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  • by Judy Cole

Natasha V: A story in every object

What goes on inside a camera, and why does it have to be hidden from sunlight? These two questions motivated award-winning photographer Natasha V to begin exploring photography.

Only when her experiments led to the destruction of several rolls of black and white film did Natasha begin to think of what was going on in front of the lens. She very much admired the photography of Diane Arbus and Irving Penn, so her first forays into photography were oriented toward portraits and photojournalism. At an early point in her career, she developed a series of photographs of well-worn shoes belonging to her family and neighbours. Each pair revealed so intimately the person who wore the shoes that she then realized the storytelling potential of still life photography.

While she was studying Roman literature at a university in Sarajevo, Natasha completed a course in black and white photography with one of the best photojournalists in Bosnia. The course made her reflect on what she wanted from life, and when she moved to Canada in 1994, she entered and subsequently graduated from the photography program at Algonquin College in Ottawa. For Natasha, the primary criterion for choosing a project, either commercial or personal, is the team of people involved. With the assistance of a great passionate team, Natasha can make any ordinary project into an extraordinary art piece. Natasha has an extensive list of clients: Hudson’s Bay Company, TD Bank, Joe Fresh, Holt Renfrew, Murale, Bayview Village, Fashion, enRoute, Red UK, and InStyle.

The majority of Natasha’s clients hire her because of her style and the quality of her work; they trust her to be involved in the creative process of the shoots. At the end of the day, it is important that everybody feels positive about the photograph that has been produced.

After getting an assignment, Natasha spends time analyzing the technical and visual elements she might need and deciding on her approach to lighting and composition. Visualizing shoots is an important part of her preparation process, so that once she’s on set, she can start immediately. She acknowledges that she can plan up to a point, but so much can change at the shoot. Therefore, flexibility and quick thinking are crucial to the process.

Some projects require extensive preparations, and Natasha will test the lighting or technical approach beforehand. However, creative projects are less planned. Natasha states, “There is an inspiration, an idea, and once I’m on set, things move and progress into a full story.” Natasha always starts with a vision of the photograph. She likens this mental picture to an internal mood board. She knows which light and angles she wants, and the feel of the shot. It’s a loose guideline, the framework of the idea. Then, when the team is on set, they all work together on perfecting the shot. As the photographer, Natasha has to know what the final image will look like and how to guide the shoot in that direction. Her process requires having a strong pre-conceived idea and an open mind that allows changes to happen on set.

According to Natasha, there are no rules for creating a beautiful image. Composition must be instinctive even as one focuses on its various components. Colour is the introduction that sets the mood for the image and the story, either in a full blast or in subtle ways. Light has to be precise and occupies most of Natasha’s attention when she creates an image. Although light is important, it must also disappear from the image and never be perceived as the most significant element. When the light is clean, but not perfect, a still life image feels alive and credible.

With more experience, Natasha finds that she tries less to shock with her images. Her style is evolving, and is now more sophisticated and maturely unique.

If someone viewing one of her images has been moved to stop, look and think, then Natasha knows that she has succeeded in creating something special. Her work is about creating a meaningful and visually different story every time, not about mimicking current trends. For her, a truthful approach gets people’s attention.

Some artists, new and experienced, have difficulty marketing themselves. Natasha admits that she is no exception. Although she may still feel self-conscious when showing her work, she really believes in what she is doing, which gives her the confidence to show her work and pursue her goals. Natasha partnered with her current agent when she was just starting out on her own. At that time, her different approach to still life photography, her attitude, and her passion got the agent’s attention. Besides having an agent, Natasha markets herself by using social media and other types of online promotions, and by maintaining a large network of personal contacts.

Natasha’s approaches and images are not static. Natasha loves a good challenge and often steps outside the type of work that she is expected to produce. Fortunately, still life photography encompasses a broad spectrum of possibilities. There is no limit to the types of objects to photograph, so Natasha continually feels refreshed and engaged. Early questions that Natasha had about what makes a camera work have evolved into questions that guide any good storyteller. Natasha now asks, “Why am I telling this story?” and “Where does the story take place?”

See more of Natasha's work at:

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