Artist Nadia Ettwein is one of the five winners of the CAP Prize for Contemporary African Photography 2023. She chats to use about photography as art, the importance of a mentor and her X-T3 called “Bittereinder”.
Why did you choose photography for your art?
Primarily because I believe I am bad in other art forms, and I have found photography is the most liberating outlet for me. It allows me to capture something in its natural state and place and then displace it in relation to myself and how I envision the world.
Photography also helps me build a narrative to a bigger story, because that’s what photography is all about, the visual storytelling.
You were one of five winners of the international prize for Contemporary African Photography in 2023. Can you tell us more about your submission?
I presented a personal project titled HOND, centred around the theme of generational trauma and its human consequence in society. The metaphor of HOND (Afrikaans for dog) conveys the sense of being discarded like a dog. It reflects on the shortcomings within the political and social ideology in which I was brought up.
Art can be photography, but is all photography art? Where do you draw the distinction?
Most people these days can take very decent images of the use of camera phones or whatever, but that doesn’t make it art. Art has meaning and intention, it is not just a happy snap that records a moment, it says something.
Do you have advice for photographers looking to go down the fine art route?
I’ve found an incredible mentor. Previously, I focused solely on creating aesthetically pleasing images lacking a clear purpose or vision. Michelle Loukidis has been both my mentor and friend for a while now, providing guidance, support, and tough love. The mentoring relationship has played a crucial role in my artistic journey, pushing me to evolve and grow as an artist.
Which Fujifilm camera do you use and what’s your favourite lens?
I mostly use the Fujifilm X-T3 (called Bittereinder) with the 18-55mm kit lens and sometimes with a 35mm lens. I shoot in black and white and love to experiment with pinholes (shooting without a lens) on this setup as well extension tubes and lens filters. I also enjoy film photography.
What’s on your photography bucket list?
It is simple, to just keep working in the way that I do; continue making images that reflect who I am and what I want to say, enjoying the process and what may come of it.
The project I’m currently working on is based in the Northern Cape, for now, I’m calling it “My dad lives on the moon”. So, I will be road tripping a lot with my camera, which I’m excited about.