VAPOURS (Early Works) is the debut photo book from Natalie Curtis. Spanning a four year post-university period through which she honed her photographic expertise and process. The work is a candid, chronological representation of her diverse personal and professional milieu, captured within environments ostensibly conventional, yet as disconcerting as the array of personalities that the images strive to depict. From band practice rooms in Manchester to the eerie vistas of Los Angeles, via the notorious bullrings of Madrid, this is the powerful and distinctive work from an artist at the very conception of her mode.
Natalie Curtis is an emerging conceptual artist and photographer, currently known for her abstract exhibits at Galarie Arnaud in Paris and Recontre Photograhique d’Arles in Arlon Belgium. Both exhibitions include portraits of bands such as Elbow, The Charlatans, Doves and actors Sam Riley, Samantha Morton from the film Control, a rather poignant film for Natalie. If her surname rings a bell it should, she’s the daughter of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis. However word to the wise, don’t ask about him.
Instead, Natalie talks to Hunger TV about her own work, from creating abstract art to sending Chloe Sevigny a Valentines card .
WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN UP TO RECENTLY?
I haven’t been away since the end of last year, but there’s quite a lot going on in Manchester to do with music which I’m involved in. I’m currently listening to a band called Naked On Drugs they’re my favourite, and I am actually doing something with them next month. I also recently did an interesting shoot with SWAY Records, it was for a Valentine’s Day card that they sent out to supporters of the label – it involved naked guys wearing only knitwear and brandishing my horse riding whip and a Samurai sword.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA?
SWAY had taken some naked photos previously and they tweeted the pictures to me to ask what I thought. So we had a meeting and I thought, fuck it, let’s do a shoot in my flat. I came up with the ideas as we went along, it was all very spontaneous.
DO YOU PLAN YOUR IDEAS IN ADVANCE?
It’s quite often a spur of the moment thing and in this case I was just using the space we had. All they knew was that they wanted to do something where they were naked and the Samurai sword was involved. I started to think it could be used as an interesting Valentine’s Day card so that’s why it was used for that concept. I didn’t want the images to have a comedy effect but to be more serious, it was interesting seeing who we heard back from and who we didn’t.
WHAT WAS THE REACTION TO IT?
People seemed to like it, but then there’re the people we didn’t hear from, so I don’t know what their view was! Inside the card stated ‘Manchester Is Paradise’. We sent one to the actress Chloe Sevigny because she had a really terrible time in Manchester, there were people in Manchester that didn’t like that she had done all these interviews saying how shit it was. Generally we sent cards to people who had bad Manchester experiences just to let them know that it is in fact good again really!
WHO HAVE BEEN SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE MUSICIANS TO PHOTOGRAPH LATELY?
Myself and a character called Atrocity Boy who writes a blog – he writes reviews of gigs and I take the photos – have been working together quite closely recently shooting the local Manchester scene. There is a bigger project that we’re working on, the whole concept is that the reviews we do are out of the ordinary, so I made the conscious decision not to do live shots but instead taking photographs inside within a small space. They’re not regular reviews and so I have a lot a freedom and don’t necessarily have to take shots of the bands performing, in fact last time I consciously decided not to. The collaboration has developed into a bigger project that we’re currently working on, and we’ll announce more details soon.
WHY DON’T YOU WANT TO DO LIVE SHOTS?
A lot of the time I find it quite boring unless it’s a special set of circumstances. I don’t like doing shots for the sake of doing gig shots.
YOU EXHIBITED YOUR CONCEPTUAL WORK AT GALERIE ARNAUD IN PARIS AND ALSO RECONTRE PHOTOGRAPHIQUE D’ARLES IN ARLON BELGIUM- HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?
Paris was organised by a friend, film producer Michael H Shamberg, he connected lots of people together and so we put on the exhibition for a charity that Michael had set up. And with the Arlon exhibition, the organisers contacted me and I loved my initial ideas. In terms of the pieces I contributed it was all photos performers, but they were in situations the public normally wouldn’t see them in, people in their private spaces. I had pictures of the band Elbow with armchairs on their heads.
DO YOU THINK OF IDEAS FIRST AND THEN DECIDE ON THE MEDIUM OR DO YOU PICK UP THE CAMERA AND LOOK FOR A SUBJECT?
That’s a good question, a bit of both really, I mean sometimes something just happens and it needs photographing while other times I have an idea of something that I want and go about making it happen.
HOW MUCH ARE YOU INFLUENCED BY THE EXTERNAL?
My work is about my environment and what is going on with me so there’s no point thinking about other places because when things are great elsewhere it can be easier to think ‘Oh I should be here or there’, but I don’t think it’s good to get in that mind set when what’s important is around you. I’ve got friends all over the place in other countries, so I am connected to other places, in terms of what generally is going on in the world. I’m not looking at issues head on, but then again I don’t think you can make work that isn’t influenced by what is going on in the world in some way.
WHAT QUESTION ANNOYS YOU THE MOST?
When people ask me family questions.
TELL US WHAT YOU’RE WORKING ON THIS YEAR?
My website is my next big project, and i feel like I’m going through a transition this year, it’s the first time I’ve really been sure of what I want.
© Hunger TV
If you’ve caught the Metrolink from Piccadilly Station recently you may have seen some striking photographs lighting up the underground stop.
They are the work of Manchester photographer Natalie Curtis, who is not only famed for her striking photos but as the daughter of legendary Joy Division singer Ian Curtis.
Natalie wants to bring ‘a remembered dream of summer’ to the autumn commute to cement her status as queen of the underground.
Sways Stills, a collection of black and white photographs documenting a night in the life of Salford-based Sways Records, are the current exhibits in the light boxes studding the backdrop of the Metro station. Natalie took the photos while staying in a Chorlton flat with friends from the independent record label.
In an interview with MM, Natalie said: “Because the light boxes are in a public place, and in particular somewhere that visitors to Manchester might see, it was important to me that I produced photos that relate to Greater Manchester.
“My starting point was to choose a subject that would give a sense of something that’s happening here.
“I didn’t want the images to be a literal take on events, as I’m interested in fictional versions of reality. Although I’ve worked a lot in colour recently, I went with black and white because, as well as thinking it would be more suited to the installation space, I wanted to create something more dream-like; a remembered dream of summer.”
The Sways Stills exhibition came about when Natalie was approached by creative events agency The Hamilton Project, who manage the light boxes on behalf of Transport for Greater Manchester.
“They’d seen my work and thought it was a good fit,” said Natalie.
She has a close relationship with Sways Records after working with Macclesfield rock band Marion during their brief reunion in 2011 and 2012.
“There was an album launch and exhibition at Kraak, and Sways were in attendance. They recruited me Mormon style and did in fact save me as prior to that I was seriously considering leaving Manchester.”
Despite these previous thoughts of leaving the city, Natalie remains inspired by Manchester and its inhabitants.
“It’s a place that can be whatever you want it to be. It’s open and closed,” she said.
While discussing her style Natalie reflects on the role of photographers. “On the one hand I like to document, yet at the same time I don’t aim to provide a strict representation.
“I like to leave room for the viewer to imagine what may or may not have happened. But that’s the nature of photography generally – it’s a version of the truth.”
She shoots in film, and her camera of choice is a Nikon F100. By scanning the negatives and doing the darkroom stage on a computer, she blends old and new technology.
The 34-year-old photographer has been snapping since she was a kid. “I always took photos for fun growing up,” she told MM.
However it was her enrolment on an Art Foundation course at Macclesfield College that she really embraced the photographic medium, and subsequently studied at Manchester Metropolitan University’s School of Art for a BA in photography.
In 2009 Natalie was shortlisted at the Best of Manchester Awards for her intimate photos of bands such as Doves, the Paris Riots and Silversun Pickups, which were displayed at Urbis.
© Judith Hawkins
What happens when one British citizen, decides to give a direct response to the ongoing culture of fear perpetuating throughout our times? M.K is a London born and raised arts curator, photographer and writer (The Hollywood Reporter/Rankin’s Hunger tv/Film 3Sixty: The Times),born to a Pakistani ceramic artist mother, she is doing exactly that – by bringing together the established & emerging artists & documenters of our time from the U.K/U.S/Italy/Israel – Palestine and Pakistan, to discuss not why we should be fearful but why we must all be fearless and united – – – As time evolves and as the layers of history have shown, each era has created its own evolution’s and memories.
However the idea of ‘Fear’ is not just exclusive to the field of socio-political areas, nor as the eligere condition, it is something that each person feels within their own context and nuanced life, no matter where they live – and so I ask our leading cultural figures and emerging artists and documenters to pause and reflect, on their own lives, and if we are able to reach an old age, how will we want to recall our lives and memories and therefore, what exactly does it mean to be fearless?
Natalie Curtis is an emerging conceptual artist and photographer, currently known for her abstract exhibits at Galarie Arnaud in Paris and Recontre Photograhique d’Arles in Arlon Belgium. Both exhibitions include portraits of bands such as Elbow, The Charlatans, Doves and actors Sam Riley, Samantha Morton from the film Control, a rather poignant film for Natalie. If her surname rings a bell it should, she’s the daughter of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis.
What are the things that you believe you should be fearless and unapologetic about as an artist of our times?
Natalie Curtis: I think I should not be scared of the kind of work I want to do, it’s difficult because someone is paying you and so you want to fulfill briefs, so it’s finding a way to be yourself and also do the job. The other thing is, recently I’ve been working with people who have given me a lot of freedom, I think that has progressed my work because I’ve been given the freedom to do whatever I want to do, it has changed everything. So now I think I need to be brave enough to keep on doing things my way, maybe it’s arrogance to think like that, but to hopefully keep meeting like-minded people who like what I do. It’s so much more fulfilling being given the freedom to do what I want, it’s still within parameters, it doesn’t feel like a job it feels like doing proper work.
If the aim is to alter or make a difference to people’s thinking about the world or a specific subject, what have you learned so far?
NC: That you have to be honest, having freedom of when to produce work makes it easier to be honest. I never set out to change what people think but if you want people to look at the work and get something from it; I look at the work that means something to me and has changed how I think or has inspired me or has taught me about something, it’s work that was made honestly. The need to earn money can be a trap because you’re trying to earn to buy food and stay warm, but it’s finding the balance but now I have the belief that you can do it your way and still survive.
How do you describe the life you are living now?
NC: Really great actually, better than ever. The quality of my life is really good right now, I’m enjoying living in Manchester, there’re people from where I grew up that probably say ‘She can’t drive, she doesn’t drink’ but when I have money I spend it on horse riding, I don’t drink but I lead quite a sociable life. I’m happy with how things are, the fact that one day I could be having a horse riding lesson. So in the last few weeks I’ve assisted on a friends music video shoot, working with people that I’ve worked with before, it’s the brilliant side of the music world, working very hard through the night and the next morning I came home at 7.30 am and the elderly people that saw me, it was like I was doing the walk of shame, walking home at 7.30 am wearing last nights clothes.
What is the current memory you will always want to remember?
NC: I suppose the things that I don’t photograph, it was really great making the visits to Parliament, I tend to forget things once I’ve photographed them, sometimes it’s healthy to not take photographs. It felt like a really good thing to have seen so much of and not photographed it. To just watch something and take it all in, I think it will make my work better, it’ll inform my work in a different way, standing at the dispatch box pretending to be Prime Minister.
Natalie Curtis, nasce il 16 aprile 1979 a Manchester, da papà Ian e mamma Deborah. Come per il figlio di Marc Bolan, fino a poco tempo fa, poco o nulla si sapeva della graziosa Natalie. Dopo il passaggio alle scuole di Macclesfield – la Henbury High School ed il Macclesfield College – la figlia dell’indimenticato frontman dei Joy Division si laurea alla Manchester School Art & Design (Metropolitan University) nell’indirizzo fotografico.
The daughter of Ian Curtis, the Joy Division singer who committed suicide 35 years ago, has revealed how images and record sleeves of her father inspired her to become a photographer.
Natalie Curtis was just a one-year-old baby when her father hanged himself at home in Macclesfield. Being so young, she has no direct memories of him.
But she became fascinated with photographs of her dad as she grew older. Images published in 1980s’ weekly music papers, Joy Division record sleeves and other items from the era fired her interest in music, art and design.
Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis took his own life in 1980. He grew up in Macclesfield, attended King’s School and was married in the town, before joining Joy Division.
He was hugely admired by Tony Wilson, the Factory Records boss and Granada TV presenter, who became Joy Division’s number-one champion. The band released two critically acclaimed LPs and four singles, and were on the cusp of major success.
But Ian Curtis suffered from depression and epilepsy, and killed himself just before his 24th birthday and Joy Division’s American tour. His funeral was at Macclesfield Crematorium, where a memorial stone was laid.
Joy Division later reformed as New Order and had massive success. But Ian Curtis remains a key figure in rock music history.
Natalie Curtis grew up with her mother, Deborah, and started taking photographs aged four with her grandma’s camera. But she gradually became intrigued with widely-publicised photographs of her dad.
Now 36, she recalls: “Photographs of Joy Division probably had more effect on me than anything else, especially those by Kevin Cummins and Anton Corbijn.
“Kevin’s pictures were really beautiful. He took some early shots of Joy Division rehearsing. And Anton Corbijn photographed them in a tube station around the same time. Quite a few people photographed Joy Division, but these photographs really stick in my memory.”
Kevin Cummins’ work regularly appeared in NME during the 1970s and Eighties, while Anton Corbijn’s other work included early record sleeves for U2.
Natalie added: “Joy Division sleeves were really cool. One of the best things about Factory Records was its aesthetic design.”
After Henbury High School, she studied at Macclesfield College and in Manchester, and is now developing her photographic career.
A private, modest person, she does not exploit her connection to Ian Curtis. She says she is simply known as ‘Nat the photographer’ to many people.
But she added: “Macclesfield people are more aware that I’m Ian Curtis’s daughter. I was born in Macclesfield and lived there all my life. I grew up with all the publicity surrounding my dad and didn’t really know anything different. That had its ups-and-downs, but I suppose I’ve become used to it.”
“I’m really proud of Joy Division’s music. I think it’s great stuff. And it’s lovely that people are still listening to it. I like lots of Joy Division records myself, especially Closer.”
“I also like dance stuff and country music, like Johnny Cash. But I’m not musical. I tried playing piano as a kid but didn’t make grade-one. I’m really bad,” she quipped.
Natalie currently lives in Manchester but retains strong Macclesfield links, through close friends and photographic projects.
“I love Macclesfield buildings and streets, and the green hills above it.
“I also love places like the 108 steps between the town hall and the railway station.
© Macclesfield Express