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My aim with this work is to record something about the landscape without the camera’s capacity to transcribe it. The photogram, as the most rudimentary photograph, allows me to look for the essence of the place by using simplicity and abstraction.

Nadezda Nikolova-Kratzer Hackelbury
Nadezda Nikolova-Kratzer Hackelbury

A childhood memory I am fond of is watching educational nature shows with my family. My mother has a bachelor’s in biology and perhaps I inherited the love of nature from her. I would bring nature home whenever I could, whether it was an abandoned hedgehog or collecting plants, sticks, or leaves to press. I always felt connected to nature and animals, and frequently drew them.

The ideas that come through my art arise from the connection I feel to the natural world, as I simultaneously grapple with what it means to live in the Anthropocene age and as I think about my own footprint (…) I am part of the collective pressure our species exerts on the planet. I feel the heaviness of it. But that cannot lead to paralysis. So, I try to ask larger questions: What will it take to change the way we are relating to nature and the way we are relating to each other?

T.S. Eliot talks about finding the still point of the turning world, remaining in the eye of the hurricane so to speak. My work is about noticing a leaf, the quality of light, the shape of the mountain. I see it more as poetic statements that encompass deeper messages than activism. Our home in Oakland is near to redwood trails which have become an important part of my daily routine.

From these trails, there is an incredible view of the San Francisco Bay and the ocean beyond. I often hike in late afternoon and I observe the light of human activity and the light of nature. In the last few years, my practice has been to take in the view and not rejecting the parts that are difficult to witness.

The photogram is a rudimentary medium. I use scissors and paper to create simple shapes. But there is also the complexity of working with a fluid and volatile medium that changes in response to use, age, temperature, humidity, etc. There is also the complexity of coaxing effects with precise brush strokes and spays of chemistry, as well as timing the exposure and development exactly right, where seconds, even milliseconds, matter.

Letting go of expectations, surrendering, trusting that the outcome may be much more riveting than the original idea. Sometimes, things just come together and surprise me — that’s the darkroom magic.

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This In Focus launches simultaneously with an Artsy Online Exhibition.