Intermission – The Leica camera Blog

Disconnected from space, time and any specific location, the photographer captures moments of everyday life that are often overlooked – a pause to take a breath, a lull between activities, or a shift from one emotional state to another. Her project reveals the universal presence of the ephemeral in our lives. The poetic and associative images invite the viewer to ponder on these daily impulses that define the rhythm of our existence. The photographer spoke with us about the idea behind the series, which she produced in Arles, southern France, in 2021.

How do you find your topics and narratives?
My relationship with photography has been more of a happenstance. I never dreamed or thought that someday I’d be a photographer. It literally found me, fed me, and gave me a voice and a good excuse to explore the world and push my own boundaries and biases, especially those rooted in my extremely Catholic and conservative upbringing. Freedom from this past is the catalyst for my long-term projects. I’m inspired by those who live by their own rules. My work is an homage to all of them.

How did the idea for Intermission come about, and when was it?
Intermission began as an exercise during lockdown 2020 when time was nowhere to be seen. It’s my own selfish project, where I let myself wander and photograph for no reason other than to escape the noise and chaos. Since it’s half suspended in a surreal world, it doesn’t have to deal with the censorship that some of my work has received. It can be sensual, sexual, and ethereal. And I can get away with it because it’s art. I guess this makes it my silent chant of protest and rebellion against censorship.

Please explain something about Intermission; what is it about?
This photo project aims to capture those ephemeral moments that often slip through our fingers — those breaths of respite, the lull between activities, and the transition from one state to another. From the tender pause of inanimate objects within a museum space to the amusement of a vintage carousel, the project exposes the universal presence of the ephemeral in our lives. This body of work encourages the viewer to ponder the stories behind each image and meditate on the significance of these seemingly mundane intervals that shape the rhythm of our existence.

What would be the “transition from one state to another”?
Happiness, sadness, joy, grief – I see them all as elements of what makes us human, and in life, we all transition through these universal emotions. Nothing is static in life, not even life itself. However, there are pauses in between these stages, and that’s how the name of this project came about. The word “intermission” means a temporary pause; it encapsulates the meaning of this project and all its layers.

The images were taken in Arles, France; why did you photograph there?
While my long-term projects typically centre around a specific location, Intermission breaks free. It’s a boundless exploration, unrestricted by geographical boundaries. As part of the Leica – VII Mentorship Award, I spent five weeks in Arles in an intensive workshop given by the VII Foundation. The images in Arles are my own reflection of that moment. Arles is timeless, and, hopefully, will forever remain that way.

Your images are gloomy, cinematic and poetic; what do you have in focus when taking pictures?
When I photograph, light is my primary focus. I constantly observe its source and how it shapes shades and shadows. The light is my cue, and for this I have to thank my mentor at the San Francisco Art Institute, Henry Wessel. Henry was a beautiful man and a very thoughtful mentor. He’s the one who nurtured and encouraged me to explore and develop the way I see. I’m a curious being; I’m constantly thinking and observing, and I just can’t help it. Half of me inhabits my brain, and the other half inhabits my gaze, and though they are connected, they tend to have their own volition.

Why did you decide on black and white?
Each project sets its own tone, and from there, everything is very intuitive. There’s just one exception: the almost surgical decision of choosing the right camera for each body of work. Until 2019, I didn’t own a digital camera. I had a medium format camera (Hasselblad 500cm), and with only 12 frames it was definitely not the right tool for when I started photographing burlesque. Some beautiful portraits came from this failed experiment. It taught me the beauty of prime lenses and their ability to capture light even in very low-light conditions. The film I was using was Kodak Portra 800, and it became my magic number. I never shot beyond that ISO because I just can’t “see” beyond 800.

With what kind of equipment did you work on Intermission?
Prior to the Leica – VII Mentorship Award, I’d never owned a Leica camera. What sets Leica apart for me is the beauty of their silence. This quietude made the Leica Q2 a discreet and respectful ally on my project called Healers: Sex Work as a Calling. The few intimate hours I spent with each person were so delicate, that even the single click of a camera could shatter this beautiful moment, becoming the intrusion that broke the spell.

What current or future projects are you working on, and where are you headed to next?

I’m currently working on a new project exploring the devastating effects of radioactive contamination. It’s the story of a forgotten city, its beautiful landscape, and its involvement in the Manhattan Project; and, most crucially, the long-lasting effects on its residents. It’s so complex that photography alone won’t be able to tell the story. It involves video, sound, and a lot of heavy research.

Born in 1980 in Lima, Peru, Natalia Neuhaus started her career in Lima, as a freelance photojournalist for newspapers and magazines. She was studying journalism in Peru, but transferred to the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) to study Photography in 2007. She was mentored by Henry Wessel at the SFAI, and acquired her Bachelor in Fine Arts there. In 2017, she was one of the recipients of the ICP’s Director’s Scholarship, allowing her to attend the documentary program full-time. Observing and understanding others became a form of survival that shaped how she takes pictures, whether it be photographing Baby Boomers ageing alone in NYC, or the stillness of NYC during the Covid shutdown, which received an honourable mention at The Julia Margaret Cameron Award in 2021. In 2022, Neuhaus was one of three women accepted into the Leica – VII Agency Mentorship Award. Natalia lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her wife and two dogs. Find out more about her photography on her website and Instagram channel.

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