Real name Natalie Aniela Dybisz, she originally hails from Leeds in the North of England but her parents have Polish heritage, and these East European roots are reflected in her artist name today.
The ‘Miss Aniela’ designation first materialised as a username when she signed up to create her Flickr account before she had even taken many pictures. She started out without any grand plans at the age of 19. “It was definitely the way in which people reacted to my work online, on Flickr, that convinced me I could make something of it…. as a livelihood,” she states modestly. The reaction she alludes to could be described to as more of a global phenomenon as her Flickr page got over a million hits in the first six months year alone.
Natalie Dybisz has used a wide range of cameras during her career from a compact to a DSLR. However, recently she made the move up to a Phase One solution that she admits got her really excited. “The 645DF with the P40+ digital back produces images of unbelievable quality, with resulting shots that can be cropped in close and still retain poster-sized resolution”.
The Surreal World
She quickly began to analyse and to understand how to capture the Flickr community’s attention with her distinctive, surreal, self-portrait imagery, which she has refined as her style has developed. She uses bold and arresting colours that she exaggerates in post-production. She acknowledges that the route that she has taken into photography, by displaying images on the Internet, means that her pictures are initially seen at a thumbnail or postcard size at their biggest. This means that there has to be something arresting about the image for people to want to click on it, to comment and want to see more of her work.
Her final images are often constructed from a number of composite shots to create scenes where she appears to be hanging, floating or falling. But these images, which she refers to as her ‘Tricks’ series are more than aesthetically pleasing images, as they refer to much darker themes of anxiety and depression flowing from the artist’s own experience during the time when she first started taking pictures of herself. Like all successful, innovative artists she continues to find inspiration for her art in her personal life - images such as, ‘An Exercise in Emotional Detachment,’ that refers to how she felt when she first moved to London on her own and the aptly named, ‘I Don’t Feel so Safe Anymore,’ was created after she had been burgled. A particularly poignant image titled ‘For Tatus’ was inspired by the memory of Natalie’s father, who died when she was four years old and was made to commemorate his birthday.
But the reaction to Miss Aniela’s self-portraiture isn’t always universally celebrated. Her nude work, in particular, has certainly provoked controversy, with accusations that some images are demeaning to women. Her measured response is to simply say, “One person might see something controversial in my work and another just sees something visually interesting and sensual in a positive way”. She recognises the fact that by putting her images on the Internet into a forum like Flickr, people will make their own interpretations and present her with their comments. However, she acknowledges that any debate has certainly helped her get noticed and refutes any suggestions of exploitation by stating, “Whether or not I succeed, I like the idea of subverting the male gaze, having a picture where I’m pulling the strings… and doing something dynamic with the female form”.
The Real World
It is now over four years since the online world was introduced to Miss Aniela’s Flickr photo stream but it is only in the last two years that this gifted 24-year-old artist has been working professionally. She continues to pursue her personal projects and makes a living by selling limited edition prints and self-published books of her work. She has also embraced a number of diverse commercial ventures that include consultation work for large blue chip companies and she has a book about self-portraiture in the pipeline that should hit the shelves at the beginning of 2011. She also leads presentations and workshops on how to achieve the ‘Miss Aniela-like’ imaging effects (that include making a model appear to levitate) in the UK and as far afield as the USA.
Prospects look first-class for Miss Aniela but, while she intends to develop her self-portraiture, she is also determined to diversify into other creative media and plans to make a series of short films. She also seems destined to make a successful crossover from the art to the commercial world, with a number of forthcoming commissions for fashion and music clients in which she intends to let her fine-art blueprint come first and foremost. Her career is predicted to be full of interest and achievement. Whatever path it takes, the likelihood is that if you’re not too familiar with her work now, you most definitely will be in the future. Look out for ‘Miss Aniela’ – she’s certainly one to watch.