Circa no future
Listen to Nadia Huggin’s Artist’s Statement:
An interview with Nadia Huggins
This work developed over the course of weeks, months, years?
I started developing the idea behind the series from December 2013 and spent a year from January 2014 photographing the boys. I suppose creating an emotional consciousness and sensitivity to the experience also comes into consideration to a certain extent. In this case from my own adolescent experience. I think two things come into play with photography, the awareness of the moment and the act of photographing it. The awareness is the most difficult aspect because it is something you have no control over until you are ready to see what’s in front of you.
What started you on the journey of “Circa no future?”
Ultimately, a desire to reconnect with my past experience as a teenager growing up on a small island. I also felt a strong need to document an authentic caribbean experience from the inside and shed positive light for a change on the black caribbean male. When I moved back to St Vincent in 2013, I noticed a lot of boys and men all over the island hanging out in the streets and not working/going to school. I was affected by how the role of the caribbean male was shifting in our society and wanted to confront some of these issues visually without perpetuating the negative stereotypes of the black Caribbean male. I also felt as though it was important to redefine the image of the type of bodies that we see occupying the waters in the Caribbean. Oddly enough, a lot of the imagery that involves Caribbean beaches and underwater interactions are mostly from a tourists gaze, it doesn’t really show the reality of the islands. It is unfamiliar in photography to see Caribbean persons in their own waters and when it does happen we are exoticized. I think it’s important to own our space through images to help define ourselves clearer.
I assume this is not merely a place you’ve stumbled upon and decided to photograph, but from meeting you, I assume this is a deeply rooted way a life that started at somewhat an early age. I don’t think we can achieve this level of intimacy and confidence overnight. So I wonder, when was the first time you began to realize this landscape, this place you take us to, would give so much back to you and your talents?
It’s definitely not an unfamiliar place, my childhood home is a 5 minute walk away from Indian Bay, which is the beach all of these images are taken on. I spent a lot of time swimming, learning to play soccer, jumping off of rocks and getting into all sorts of trouble. I feel a deep connection to the landscape because of what it represents to me. It’s more than home, it feels like a living breathing space within me that has taught me so much about myself and the world I occupy. The wonderful thing about the beach is regardless of race, class, sexuality and all these constructs that divide us, somehow when we enter the sea there is a way in which we become equal and engage with each other. When I moved back in 2013 I started swimming by myself everyday and decided the experience felt too rich to not share. I bought a very basic point and shoot camera and started documenting the experience when I was in the water and realized it was resonating with people more than I thought.
How important is the process of allowing ourselves to be immersed by a medium such as the sea? What moves you most when you’re photographing this kind of, letting oneself acclimate to a new medium?
I’ve found this immersion to be really crucial within the last few years to my own practice. It’s allowed me a new way to explore my own identity and to gain a deeper understanding of my own humanity. It’s been challenging adjusting physically to maneuver in a new space with a camera. I have also been pushing myself to think beyond what I understand of the ocean and redefine myself in this new environment, but I suppose with anything you undertake over a period of time you always come up against these obstacles. The water is familiar, but alien and new in so many ways. Even if I swim over the same reef every day, something always changes because of the inconsistencies of the sea. I just try to allow myself to remain open every day to what it offers. What moves me most it usually hugely dependent on the type of light I’m interacting with at that moment and also the movement of things around me. It’s hard to define one thing because the entire experience is so dynamic and whole.
Of the photographs here, are there any you remember making more than othes? What was that like?
The experiences of all the images are so varied. From Circa no future, the images with the boys – there is one boy I photographed (the close up image of the boy’s chest swimming). There were 3 of us trying to swim from one island to the next and this particular boy was completely terrified of the distance between the two islands. He was panicking a lot and trying to swim really fast, but wasn’t really getting anywhere. It really struck me because sometimes we take for granted how difficult and terrifying some experiences are for others. I felt really sorry for him, but his friend was really supportive and helped him out of the water once they got to the other end. It just showed to me another layer of tenderness and vulnerability that existed between these boys.
The other image, was Quicsilver, the boat. I had been documenting this boat above water everyday for a year because it was always anchored close to shore. I moved to Trinidad in September 2014 and went back home to St Vincent for a break sometime during that year. I went for a swim with my camera as usual and didn’t see the boat anywhere, but as I was swimming over the general area it was usually anchored, I looked down below me and the boat was at the bottom of the sea. I felt really sad when I saw this. It’s the first time I think I have ever developed an emotional attachment to photographing an object. I suppose it’s what happens when you become invested in ideas over an extended period of time.
The colors and their tones, their wear, especially the boats and ships, look so “alive.” Not alive like, “oh these colors are bright” but more so, A life lived, and brilliantly, with all of life’s wears and paint pealing and fading. When did you notice this was as valuable as it is?
These colours and worn out looks I think are a part of the Caribbean naturally. Especially growing up on a small island, it becomes a part of the visual language of the space. Most of the men that own these boats earn their living through fishing and sometimes taking the odd tourist snorkeling. They are very modest and hardworking people, so they never seem to interested in the “state” of their boats, once their engine works! Sometimes during Christmas, you may find a couple of boats being repainted because they would have gotten a little extra money to invest in some paint, even then the layers of paint accumulate over time on the boats. I think it’s very telling of the lives people live.
Whose work do you feel “Circa no future” is in conversation with or which artists have influenced this volume of your work?
It’s a little difficult to say I consume so much images on a day to day basis so I’m not entirely sure which influences I may have picked up on along the way. I did stumble across several photographs of Bajau sea gypsies. I found those photos really striking because it was such a beautiful documentation of underwater culture.
In some of the underwater photographs, the bodies look calm and at peace and in others the bodies look stressed. What would you say contributes to this range?
It’s really a difference of timing for each. The images where the boys are at peace is the moment they break through the water after the jump. The images where they are stressed they are either trying to resurface quickly for air or swimming to get somewhere.