Two Italian Rascals
TIR: Ciao Bernarda, tell us about yourself and how you got started in photography.
NIBERA: Hi! My birth name is Bernarda, and my artist name is Nibera. I live and work in Ljubljana as a self-employed full-time artist. My journey in photography started very early in my life. At eight years old, my dad gave me a disposable analog film camera to play with. I remember how much I enjoyed taking pictures and how excited I was when developed photographs came back from the lab. I also loved organizing photographs into physical albums. I developed my love for photography before my teenage years. I was inquisitive about the progress of technology and the introduction of digital cameras. I wanted to try every new innovation and loved digital cameras for many years. In the last year of primary school, my parents and teachers encouraged me to enroll in a high school for design and photography. I took the photography program and studied photography for four years. First, two years were dedicated to film photography, and the last two to digital photography. During my high school years, I learned everything and almost too much about photography, even though I was skipping school a lot (haha). We were developing negatives, making black and white and color prints, preparing chemicals… Looking back now, I am very grateful for those experiences. After high school, I started to earn some money from photography. I was shooting events, portraits, and fashion. For quite some time, this was my only income. I was successfully freelancing with my camera until the pandemic happened. No more gatherings, no more events, and total social isolation. I lost my only income, so I had to change something. During the lockdown, I stopped shooting digitally and re-discovered my love for film photography. Because of the social distancing, I focused entirely on landscape and nature. Unfortunately, landscape photography is the most challenging niche to make money from it. I moved my business entirely online. I created a website and an online store with prints. I also worked as a freelance graphic designer, so I did not rely entirely on selling prints. Long story short, this is where I am today. Currently, I only shoot on film, and I am earning money from photography prints.
TIR: When I first saw your photos, I liked them because they appeared calming, and timeless. But I think it is only after I’ve read your intro about the series on your website that I could grasp the deeper meaning of this work and the social statement you are making with it; trying to remind society of what the world was like before man began to destroy it." Can you tell us more?
NIBERA: I use analog photography to get the aesthetic of the past. I want to create images that show what the world would be like if humans respected nature. I am creating a world that mirrors ours but in an alternate reality where man does not interfere with nature. Landscapes in my work are pure, wild, uninhabited, and free. Free from people, buildings, and litter. It depends on the place where a person lives; some places are more polluted than others. There are not many uninhabited and wild places left on this planet. I want to create visual monuments of these landscapes enriched with my feelings and impressions.
TIR: When it comes to the preservation of our world, the narrative is often bleak and
negative. And you state that is very important that we also create things that
have a positive narrative. Positive visual messages are stimulating and act as a
hopeful destination." I find this a truly powerful statement.
NIBERA: Focusing on the negative will not get us anywhere. Focusing on the bright might get us somewhere. We need positive and creative energy to make positive changes. We can’t take steps toward a better future if we only see doom and gloom. Depressed humanity will only take us into a deeper crisis. We found ourselves in the middle of the climate crisis. Imagine two scenarios. You can show people the potential future. They will lose hope immediately if you show them the dark, apocalyptic, burning planet earth. On the other hand, if you show them beautiful, healthy earth and tell them that this is possible if we take specific steps as humanity, they will act and take positive steps towards that goal. Artists have to inspire people to take action. Visual messages can be compelling and even more powerful than text in some cases.
TIR: Can you tell us about your process of creating landscape collages?
NIBERA: The process starts with finding an uninhabited location. The wilder, the better. I try to immerse myself in space and see the beauty of our planet. I usually shoot one roll of film in one location. I search for details that catch my attention, and I always try to capture the entire surrounding of the specific place. I change lenses a lot during the shooting process because I need a variety of details and broader angle views too. I typically use a wide-angle lens, 50mm lens, and zoom lens. After the negatives are developed and scanned, I combine different photographs from the same roll into one.
TIR: Shooting in film makes this whole process even more challenging to accomplish than
it would be with digital. Although as you state the granularity of the film gives you
the chance to get a touch of the old.
NIBERA: Shooting film is challenging, but digital cannot give the results I want to achieve. Film gives a greater dynamic range and a nostalgic look & feel to the images. I tried to achieve the same look with a digital camera but was unsuccessful. I also prefer film photography because the process is slower, forcing you to slow down and re-think every shot. When shooting digital, you get unlimited chances to shoot with the same motive. Of course, we take this opportunity and take thousands of photos of the same location. We end up with thousands of similar photos, and this is where I lose motivation. The process of selecting the best photos becomes overwhelming and soulless. The great advantage of film is also the soulful and mindful process that comes with it. If I were a psychotherapist, I would recommend film photography to my patients (haha).
TIR: You play a lot with colors in post production. Any advice for dealing with it when you
are shooting film?
NIBERA: Yes, I would call myself a color enthusiast. I am really obsessed with colors, tones, and color-grading. The colors of film are only true and real on the negative. After converting it into a positive, you already change the film’s true colors. In the scanning process, you have to tweak colors a lot to get a natural look of colors. I also use lightroom or photoshop to achieve colors that aesthetically please me. However, because of the film grain, you can not change and play with colors as much as you can in digital. You can quickly ruin the quality of the photograph, so there is less space for tweaking. You can change the colors in digital from red to blue, and you will not lose quality. You cannot change colors that much in film photographs.