Natasha Clemo

University: Plymouth University

Graduation: 2016

Genre: Contemporary Documentary

Website: www.natashaclemo.wixsite.com/portfolio

Artist Statement

Where words fail us

Whilst adjusting to an overwhelming feeling of loss, I found myself returning to a downward spiral.

I have created a personal photographic narrative based on the experience of losing love, pain and loneliness. It enacts an intimate moment of adjustment that is photographed in isolation.
Exposed; I use my body as a metaphor.

By leaving myself so open, I invite you to consider what is so often overlooked, discussed in hushed whispers, experienced in private.

I have no wit, I have no words, no tears;
My heart within me like a stone
Is numbed too much for hopes or fears;
Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
A lift mine eyes, but dimmed with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is like the falling leaf;
O Jesus, quicken me.

-Sylvia Plath
A Better Resurrection

 From the series  Where words fail us

From the series Where words fail us

What are some standout moments from your time at university? For most of my time at university I felt like I was just floating and constantly questioning what I was doing or where university would take me. I always felt I was just doing as I was told and never actually making work that I felt I needed or wanted to. However, the start of my third year was where I really began to engage with myself and my current mood and emotions which lead me to create what I feel is my most powerful and real piece of work. When we held our Final Major Project Exhibition I really saw the work come together and received a lot of amazing feedback; reviews and emotions from the people viewing the work. A lot of people telling me it's a piece of work that they can really relate to due to their own mental health problems and a piece of work they found to be so brave and encouraging, which is exactly what I wanted my work to do and what I feel gained me an upper 2:1.

 From the series  Where words fail us

From the series Where words fail us

Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into? I would say my work falls into the artistic or contemporary documentary genre.

What themes do you find yourself exploring? I tend to always find the same theme throughout all of my bodies of work, which I think falls into self documentary as well as temporary documentary photography. I thoroughly enjoy photographing myself, not because I think I am a model, but because I know myself better than anyone else. I know what positions and shapes my body can create and how I can interact with a camera; I know how I feel at the time of photographing, meaning I get natural poses rather than trying to direct someone into a pose I feel they should or would be in, in the circumstance I'm photographing.

 From the series  Where words fail us

From the series Where words fail us

What initially encouraged you to make this photographic narrative around losing love, pain and loneliness? I had an incredibly tough year in 2015. I lost my dear Grandad, ended a 4 year relationship, had to rehome our sweet pup, moved away from home and had the immense stress of all this as well as the stress of my final year with no motivation. I felt I had no creative flair left and no energy or passion for the subject I so dearly love, photography. I quickly realised a very repetitive routine of my day to day life with depression and found it fascinating, so I started to photograph myself.

What has the creation of Where words fail us taught you about yourself? Has it contributed towards your healing process? I know it's going to sound corny but it has taught me to just live life, to live everyday as if it was my last. Life is too short to worry about things that don't go to plan or don't work, and dealing with depression and fixing myself has really taught me that. The body of work completely contributed towards my healing process, I think it has actually made me stronger. I have always found photography to be a way of healing. It has helped me overcome fears and overcome previous issues in my life. 

 From the series  Where words fail us

From the series Where words fail us

Can you explain the drawings you've used to accompany your images? Did you make them yourself? One of my tutors recommended trying to keep a diary. This is something I originally thought about doing, however I never really feel that I have a good flow with words when in the moment. I did, however, try to keep a diary of drawings. I did drawings everyday, all of which linked to the way I felt or something that was constantly niggling at me throughout that day. Sometimes these were humorous, other times they could turn out subtly dark and powerful. One of the drawings that particularly stuck out to me, cheer up love. I had lost track of how long I was sat just staring at myself in the mirror picking out things. My eyebrows, too bushy. My nose, too long. My smile, too gummy. My chin, too spotty. Once I had finally realised what I was doing I found myself picking up my pen and paper and started drawing just from the reflection. I didn't look down at the paper until I felt I was finished. 

Can you tell us about the letter from your mum? Why have you decided to include it with this series? The letter from my mum is just incredibly personal to me. I don't really have a reason as to why it is part of the series, it just is because I feel it was important to me for it to be part of the work. 

 From the series  Where words fail us

From the series Where words fail us

How did you decide to make Where words fail us into a book? I only made the book for the drawings. I felt that because they were kept as a diary, the best way to keep them all together and diary-like was to make them into a book. I tested many different papers and ways of presenting them and the only thing that seemed to work was a nice little hand sewn book with handwritten titles of each drawing, again keeping the diaristic style. It was also a way to make it more personal for the viewer.

I named the book cheer up love as I felt this was almost a humorous title for such an overlooked situation.

 From the series  Where words fail us

From the series Where words fail us

As this series of work has helped heal you during some difficult times in your life, do you think you’ll always be able to turn to photography no matter what life throws at you? I think that photography will always help me out of my troubles or problems. It's always something that I reach out to do if there is something troubling me because I know it is the best way I can communicate with myself and the best way I can tackle hard times. It also helps me be at ease with the problems I may have, so yes I think I will always be able to turn to photography when life gets hard.

 From the series  Where words fail us

From the series Where words fail us

Can you name some of the photographers who inspired you when making Where words fail us? My all time favourite photographer is Laura Pannack so she was a big inspiration for me, not what her work is about but more on how she photographs people and how she frames them. This is something that I really studied for this body of work. Another photographer that I constantly went back to was Maureen Drennan and also Laura Stevens. Both of these photographers dealt with depression in their work. Laura, photographing her own depression through others; Maureen, photographing her husband who suffered from depression. Two very different pieces of work but two very powerful and inspiration pieces.

What are your future creative plans? My future plans are still very much unknown. I just know that I want to photograph everything and anything.