A conversation between shoots in Vienna and London. NANA SRT, the highly talented photographer who has carved a brand in the art world.
On a journey of discovery, NANA SRT found a relationship with photography and dance, which plays a big part in her life.
You instinctively know when you’re talking to someone who has the ability to influence others. Their aura dictates a certain vibe that makes you want to listen. Their words represent experience and knowledge that others can learn from. Nana’s passion for photography was a natural path to take, and there was a heavy influence from her father’s actions. Her story began in Japan, ending up in both Vienna and London.
By own admission, she was a shy and introverted child who blossomed with time. On a journey of discovery, she has found a relationship with photography and dance, which would play a big part in her life. An extremely talented photographer with a unique style that catches the imagination and leaves an audience wanting more. A carved brand from humble beginnings. The Networking Magazine was fortunate to catch up with Nana between her photoshoots in Vienna and London.
At what age did you realise that you wanted to pursue a career in photography?
My father was a truck driver in the middle east; photography was a hobby for him. At home, he plastered the interior of our toilet with all kinds of trucker images. Very colourful. His photographs documented his life and captured moments that he found interesting.
We would have “slide evenings” where my parents’ friends would come round when he returned from his travels. He would project his slides on our living room wall to tell us about his travel experiences and adventures. Fascinated with his Nikon FM, I often found myself rummaging through his photo equipment. In some way, perhaps that’s where my journey began. Some years later, I joined a photo club at high school where we created a school magazine and spent fun time developing photographs for it in the darkroom. I have strong sensory memories of these days.
Animals in captivity
At one point, when I borrowed my father’s camera, I intended to work on a series where I would capture images of animals’ eyes in captivity. Zoo kept animals carry a sadness that has a profound impact on me. After I shot a few rolls of film there, I couldn’t bring myself to develop these. It wasn’t until 30 years later that I did, but of course, the film had expired by then. But what I shot still lives in my mind and probably will forever. On a side note, I encourage everyone to live a plant-based life to the best of their abilities.
FAMILY AND FRIENDS
Did you meet resistance from family and friends?
Not really – my circumstances were probably different. I have been working in the dance industry for most of my life and started showing my photographic work publicly in 2019. I’d shown some of my artist portraits here and there, shot a couple of album covers and press shots for my husband etc. Still, by the time I distinctly decided to want to share my work, I’d accumulated a fair amount, and my friends and family had become used to it.
Who inspired you? Why?
Initially, my father for sure. Music. Dance. Life. Everything our senses can perceive can be of inspiration to me.
How did dance find you?
I have been working in dance – in various capacities – for some 30 years now, and still am; in December 2018, I looked through my photographic work and realised just how many photos I had accumulated, so I decided to start exhibiting them, which marked the beginning of my limited editions for sale. The first time I ever showed my work was only in Brooklyn, New York! Which was very exciting. It just made sense for me to continue nourishing my ongoing relationship with dance.
I have been running my dance agency – HeadNod – for some twenty years. Documenting our dancers and musicians’ journeys with my camera came about in a very organic way – at rehearsals, dance battles, castings etc. I often have to hire out studios, though, seeing that my shoots usually require quite a bit of space for movement – and they are generally also pretty messy! However, I enjoy shooting outdoors too – one of the outdoor series I hope to continue next year is FLOW, where I am working with ballet dancers.
While the majority of photographers pursued fashion as a genre, you diversified into art. Why?
Must be the freedom of expression. The unfiltered voice – my unfiltered voice.
Not wanting to have 20 heads in the mix to create. Or the perfect set-up with the perfect face. None of that has ever appealed to me.
PAST AND PRESENT
If the Nana of the past met the Nana of the present, what would you both talk about? Why?
I would tell myself not to miss out on opportunities. Going for it and seeing where the road would take me, not giving in to pride, fear of failure, shyness. You won’t ever be remembered for failing. You’ll only be remembered for your success, so allow yourself the chance to say Ok, why not!
If I asked your best friend to describe you, what would they say?
They might tell you that I love my independence. That I have a high expectation of friendship and loyalty and a strong sense of right and wrong.
MOBILE PHONS VS TRADITION
Can a mobile phone compete with a traditional camera?
I don’t know about competing, but I guess it completes our visual perception of the world in this day and age. I choose to have a small camera with me wherever I go; it’s a Ricoh – it’s a great size and portable. So should I come across a moment I would like to capture with the camera, I have it at hand. You just wouldn’t be able to blow smartphone images in high res to a large format, not today. Maybe soon, though! After that, cameras won’t disappear as long as people want to explore photography.
Is the use of filters the future?
I like spontaneity, capturing natural colours and looks that freeze a moment in time. But yes, I think the sort of filters you are referring to have gained popularity certainly with the Millennials and Gen Z searching for the perfect depiction, especially since platforms such as Instagram are a public photo album for anyone to view.
Is everyone a photographer?
We are all photographers if we want to be. If we dedicate the time to it. If we put the energy and hours into it.
How do you disconnect from work?
Creativity doesn’t come with a switch, and compromises often have to be made. I’m married to a musician, so I don’t have to worry about any misunderstandings on that front. I have also always been lucky enough to set my own working hours throughout my life. But, of course, there are plenty of occasions where we have to coordinate activities because we are in the process and don’t want to lose a train of thought. Luckily, there is mutual understanding at home.
Yoga would be what helps me to disconnect from the day; I completed a teacher training earlier this year, which showed me a lot of new ways to connect with my inner self instead of being led by the outside world.
What skills do you need to be a photographer in your genre?
Does a photographer need to take the same shot multiple times?
If the opportunity presents itself, then my answer would be Yes. Every shot has the ability to reveal something new.
Have you ever cried in the name of your work? Why?
On more than one occasion!… Art becomes an emotional space that you connect with. I have been known to get taken by the energy in the room.
VIENNA AND LONDON
Your world is split between Vienna and London. Is it hard to find a work-life balance?
I am lucky to have two workspaces. They have different values, and I am privileged to be able to indulge in both; London has a vibrant urban energy, Vienna has more of a laid back energy with art very present in everyday life. It offers another type of inspiration.
What has been your most significant success?
Realising for myself that what I do fulfils me. And allowing myself the freedom to follow this voice.
Who or what would you love to photograph? Why?
Tough! I love energy. I love life force. I can find these in humans, animals and nature. I have a favourite tree in the Vienna Woods that probably brings me just as much satisfaction as watching a beautiful dance or music performance; I guess it depends on my mood of the day.
Does your name have a meaning?
I am half Japanese, half Austrian. My middle name Sakura translates as cherry blossom. The initial R stands for Rosalia – a great aunt on my father’s side. My artist name is Nana SRT, which reads Nana’s art… apt, right?
CAREER TIME LIMITS
Is there a time limit on your career?
There is no time or age limit to art, so no, there is no time limit on a photographer’s career.