Pro photographer Natalie Dybisz got her start on Flickr. Really. Her Flickr photostream, which features self-portraiture under the guide of her alter ego Miss Aniela draws thousands of views daily, tens of thousands monthly. Natalie’s work is creative, provocative, and intriguing. An addictive blend of reality and fantasy, her work beautifully showcases her skills as an artist and storyteller.
Check out Natalie’s Blurb books Miss Aniela: Self Gazing (you can just click on the orange tab in BookShow widget above) and take a look at Miss Aniela: Multiplicity. Read on for our interview with Miss Aniela herself.
Blurb: Can you give a tiny, compressed timeline of when you jumped into photography and where you are now?
Natalie: Back in 2006, I was a student with spare time on my hands and I started making self-portraits out of boredom. My work got attention through photo sharing online and then I started to gain exposure and publicity at local and international exhibitions. When Microsoft invited me to speak at their Pro Photo Summit in 2008, I began to make contacts in the photography world and my contacts continued to grow at tradeshows like Photokina and Miss Aniela-themed events to follow. Since then I have worked as a full-time pro photographer/artist and continued making self-portraits as well as pursue commissioned work, teaching workshops, and writing books.
Blurb: When was the first moment you realized you had a hit on your hands?
Natalie: I felt excited when I got the first encouraging comments on Flickr. Inside, I felt that being an artist was something I wanted to do, but I also had little reason to believe in what could be construed as little more than cyberspace hype. Once I had exhibitions and made money from my prints, it began to feel ‘real.’ It was also great to get interest from companies like Microsoft, and have professional photographers like Drew Gardner interested in my work. It gave me the confidence to believe that I can go as far as I dare to dream.
Blurb: What advice do you have for photographers just starting out? How does social media play a role in “getting out there.”
Natalie: Publicity is important for everything. Some people moan that photographers with the best PR skills do better than those with more talent – but that’s the case with everything and every profession. It’s what you do with your skills and talent that counts, and how much you get it out there.
I would encourage other photographers to try and put most of their energy into photography to keep their passion strong, and to have something to actually talk about on their social media platforms. However, that’s easier said than done. Social media takes time and effort to upkeep, and I have found it distracts from being able to go out and shoot regularly. I am trying to set myself a day each week, or at least an afternoon, which I can devote to new work!
Blurb: How have you used your Blurb book to promote your work?
Natalie: I first became interested in publishing a book of my work when I saw the need to have a physical, printed copy of my work to be able to show people. I also saw the prospects for selling a printed book of my work to my Flickr audience online. They’d been asking about the possibilities of a book of my work for some time.
I checked out the competition and Blurb offered the best quality and value. So I went ahead and made a book of my self-portraits. Initially, I kept the book private and just ordered test books. That helped me see what each revision looked like, and edit it accordingly, removing and adding pictures, and getting advice from different people as to how I could improve it. In time, I was ready to make my Blurb book, ‘Self-gazing’, public and sell it with a mark-up. I also ordered copies that I sell at events and at my presentations where I find that people are very interested in browsing and buying the books.
Blurb: What can you achieve in your books that you can’t do online?
Natalie: People like the feel of a book. Beyond that, it’s a great way to show your professionalism, and/or showcase your skills in writing and design. Self-publishing is in many ways a wholesome addition to your practice. Even just putting together your work, deciding on what images to go opposite one another, and so on, is a way for an artist to learn more about themselves, and understand the way their work looks to the outside world, and to see it in a different context.
Blurb: We have to ask – what Photoshop tool could you not live without?
Natalie: That is a difficult question. There are several tools I use regularly, but they’re nothing really special: levels, curves, saturation, colour balance, shadow and highlight. If you’re referring to ‘tools’ though, maybe I should pick one from the actual tools palette: the crop tool, perhaps? I don’t always crop, but I like the freedom to be able to shape a picture even if I was deprived of all the other tools and functions. I find that the final composition of a photograph is always very important to me.
Blurb: Who are your favourite photographers? Do you have a favourite photograph?
Blurb: Any future Blurb books in the making?
Natalie: I would like to do more books on specific topics, such as shooting in abandoned buildings, and more ‘how to’ books that explain, for example, how to create ‘trick’ photography.
Blurb: Any bookmaking tips you’d like to share?
Natalie: Allow yourself plenty of time to get the book right. I did several revisions of ‘Self gazing’, and it looked a lot better, even just to my own eyes, over time. I would get rid of pictures that I thought were too gaudy or over-processed, as my own taste evolved!
When I made my second book ‘Multiplicity’ I made sure I planned the release date no earlier than six weeks from the time of initial planning. I wanted to make sure I had enough time after writing it, to go over it and proof it myself. I also planned enough time to order at least two separate proof copies (which will each take a week or so in delivery time) before making the book public. Also get lots of opinions on the proof when it does arrive, or at least, one opinion from a friend or partner.
With photo books, I personally recommend that, generally, only one image per page is appropriate. I was told this initially by a gallerist, who was looking at my earliest version of ‘Self gazing’, and it prompted me to stop montaging images together on certain images. This does make life easier, because then you only have to worry about how to position images on the pages opposite each other, and not which picture to put with which picture on one page itself. Besides, putting one image per page allows each image to have its own space to breathe.
A few more tips, in the copyright information on the inside front page, put the URL of your Blurb account so people know where to come and buy more copies. And when selling signed copies of your book, you will have to order the books to come to you first, so make sure you account for all the costs involved in selling a book this way, and don’t get stung by unexpected postage costs when getting the book out to international buyers.
Blurb: Is there an online interview that Blurbarians can listen to learn more about you?
Natalie: Yes, there’s a good audio interview with the Candid Frame, they can listen to here.
Blurb: Thanks, Natalie. It’s been a pleasure.