Laurel Nakadate is an award-winning artist, filmmaker and photographer whose work has been shown in galleries and museums around the world. Her unique and often provocative works explore themes of identity, power, and gender, and are rooted in the idea of the self-portrait.
In this interview, Laurel shares her creative journey, her thoughts on the role of the artist in society, and the importance of embracing creativity. From her early days as a street photographer in New York City to her most recent projects, Laurel’s story is inspiring and empowering.
Laurel, talk to us about your background and how you came to be an artist. I was born in Boston, but grew up in Pretoria, South Africa. I was a huge reader as a kid and I was always making things.
I was always drawing and making little books. I was always taking pictures, and I always had a camera with me. I had a very creative childhood, but I didn’t know that I wanted to be an artist until I was about 25.
Before that, I wanted to be a lot of things – a pilot, a zoologist, a biologist, a marine biologist. All these different things. It was only when I moved to New York in 2000 that I decided to pursue art. I had already been doing photography for many years because I was always taking pictures.
What do you think the role of the artist is in society? What is the role of art in our culture and why do you think it is important? I think that art is very important in society because it allows us to process our emotions and experiences in a way that isn’t always possible to do in day-to-day life.
It allows us to really go deep into our emotions and our experiences and think about them in a broad way and make connections between different ideas or different people and situations.
I think that art has a lot of potential to help people understand things that they haven’t had the opportunity to understand before. It also allows people to express things that they might not even have been aware of experiencing or needing to say before.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to embrace their creativity? I think that being creative is not something that you do on your own. It’s something that you do with other people. You don’t do it by yourself in a room,you do it out in the world.
You do it by being with people and being in environments where creativity is valued and being around people who are open to new ideas and who have different points of view and different experiences from yours.
I think the best advice would be to put yourself out in the world and make friends with people who are creative and open to new ideas and who have different points of view.
You started as a street photographer in New York City in the early 2000s. What drew you to street photography? What themes did you explore within this genre? I started taking photographs on the street in New York City in 2000.
I was living in New York at the time and I was exploring my identity and trying to figure out who I was. I had just moved there from South Africa and I didn’t really know a lot of people so that was a real exploration of identity.
I was just wandering around the city and taking photographs. I think that the themes that I explored were things like identity, power, gender, relationships, intimacy, and sexuality.
You’ve explored themes of identity and power in your work. Can you explain how these themes have shaped your work? I think that my interest in identity really comes out of my interest in sexuality, which also comes out of my interest in relationships and intimacy.
I have explored different ways of talking about and representing sexuality and different ways of talking about and representing relationships and intimacy. Identity is a very large topic and it’s a very large thing to try and explore.
I’ve been thinking about it for years and I think that those themes have definitely been a part of my work from the very beginning.
Much of your work is self-portraits in some way. Why do you believe the self-portrait is such a powerful form of art? I think that self-portrait is a very powerful form of art. It is a very direct way of communicating a certain point of view or a certain idea.
It’s a very personal way of communicating. It’s very immediate. I think that it’s a very direct way of communicating an idea or a point of view.
What are some of your most recent projects? The two most recent projects that I have been working on are called The New York Times and Public Disobedience. I’ve been working on them both since the beginning of this year.
The New York Times is a project where I’ve been taking photographs of the front page of The New York Times every day for about a year and a half. The project is about the way we communicate information today and the way we process information today.
It is also about what is important and what we think is important in the world today. Public Disobedience is a performance project. I’ve been engaging in public disobedience every day since January and I’m going to continue to do that for the rest of the year.
What would you like people to take away from looking at your work? I hope that people who look at my work take away the idea that it’s important to be open to new ideas and experiences and different points of view and different ways of doing things.
It’s important to be open to new ideas in order to be creative and move the world forward. I think that a lot of people are very closed off to new ideas and experiences and points of view that are different from their own. It’s important to be open to those things in order to be creative and to move the world forward.
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