Today FAWbyJWP blog hosts the interview of Nina Stavlund, one of the three winners in the “Artist of week VIII – In bloom” contest and her award-winning photograph “Showy Lady’s Slipper”. Nina is a professional photographer from Norway, currently living in Canada. I would say that her photography is impressive and adventurous, like her path in life. But, of course, it’s more of that; it’s about capturing the stunning beauties of nature and wildlife, conquering exotic places, like Antarctic, Africa, Costa Rica, etc., highlighting with her unique photographic eye the remarkable and the timeless of the moment. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I did.
FAWbyJWP. Would you like to tell us few words about yourself and your life as an artist?
Nina. I’m originally from Norway but moved to Canada when I met my Canadian husband. Canada itself was not a foreign country to me as I’d been visiting my oldest sister, who had moved here over 20 years ago. I’ve always been a bit creative but never did anything artistically really. I got my first camera at the age of 6, and it followed me ever since. I didn’t think much about it as I was encouraged to take a regular job and not take the chance of pursuing an artistic career. At junior high school we had photography classes, but because my last name started with an ‘S’, I came very far down on the list and never really got to choose the classes I wanted. I remember I had to take electronics one year, which was absolutely not my field.
As an adult, I worked 15 years in an office as an Executive Assistant/Personal Assistant mainly in the oil and gas business, and it came to a point when I felt my life was not moving at all. I felt very frustrated and knew I had to do something. I resigned from the greatest boss on the face of this planet and also possibly the best-paid job I’ll ever have. I sold all my personal belongings and moved to Greece. My idea was to do a photo essay of Greece, which was my absolute favorite country and culture at that time. I was a so-called Grecophile. This is where I realized I had skills to do artistic photo work and not only capturing memories to put in albums. I started experimenting and this led to a passion beyond my wildest dreams. I hardly did anything else, but photography for 3 years. Greece burned in the big fire in 2007 and I had to move back to Norway. This was a total down trip as I again had to go back to the office environment.
Then it happened, like lightning from clear skies. Because of the economic crises in Europe in 2008-2009, I was laid off work. I saw my opportunity and I took the risk of applying for a student loan and enroll at photo school. Of course, I also had to work, so I worked with WWF (World Wildlife Fund for Nature) in Norway on the International Arctic Programme. The contract was a maternity leave replacement, which was perfect for me. For almost a full year I worked 100% in the daytime and went to school in the evening. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But, I finished and I graduated. I then left Norway to be with my (at that point yet to become) husband in Canada, and I’ve been here since. My life as an artist has not yet reached its full potential, and sometimes I wonder if it ever will. There’s so much to learn, so much to see, and also so much to teach. Through our small family business, called Always An Adventure, I teach photography and photo editing. I have great plans and dreams for what I can do, and I work hard to see that these plans and dreams will one day come true.
FAWbyJWP. What do you think urge people to seek creation through art? And, what do you think that played a significant role to your decision to become an artist and expose your work?
Nina. I think art is an essential side of the human nature and an important way of expressing ourselves. We have since the first morning of human history created art, for example on cave walls. When I decided to become a professional photographer, I took a great risk. Everyone seems to be a photographer these days. But, I could not really care, if it was risky or not. I needed to color my world which had become quite dull and boring. I also needed to let my creativity roam free. I had so much cluttered up inside, and it needed to come out.
I am a spiritual person, and in nature, I found so much beauty. Not only in nature of course, but everything around us is really beautiful if you take the time to look. I’ve always had a strong passion for the art. I saw endless opportunities and creative challenges that I wanted to have and be a part of. Photography was a medium I was very comfortable with and felt I could handle with great confidence. Also, I’d been dreaming about becoming an educated photographer for so long, and after losing my job, I was thinking: It’s now or never! I expose my work because I want to share my inner vision and also to share the many wonderful places I am so fortunate to go to. I like to educate the world through my photography. Thanks to my many travels, I’ve been able to share my love of animals and places, many of which most people will never see or experience.
FAWbyJWP. Would you like to tell us a few words for your first place winning artwork?
Nina. The Showy Lady’s-slipper (Cypripedium reginae) is an orchid native to northern North America. My husband, which is also a professional photographer, took me to see these beautiful flowers upon my arrival to Canada, and since then, we go every year to photograph these beautiful and rare orchids in Ontario, Canada. It’s remarkable to me how these flowers look like the face of a man, even more so, Santa Claus!
FAWbyJWP. How do you think that your work differs from the best artists, who are so many here on FAA, but also on the internet and in the market?
Nina. I’m not really sure how to answer this question. I have been told that my work is very personal, and people connect with for example my animal shots. My photo art, which is textured work or some other kind of photo manipulation, is very popular, but also clean nature shots seems to appeal to people. I’m still in a phase of developing my style, and I still have a lot to learn. The fact that I have been trained plays a big role too I think. My work is nothing close to point & shoot or snapshots, which the internet is overloaded with.
FAWbyJWP. What do you do to get inspired?
Nina. Look at other people’s work, reading magazines and talk photography or art is very inspiring. But, the two greatest factors in my case is teaching photography and to be in nature.
FAWbyJWP. How would you describe your activity in online communities like FAA or social media networks? Does it play an important role in your sales?
Nina. It’s almost sad to say, but unfortunately, yes. If you don’t share your work, how will anyone see it? The amount of time spent online is precious time away from family and friends, or simply life itself. I wish there were other ways to promote my work, and I guess it is with exhibits and so forth. But, it’s essential to be active online, if you want people to see what you’re good for. We live in the age of technology, and this is what is. We just have to manage our time and set priorities.
FAWbyJWP. How do you handle negative or malicious comments?
Nina. That I still have to experience :o) But, I think that I would take into consideration what’s been said, and see if I can learn something from it.
FAWbyJWP. What are the challenges of being creative and an artist?
Nina. For me, the biggest challenge is Time. In today’s society, we have very little time to ourselves. I find myself more and more in the reality that I don’t have time to be as creative as I wish I could be. My creativity is there, I just don’t have time to create. Running a small business is hard work, and leaves very little time to tend to my own artistic work.
FAWbyJWP. Can art change someone’s life in a better way? Would you like to give an example?
Nina. Definitely! When we realize that we are not afraid of expressing ourselves through art, a whole new world opens up to us. It will make you more confident, happy and you look at the world with new eyes. More curious eyes and you will notice details, for example, you would never care for earlier. The world becomes so much more interesting.
To me, being allowed to create gives me meaning with life. Not only to me but also to others that appreciate my art. This makes me very happy and content. I am not the same person today as I was when working in an office. Back then I only functioned. Only existed from paycheck to paycheck. Now, when I create something that attracts people’s attention, I’m thinking, “OMGosh, I had no idea they would like this”! And, I feel that I have contributed with something beautiful to this world for others to enjoy.
FAWbyJWP. What is the best advice you ever heard for your work or your life as an artist?
Nina. The best advice I’ve received is “Don’t be afraid of being different”! As an artist, this is very important.
Thank you very much, Nina, for this interesting and inspiring interview. You can find and follow Nina Stavlund and her stunning photo art in her website.