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Natasha Cantwell - The weather was ideal



Photographer, musician and video artist Natasha Cantwell is well known for her collaborations with Frankie and No magazines, and fashion house Madame Hawke. Her deadpan portraiture, retro styling, and the colouring of her images have a nostalgic quality– but also an eerie sense of familiarity.

In her artistic endeavours, Cantwell pushes her work into the realm of the uncanny in her series titled The Living Dead. The term the uncanny, coined by Sigmund Freud, describes the concept of something being familiar yet strange; thus creating an uncomfortable and unsettling feeling within a person.

'The Living Dead explores the concept of the uncanny and how photography can be utilised to create the unsettling feeling of experiencing the familiar and strange all at once. It specifically looks at how the uncanny permeates anything that is simultaneously its opposite, such as the living and non-living or the real and unreal.'

Cantwell utilises everyday environments in this series to evoke these feelings, especially those workplaces and homes that have somehow remained relatively untouched over time. These supposedly familiar places now become strange and foreign due to the fact that, although the outside world is changing, they have stayed the same.

The format and colour of each photograph speaks of a time gone by, a faded memory from the back of your mind. In reality these images are not prints from negatives found abandoned in storage somewhere. These are real places that exist. 

My grandparents live in a small country town in New Zealand and their house has remained relatively unchanged for as long as I can remember. Every time I go to visit them the same familiar feelings return as I sit in front of the large wooden bookcase in their lounge room that has almost become a family member in itself. Although these small details are all familiar and almost comfortingly so, there is a strange sense of displacement - I no longer fit into this world in that lounge room anymore. Cantwell expresses this feeling in her The Living Dead series, the feeling of both connecting and feeling disconnected and uncomfortably so to a place of home and memory.

When I leave my grandparents house, I close the sliding ranch door and peer back inside one last time. I will keep changing and growing as I step down the stairs, getting further away but that bookcase will still stay standing and waiting. 

- Talia Smith


This post is part of The weather was ideal project, a series of posts about New Zealand photography curated by Christine McFetridge and Talia Smith.

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