Spotlight #5: Nona Limmen on her mysterious photography

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One of my favorite things about running Bleaq is definitely being able to ask artists about their work. Last summer I kept bumping into images by Nona Limmen on the internet. Nona turned out to be Dutch as well and has a portfolio filled with gorgeously mysterious photographs I’d love to share with you today. I asked Nona to share some thought on her work as well, I really liked reading the stories behind her haunting pieces. Enjoy!

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Bleaq: If you had to describe your work in one sentence, how would you do it?

NL: “The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious”. A quote by Albert Einstein that I stumbled upon when I was a teenager. As a young girl I’ve always been attracted to the unknown and the mysterious. When people asked me what I wanted to become I confidently told them I wanted to be an archeologist. Fantasizing about traveling far and discover ancient places others have never been or seen before.

I like to express myself as an artist using these themes. To create an otherworldly and mysterious story, with a dark and occult twist.

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Can you tell about how you got into photography? What was your first camera?
NL: As long as I can remember my mom always carried her analog Pentax k1000 with her when I was young. Taking pictures at birthdays, on holidays or on random afternoons in our house or at the playground. I was fascinated by this camera and its huge lens, always asking her if I could use it too (“Mag ‘kook kijken?”). When I turned 15 my mother gave her Pentax to me as a gift, along with two packages of film. I remember how excited I was when I first used this camera, too impatient to read the manual first. That’s probably the reason why I terribly failed at my first attempt of making decent photos of my first two packages of film. Slightly annoyed and disappointed I showed the photos to my mom. “Told you so”, my mom said. “It takes a lot of practice and wrong developed film to finally understand this camera”. After these words I had spend afternoons together with my Pentax manual, trying to figure out this camera’s capabilities. Now, 12 years later, this camera still surprises me when I develop new film. I’ve always had a preference of using analog cameras instead of digital ones. Probably because analog pictures give me a sense of nostalgia. The colors and contrast are more intense and I like the old and dusty layer while scanning them. After my Pentax I’ve also bought an analog Minolta, Fuji and a polaroid camera. Still my Pentax is most precious to me.

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What inspires you?
NL: I live in a busy city called Amsterdam, but I grew up in a small town near the coast. Whenever I have a day off or some spare time left I always seize the opportunity of spending my time in the woods or at the beach. Nature inspires me the most, especially in the darker seasons when the trees turn leafless and the snow covers everything soothingly white. It awakes my crazy and grim imagination for some reason. Blame it on the grandparents, for telling me scary bedtime stories when I was a kid.

I’ve also been fascinated with mythology. Especially Norse, Celtic and Greek mythology. Most of my photos are inspired by stories from books and tales I’ve read about mythological creatures and gods. I also get my inspiration from occult books I read and experiences I’ve had in the past. In my work I can express myself through these experiences and things I’ve read, almost in a sort of therapeutic way.

 

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Who are your favorite artists? How do they inspire your work?
NL: That would probably be my mom. She is such a talented woman, gifted with amazing drawing, painting and sculpting skills. I’ve always been surrounded by her work, since she liked to use our home as a showroom. Even now, at my own place in Amsterdam, my room is filled with some of her inspiring work.

I am also a huge fan of Jess Schnabel, the founder and creator of BloodMilk jewelry. Every piece of jewelry has its own unique and inspiring story. Not to mention the beauty and amazing craftsmanship represented in every piece of jewelry made by her. I’m also a big fan of the photography of Krist Mort, Courtney Brooke, Ellen Rogers and Alison Scarpulla. I think these talented people inspire me because their interests for the occult and the unknown are similar to mine. They all have this otherworldly and dark theme, which I also use myself.

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It’s probably like asking parents which one of their kids they like best, but do you have a piece of pieces from your work that you like best? If so, why that one?
NL: That’s a hard question. I think that will be the “Anaïs” and the “Swamp Spells” piece. Both of these pieces are inspired by Celtic and Norse mythology. “Anaïs” tells a story about the Morrigán (phantom Queen). An unpredictable goddess, both associated with life and death, shape-shifting herself into a crow or raven when preparing for battle. This piece shows the beginning of her transformation from human into bird.

The “Swamp Spells” print is inspired by the ‘Eleionomae’ (spirits of nature). Dwellers of the marshlands, often misleading travelers with their illusions by portraying themselves as their loved ones. Eleionomae have an unnatural aura of beauty, as well as an unquantifiable air of mystery. Young men who’ve encountered these swamp nymphs, never came back. As one story tells: “You never get to see their faces. Those poor young lads get mesmerized by their singing and follow them until they can’t find their way home anymore. Legends tell they get eaten alive one they are lost and paralyzed by their Swamp Spells.”

When I first read about the Morrigán and Eleionomae, I wanted to create an image that was similar to how I visualized them. “Anaïs” as a dark and mysterious shadow, the ‘Eleionomae’ surrounded by branches, trees and high grass, showing nothing but a sensual back part of the female body. I want people to stop when they first lay their eyes on my photography, asking themselves “What the hell am I looking at?” I think these two pieces comply with that.

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– Anaïs

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– Swamp Spells

With many social networking websites it’s almost hard to keep track of everything! How important is the internet for you as an artist?
NL: I would be lying if I said that I don’t need the internet to express myself as an artist. For example, almost 1,5 years ago I first started using Instagram. An app which allows you to post photos of yourself, your daily life or other random stuff. I never ever in the world thought this medium would open so many doors for me as an artist/photographer. I got in touch with the sweetest and most talented people, sold a lot of work internationally because of Instagram and I even traded artwork with some people that have been an inspiration to me for years. My followers motivate and inspire me to create more work. So yes, the internet is really important to me as an artist.

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Last but not least: can you recommend a book, movie of artist you’ve enjoyed lately?
NL: Last month I went to Prague with my boyfriend to enjoy the city and watch Chelsea Wolfe performing live. I’m a huge fan of her for a couple of years now and for those who never heard of her; please have a listen at some of her music. You won’t regret it!

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That’s it! A big thank you to Nona for being so kind to share her thoughts with Bleaq. If you want to see more of her work you can take a look at her website. Nona also sells beautiful pieces on Etsy, be sure to check that out as well! Thanks for reading, have a lovely weekend!

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