Natalie Neal first started photographing at the age of 10 when her older sisters began asking her to take pictures of them posing in their 1998 fashions. Since then her work as a director and photographer focuses on puberty and femininity. She graduated from Brigham Young University in 2011 with a degree in Photography, and currently lives and works in Los Angeles.
Paam: What is your ultimate dream or aspiration?
Natalie: I would like to direct enough feature films to last a whole slumber party of marathan movie watching. Based on my own slumber party experience, I think that would have to be at least 3!
P: What are your main inspirations?
N: I’m inspired by photos of my older sisters when they were teenagers, religious iconography and symbolism, the liner notes of my old CDs, good movies.
P: In your creative process what comes first: concept or image?
N: I get ideas all sorts of ways. My creative process starts with an image whenever I am least expecting an idea to come to me, like when I’m walking on the street or playing with my nieces or somethig. When I am brain storming and in the mode of attempting to think of ideas, that’s when the concept comes to me before the image does. In that instance I think more about how to visually communicate an idea rather than creating context to surround a single image.
P: What do you feel when you’re working?
N: Sometimes I feel really excited or nostalgic, but sometimes I’m tired and not in the mood to work at all. If that’s happening to you periodically, that’s how you know you’re doing a good job. You can’t make anything good if you give up when you feel tired or circumstances are tough!
P: You have a new book coming out! Tell me about that.
N: It’s a book of a selection of my photographs and the screenplays of two of my short films. Number 04, a design studio comprised of Davis Ngarupe and Jordan Haynie, designed and published it. They also design, publish, and curate an artist publication called “The Shoplifters” that is amazing.
P: A lot of the photos in your book seem to focus on childhood. Can you tell us the most valuable memory of your adolescence?
N: I have so many! One of my favorite memories is of me and my sisters Amy and Mindy creating an elaborate circus for my oldest siblings and parents to watch. We would orchestrate every aspect of the show, with music, choreography, specific costumes for each act. We would hold rehearsals and practice introducing each of the acts, doing wardrobe changes and everything. Mostly the ‘circus acts’ consisted of us doing tricks in pairs or solo on our swings or monkey bars, or hoola hooping sometimes, cartwheels. One time I remember we performed on our stairwell in the house.
P: What object immediately reminds you your childhood?
N: Shampoodle! Or Pollypocket. Skydancers!! But I don’t see Skydancers very often. Mine got taken away as a punishment when I kept making it fly into the low ceilings in our house, haha.
P: What advice would you give to all the young creators around the world?
N: I would say make as much as you can with the time you have. And if you want to give up everything else and quit your job to create stuff, do it immediately rather than wait. Waiting is a mistake. The time is now! But before you make that decision you have to know that you would rather live as a failed artist than do something else, because that’s the kind of determination it will take to be successful, and if you aren’t, that’s the knowledge you need not to regret it.
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