FEATURED ARTIST // NATASHA WILSON presents "RISE"

Desert born and raised, fashion photographer Natasha Wilson has had a mutual passion for art & travel her entire life. Inspired by culture and each location’s color palette, she hopes her unique perspective flows vicariously through her photographs, and transports the viewer into a dream-like world. Her process usually includes painting her own hues over her images, and reducing the color palette to a cohesive blend of hues.

1. What are you trying to say with this piece?

With this series titled "Rise",  I want to showcase a physical representation of white washing in both Hollywood and media in America.

2. Why did you feel compelled to tell this story?

White washing in Hollywood and all other forms of media have been prominent to me ever since I was a little girl. I would see rows of magazines at the bookstores and instantly get bored at the lack of diversity and color throughout. I can not even imagine what it's like for POC to be constantly reminded that their hair, skin color, and culture is not "in fashion" or likable. I have always tried to diversify my portfolio of work but unless you blatantly say you are MAD about something, no one will get what you are trying to say. We can talk about how much it pisses us off but we can't get anywhere without action. By creating this series and opening this topic, I hope to inspire not only Hollywood but other photographers and creatives that refuse to show diversity in their media. 

3. What was your "Creative Process" for this piece?

Showing the physical representation of white washing through imagery came pretty quickly to me. I just didn't know how to pull it off. I imagined a sea of white hands amidst a black model, but I couldn't calculate how to pull it off or make it realistic. 

The idea started to come to fruition with an old bridesmaid dress that had been donated to me by my friend Hannah. The cut and style were pretty but I decided to dye it dark brown to match the skin tone of my model, Lauren. I then went to Home Depot, picked out a paint color to match the dress, and my friends Alex and Darrin helped me paint the back drop. That same day we had a few friends come over to practice the hand movements and photoshopping I would need to do to make it look realistic. 

The photoshoot was the best part. Everything flowed easily and the team (photographer, model, MUA, extra hands, assistants etc) worked together for about 2 hours. The photoshopping was extensive but worth it. Everything came together perfectly and the vision I had in my head came out pretty identical to the final images. 

4. Do you feel like you, as an artist, have ever contributed to this narrative, unknowingly?

Absolutely. I think it's difficult to not be influenced in some way by fashion or popular trends in our media driven world. When I first started photography, I was trying to mimic what I saw in fashion magazines and media. My portfolio had little to no diversity with out actually intending to do so. Once I stepped back and looked at my work as whole, I realized I needed a change. 

5. Society is known to see a difference between lighter and darker skin tones. It, historically, has been a tool used to create a divide within the black community. Was it a conscious decision for you to choose a woman with a darker complexion? Do you feel the narrative would have changed had you used a model with a lighter complexion? If so, how? 

Yes, it was a conscious decision to choose Lauren, whom has a darker complexion for this series. A subcategory of white washing is seeing media use models with caramel or light brown skin tones to show "diversity" and then completely exclude anyone darker.  I've recommended dark skinned models for clothing brands in the past and they have blatantly responded that "Those girls don't fit our brand." I was dumbfounded by the remark.

How do you feel the narrative would have changed had you used a model with a caramel complexion instead of Lauren?

I don't feel that the narrative would have as strong of an impact if I used a model with a caramel complexion. Like I said, I have sometimes seen brands, fashion, movies, etc. use caramel complexions to avoid blame for not being diversified. I believe that all skin tones are equally beautiful but for some reason it's hard to convince certain people that anything darker than caramel truly is.  

6. As a successful artist, what are some words of wisdom you could share with those just starting out?

I think my biggest learning curve was realizing that I was my only excuse for not creating what I wanted to. I would see these elaborate shoots in magazines and believe I didn't have the resources, the money, those gowns, those models, that location, etc. Once I stopped believing that narrative in my head and just did what I wanted to, my work quickly escalated from typical fashion photography to actually original pieces. I guess this means stop following somebody else's footsteps and actually listen to the dreams and ideas in your head.

7. Is social commentary a reoccurring theme throughout your work?

Just within the past year it has become a reoccurring theme. I got bored of creating things with out meaning and wanted to do something about it. I've had these ideas brewing in my head for a while but was too shy to speak out. I guess I've changed!

8. What are the key points you want an audience to get when viewing your work as a collective?

The most important thing for me as a photographer is to have an audience look at my photos just the way they do with paintings. When you look at a painting, you see depth, you make up a story in your mind about the subject, and you decide if you like it or not. With a photo, we are so used to scrolling past 5,000 images per day and spending less than 3 seconds to look at it, that we don't even give ourselves a chance to decide if we enjoy it or not. I just hope to change that perspective with my photos.

find Natasha on Instagram: @deanastacia & find her website here: www.deanastaciaphoto.com

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Alex Harper