One of my favorite phases of the book-creation process is creating a cover. It’s also one of the most difficult. It’s worse than staring at a blank canvas, because the end result can’t be anything; it has to be a very specific something. While going through this process for HALF WAY HOME, my wife stumbled upon a photograph on DeviantArt. It blew us away. It was haunting and mysterious. Gritty and primal. Young and mature. Dirty and innocent. It was a photograph of contradictory juxtapositions. The mood of the shot teetered, unbalanced, just like the plot of my story. It was perfect, so I contacted the artist to see if I could use it.
Nadia Huggins lives on the island of St. Lucia, down in the Caribbean. She is young, bright, and talented. She agreed at once to her work being used for HALF WAY HOME, and she also agreed to tell me more about herself and her photography (the cover shot in particular). Between each response, I’ve added one of her photos. So, please, take your time. Scroll slowly. And enjoy.
Me: What got you interested in photography?
Nadia: I think one of the first times I really started taking an interest in it was when one of my best friends bought this really cool waterproof point and shoot camera from canon. We used to fill it up with black and white film and just shoot whatever we found fascinating around the island. Prior to that I used to mess around with my father’s digital cameras, which he wasn’t too keen on because he thought I had a knack for “destroying things” (only because I had a track record of making the printers malfunction). My interest started to grow very quickly and I started exposing myself more and more to the art form. Digital cameras were much cheaper to use at the time and still are so i’ve stuck with them since.
Me: How long have you been doing what you would consider “serious” photography?
Nadia: For the last 4 years I started taking what I do a bit more serious. However, I have been trying really hard to preserve that love and excitement I have when I do it casually. Its so easy in this field to get caught up with the “seriousness” and drain the fun out of it. The minute I feel that happening I usually have to take a break.
Me: What kind of equipment do you use and what kind do you dream about owning?
Nadia: I have a nikon D80, also I really like to work with natural light. However, I recently bought an external flash so i’ve been experimenting with that quite a bit. I really want to start learning a lot more about lighting, I think my images will evolve in really interesting ways when I really understand how to apply it. I would love to own a hasselblad one day (hopefully sooner rather than later). I want to see a certain level of quality in my images, lately I’ve been trying to pay more attention to that.
Me: What’s the most surprisingly wonderful photo you’ve ever taken? You know, that shot that should’ve been a decent pic, but ended up blowing you away?
Nadia: I think one of my favourite images to date is passenger. It was one of those moments where I was just casually shooting, but when I was going through the images for some reason that shot jumped out at me. It wasn’t anything spectacular on its own, but I felt it had potential to become more after the post processing and I think I was successful in achieving what I wanted.
Me: Who, if any, are some of your favorite photographers?
Nadia: One of the most striking images I have seen is Oppedette by Dieter Appelt. This photograph still moves me deeply, I even tried to pay homage to it adding my own twist. I also really enjoy Steve Mccurry’s work, I just think he has an incredible eye, I am in awe with the way he works with colours and how he composes his shots. Some other photographers I really love are Holly Bynoe, Floria Sigismondi, Gregory Colbert, Storm Thorgerson and Pavel Kiselev.
Me: Do you leave the house with a mind to stage and capture great shots, or do you carry your camera with you and snag whatever presents itself?
Nadia: There are certain shoots I do where I visualize the concept beforehand and then get all the elements together and go out and shoot. A lot of times these ideas come just before I am about to go to sleep so I try to keep a journal close by to write it down. Also I try to walk with my camera everywhere, you never know what could happen. I think a lot of my work takes shape and develops its mood in the final edit of the image. I really enjoy post processing.
Me: The photo series used on the cover of Half Way Home is simply startling. What can you tell us about that shoot? About the model? About the tree and the building it’s snaking up?
Nadia: Well I shot that around 2005 in St. Vincent using one of my close friends as the model. She was away studying, but every time she came home we would go to this one particular beach which is a black sand beach (you might notice from the sand on her legs in the photograph). We were walking up the beach and I noticed this old wall with a tree growing against it. I don’t think I have seen anything as incredible texture-wise to date. I just had a good feeling about it, the natural colours and textures were just so beautiful. Her first instinct was to climb it while mine was to capture it, I think it turned out pretty well in the end. It was definitely one of the moments where before I even reviewed the images I knew they would have been powerful. It had the right combination of everything happening.
Me: Where would you like to go with your art? Do you have any ultimate dreams?
Nadia: That’s a tough question. I know right now I am just trying to enjoy what I do and hope it evolves into something greater eventually. I’ve been trying to go with the flow and see where my love for it takes me. On a commercial level though, I would really love to do work on album covers, but I’m not sure where the future of this lies.
I’d like to thank Nadia for taking the time to answer a few questions. I’d also like to thank her for sharing all her amazing photography with the world. It was almost impossible to choose just a handful of shots to sprinkle into this post, so I highly recommend you visit her Flickr account and scroll through the rest. It’s amazing to me that a young photographer could have already assembled such a diverse and powerful portfolio. If any of her shots move you, please leave a comment so she can know. Or go to DeviantArt and get a print of one of her images.