Published on: April 19, 2014
We continue the Designer Island Instagram Profile Series - conversations with Caribbean artists who use Instagram to show their lives, travels and to make a statement about the Caribbean as they see it. Today we profile Nadia Huggins, a photographer and graphic designer from St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Nadia is the co-founder and Creative Director of ARC Magazine and Graphic Designer of Spark Creative. Nadia specializes in documentary and conceptual photography and her instagram feed is some times dreamy, sometimes gritty but always uniquely Caribbean. We talked to her about her use of Instagram, what attracts her to the subjects she shoots, her sources of inspiration and her thoughts on the Caribbean Aesthetic.
DI: One of the things we love about your Instagram feed is the way it reflects the various landscapes of the Caribbean. Tell us about your travels and how your work has allowed you to see so much of the region.
NH: I had the opportunity to move around the region quite a bit in the last three years because of the type of work I’ve been doing with ARC Magazine. It’s the kind of work that requires you be in a space, it’s been enriching to me in so many ways. I’ve been trying to connect dots and find culturally unique things wherever I’ve gone. I really love the Caribbean; everywhere I go has felt like home. That feeling alone makes me realize the significance and power of the type of space we live in. Having the opportunity to see more of it has helped me appreciate and open my mind so much more. I feel more emotionally invested in it now than I did 3 years ago, I just want to be able to soak up as much of it as I can and share it with people. It’s important to visually document our space the way we understand and feel it daily. I believe we all have to act as ambassadors in our own way and represent the region in the truest sense, nobody else can do that for us. I’ve been trying my best to do that with photography.
DI: How does your photography impact your work and aesthetic as a designer? Are you a designer first then a photographer or vice versa?
NH: They both absolutely go hand in hand. I feel like I’m a photographer by nature and a designer by nurture. With photography the basis on which I function is, what is the most important moment happening before me? And how can I remove as much of the clutter around that moment to represent it effectively?
I think my experience and training as a designer has allowed me to shape the way I compose images and finding that formula in moment to be able to construct it into something striking. With design you learn how to package the core of an idea and effectively communicate it. Having that foundation has allowed me to treat photography with a similar thought process. Every moment encountered is a naturally occurring design.
DI: What draws you to Instagram as a place to create and display photos? Do you take them with your phone or with your camera and upload them to Instagram?
NH: The thing I love most about instagram is the simplicity of the interface. There are no hidden agendas or expectations unlike other social media networks. I love sharing my life through images and I love to see other people share theirs. You choose a direction and you just go with it. It allows you to create a focus and see a structure and story playing out in the grid. I’ve been trying to limit my instagram feed to strictly images shot with my phone. I want to create that separation within my photography. I’ve been trying to create a large pool of images by working with various photographic mediums lately. I think regardless of what type of camera I am working with it’s important to document my experience. The instagram feed allows me to explore my process and a lot of themes and ideas I would eventually like to develop into a more specific project.
DI: Do you have any favourite go to photo retouching apps?
NH: It depends on the type of image I’m shooting and the atmosphere I’m trying to create. I move between VSCOcam and Snapseed mostly, but I’ve also experimented a bit with Alt Photo, MultiExpo and HarrisCamera. I’m always looking for new apps to toy around with. The editing process is quite organic at the end of the day. A lot of times I actually just use the instagram filters. Sometimes I just want the image to feel more familiar to everyone so I edit less and sometimes I want to take the viewer through a dreamscape.
DI: You’re one of the featured artists in See Me Here, a survery of artists’ self-portraits. We can’t help but think of an Instagram feed as a kind of extended self-portrait. Tell us about your work on that project and your thoughts about Instagram as visual self-curation?
NH: For sure. I mean the unique thing about instagram is that it’s a very subjective experience of everyone’s lives. If my phone were a house then instagram would be a window. It is really is a curated journey through my life and daily experiences. And this interaction changes shape slowly, there are so many outside factors that come into play. There are trends to consider and what people are generally interested in. What am I feeling in any given moment and how I can express what’s happening in front of me or by turning the camera on myself.
With regards to the See Me Here book, a lot of the work being featured is a bit older, but the intention remains the same, which is, what do I feel and how do I show the viewer that? The work that’s being featured has some performative elements to it and the manipulations are more brooding, which I don’t think exists as strongly in my more recent work.
The main limitation I’ve had with my phone in terms of doing self portrait work is how much of my body can I get in? Using your entire body is a completely different type of self-expression as opposed to portions of yourself and your face. Automatically as an artist, regardless of what you’re trying to do, if you’re using a phone and posting on instagram, it becomes a selfie and less of a self portrait. It’s been limiting in that sense because it’s made it feel less serious even though that isn’t my intention, but that’s just the way the invasion of ideas works worldwide.
DI: What has been your most unexpected source of inspiration?
NH: The sea. I know it sounds really trite, but within the last year I’ve been finding it to be a really powerful source for ideas and healing. Both have always gone hand in hand with my work. I’ve always been really interested in exploring the everydayness and the idea of what is familiar to us all. And the sea is a great place to draw inspiration from because it holds a lot of history and familiarity to all of us, not just the Caribbean, but the world. It represents a universality, the heart of our humanity really – travel, loss, exploration, desire, distance, closeness, possibility…
DI: When you were a kid what did you dream about becoming?
NH: A rock star, an architect, a footballer, a surfer, an astronaut, Peter Pan and the first person to discover an island of dinosaurs.
DI: What does the term 'Caribbean Aesthetic' mean to you?
NH: The use and re-purposing of culturally unique elements from the region to represent ideas visually.
Thank you for sharing your Instagram and inspiration with us Nadia.
Editor: Ayanna Gillian Lloyd
Writer & Editor based in Trinidad and Tobago.
Interviewees: Tanya Marie & Ayanna