20-year old photographer, Natalie Yang has spent the latter half of her teenage years creating Dreamworld – a series of individual photoshoots shot under the titular umbrella.
Photographing her best friends and muses against the breath-taking backdrop of California, Yang’s imagined reality lays within the peripheral of fantasy and the real world, her intimate portraits the tangible bridge in-between.
Here we talk to Yang about the inspirations behind her photography as we delve deeper in to the dream world.
TRIP: When did you first start shooting?
Natalie Yang: I got my first film camera when I was 16 I think, I used to play around in the dark room when I was in high school but I was never patient enough to let the chemicals work properly. I always took more to shooting in colour anyways.
TRIP: All your individual shoots are made under the ‘Dreamworld’ umbrella. How would you describe your Dreamworld?
Natalie Yang: Photography is an escape for me, it’s how I communicate my dreams and ideas and thoughts through something tangible. My photographs are the bridge between my daily life and the dreamworld inside my head. There’s a strange separation between the two. I always try to capture my truth, my soul, I feel like I put so much of myself into my work and it’s weird to go about daily things like going to school and having a job, going through those motions while the entire time I’m stuck in my head thinking about taking photographs. I put my works under the name of “Dreamworld” because that’s what my work is to me, quite literally. My photographs are my make-believe stories; they are my secrets that I get to share with everyone.
TRIP: How has living in California impacted up on your work?
Natalie Yang: I grew up on a mountain next to the Pacific and the entirety of my youth was spent running up and down and around in circles over the northern coastline of California. This environment has heavily influenced my work. The mountain I grew up on is known for its resemblance to a sleeping lady, and she is my original muse. Every single photo I have ever taken has been influenced by her and by the memories and experiences I have had with her.
TRIP: You photograph mainly females. Is this a conscious decision?
Natalie Yang: I prefer to shoot females. I am more drawn to photographing women because I have a more intimate and personal relationship with the female shape and I find myself more inspired by women. Being a woman who photographs other women, I feel that my subjects and I have an inherent understanding of each other to a certain extent. Although the camera is symbolic of the divide between our two separate purposes as the art and the artist, I feel strongly that my subjects and I share an unspoken understanding of one another as well as a connection to each other.
TRIP: There’s an evident level of intimacy between you and your subjects – who are the girls in your photographs?
Natalie Yang: I have many muses, all of whom also happen to be my best friends. There is a definite comfort in this, a certain trust that has been present long before they began to model for me.
TRIP: How important do you feel the relationship you have with your subjects is to what’s captured in your photographs?
Natalie Yang: I think the relationship between my models and myself is important. I want them to feel three million percent comfortable during a shoot and there is an extreme difference if I’m shooting someone who I maybe don’t know as well and I feel that I can immediately see that difference in my photographs. When I shoot, it’s often just my subject and I without any other distractions, which is really nice. I feel like I’ve come to know my friends who model for me in a new way through my photography, and that is a really special thing to me.
TRIP: Where are you planning on taking the work in the future?
Natalie Yang: I’ve started to work on one longer more comprehensive project, called “Growing Up”. It has more of a focus on my real life and my friends and our collective experience of leaving teenage-hood and entering an even more uncertain time. We’re in this weird middle ground between baby and grown up that I feel really compelled to document. I’ve been working a lot on this project and by the end of it I would really love to have a book of everything I’ve come up with. After that, I don’t know. I only have a year left of school after this year and that’s the scariest thing to think about, not to have this safety net I’ve had for the past 20 years of my life. I’m just planning on taking photographs forever so I guess we’ll see what comes of it.