Friday, July 26, 2019

Art Saturna Artist Interview: Nettie Adams

Nettie Adams is a photographer who lives and works (mostly) on Saturna Island. I met her at her lovely forest home on East Point Road on a sunny, summer afternoon where we talked about her passions, art, Saturna, bamboo and hardy cacti…

Tell me a little about yourself and your art.
As a photographer, I rarely set out to shoot a specific image. Photographs just happen. They are fragments of timelessness captured in time. I know this to be true because of the way I feel. Excitement, complete fascination, a sense of connection, even rapture at times. Something in my visual world just speaksto me and I am hooked. This “timelessness” is a miracle to me. I am so human, so bound by norms, expectations and judgments that to be caught in a moment, of creative exhilaration, is pure joy.

How did you come to live on Saturna?
I first came to Saturna in 1985 to attend a friend’s wedding. I was busy with the wedding and taking photographs and didnt see much of the island. Five years later, when Charles and I were looking for somewhere in the Southern Gulf Islands to get married, I remembered Saturna.  We were married in St. Christophers Church in 1990. We were living and working in Vancouver, so we went back home afterwards, smitten by Saturna, hoping to one day be able to buy property there. In 1996 an opportunity arose to buy property and then we camped for another 20 years until we bought this house. We are regular part-timers; we spend about two-thirds of our time here. 

How did you become a photographer?
I have always been a photographer. I think I had a Brownie camera when I was five years old and took pictures of my pet bunny. I have a degree from UBC in Fine Arts with a specialty in photography. I was fortunate enough to be taught and mentored by the now world-famous photographer, Fred Herzog. He was actually a Biomedical professor at UBC and, at that time, there was no one to teach photography in the Fine Arts Department, so they hired Fred to do that. It was a very special opportunity. A group of us tripped around with Fred in the mid 70s. Fred taught me that if you get one or two good shots out of a roll of 36 (back in the days of film) you were doing awesome. Of course, every shot that he took was amazing. He also helped me to develop an eye to look for things that other people didnt see. When I finished my degree I didnt show any of my work for thirty years. Ive always had a camera and I continued to take family photos but any other photos that I took, I just kept to myself. I also worked for Lens and Shutter for many years and saw a lot of other peoples photos (laughs).

How did you start showing your work again?
Jean-Francois Renaud was curating the art exhibitions at the Saturna Café and he said, I can offer you a show. Saturna had rekindled my interest in artistic photography and so I said ‘yes.’ There was a lot of nervousness and trepidation, but I agreed. Theres nothing like a show to motivate you (laughs). That first show was in 2012 and was called Sagaciousand Ive had several other shows since. I once covered the inside of the Café with panoramic shots of tree bark that totaled 21 feet in length. It was called “Enfoldment.”

Ethereal Egg
What inspires you?
Saturna inspires me. It has been a very photographic summer. I often photograph community events and I did the Lamb Barbecue, again this year. This time I focused on all the work bees and volunteers. It was amazing. It’s important, to me, to document that event because the record says so much about community. There are so many people, who do so much, that it is almost impossible to describe to someone who hasnt seen it. In many ways, Im like a voyeur when Im behind my camera but when I photographed the BBQ this year, I got to see how I fit into the community. That was an important moment for me.

How do you fit into the community?
I saw that everything that people do is important building the tables, making the rice, cleaning the site and I saw that what I do is important too. By taking photos I help others to see the community. I am a connector and making connections through my photographs builds and unites the community.  I help to broaden the view; to provide a window to each other and to life. 

Tell me about a piece of work that you are really happy with and why?
(Nettie took me inside her house to see two photographs that she has mounted and framed on her wall. Both photos portray intimate moments of young people in Thailand.  One is titled Boysand the other Painted.  As she shows them to me and speaks about them she has tears in her eyes).  Sometimes it is a privilege to take a photo.  There is a moment when I see something and I am smitten.  Its the movement of the light and I lose all sense of time and space; time stops and I am in awe.  I live in that moment.  Photography is a means to capture the magical wonder in nature and the world. 

What projects are you working on or looking forward to?
This weekend I have a show opening at the Café called 3 x 3 In Plain View.’  Two others photographers, Maureen Welton and Nancy Angermeyer and I are showing together.  I feel honoured to be sharing the space with these two women. The show will be up during the Art Saturna Tour on the BC Day weekend, August 3rd and 4th when other artists on the island also have their studios open. Im also very excited about an event Ill be having at the Sunset Talks at East Point on August 30th. Its called Night de Lightand my images will be projected large-scale onto the side of the Fog Alarm Building.  Having my images presented in such a grand scale is something Ive dreamed of for a long time.  Bring a blanket and come see!

You can see more of Nettie’s work at:

-By Monica Morten

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