The World Is Quiet Here
Nadiya I. Nacorda is a Blasian artist, photographer, and activist. She was born in Detroit, MI to a Filipinx immigrant father and a Xhosa mother. She later moved to Virginia, where she received her BFA in Photography & Film in 2014 from Virginia Commonwealth University. Nadiya is currently pursuing an MFA in Art Photography at Syracuse University’s School of Visual and Performing Arts where she is also a Teaching Assistant. Throughout the year, she travels to her respective home countries of South Africa and the Philippines to document her family and places of origin. Her work heavily draws from notions of Blasian womanhood, identity, family, and generational trauma.
As a young black and asian girl, I constantly dove into a fluid ocean of imagination. I would float off into my own world; a search for stillness that I did not have the words or maturity to articulate. I have continued that search for safe spaces and stillness as the crushing reality of what is means to be a black and asian womxn in America inevitably made its way into my psyche.
Even today, with the all the incessant noise around me, my consciousness often times toggles between the maddening world I exist within and my attempt to find an inner space of safety and quiet reprieve. This series serves as a romanticized rendition of the clashing of those two worlds: the one that is full of oppression, dehumanization, and agony and the quiet one that I need to survive.
These are images that I created through an intuitive process, feeling the moment and finding something about it soothing and meditative, and attempting to manifest that feeling into a photograph. This series of photographs includes abstract images, still lives, and portraits that together create a world that is soft, ethereal, and still. With this photo-based project, I am exploring what it means to be a vulnerable person within society, and attempting to create a space for oneself that calm and quiet.
What were your motivations for beginning this work?
I started this project before I really knew what it was about or even knew the goal for my work more broadly. A lot of the images were just taken throughout my daily life or on a trip somewhere while traveling. I know for some people they begin with an idea and work from there. For me, I have a very intuitive way of working and when that’s the case you sometimes have to process things in reverse. I would see something that made me feel at ease, a speck of light, a mood, a tone, a texture, or a color, and I would feel drawn to capturing it on film. Most, but not all of the images are color film, and color definitely motivates a lot of my aesthetic decisions.
I struggled quite a bit in undergrad while in the middle of this project. I couldn’t quite articulate where my inspiration was coming from and what my intentions were. I think it was because I was in the early stages of unpacking my own trauma and understanding my own impulses, my own need to find and nurture a space for stillness. I was also at the very beginnings of developing my own way to comprehending the world around me and developing my own personal philosophies.
Now, I look back and I see how these images function and functioned as self-preservation. You could call it meditation or that quiet place within perhaps. I was always an imaginative child, my grandmother even calls me “space cadet” jokingly, but I think it’s more than that. I’ve just always been very observant, like we photographers are, noticing and bringing attention to that which tends to get overlooked. The World is Quiet Here is a visual manifestation of an inner still space that really saved me as a kid and continues to serve me as an adult.
Do you find influence for your work in things outside of photography? If so, what?
I would say that many of my influences lie outside of photography. I came to art through multiple mediums. Originally, I started out more as an illustrator. I was obsessed with drawing in high school and would spend more of my time creating small drawings in my journal when I should’ve been taking notes. I also get a lot of inspiration from film. I grew up in a family that always spent a lot of quality time together watching all different types of movies, especially foreign films. I’m also an avid reader and try to spend as much time as possible with my head in a book, either fiction or nonfiction. For my practice it’s important to me that I’m being artistically fed from other sources in order to draw different types of connections. Music is also a strong source of inspiration and creative motivation. I can tell if I haven’t balanced what I’ve been looking at if I find myself trying to replicate someone else’s image in a literal sense, instead of allowing it to inspire me to shape my own work.
How long do you like to let images sit with you before you share them?
I think it depends on what it means to “share.” Depending on the image, sometimes I like to post it right away because I’m excited about it. Other times, if I’m not clear about the image yet I might keep that one to myself and let it be. I’m not particularly strategic about sharing my work online, I just do whatever feels right at the time.
In many of these images, you seem to be creating scenes that are very specific in the information you give the viewer. Whether it’s just the light, the specificity of the subject, or the objects included in the scene. How do you go about connecting these personal scenes together in a way that your viewer will be able to connect to?
This whole series is about finding and freezing moments of stillness within the chaos of daily life, especially as a blasian womxn living in 2019. These images are intended to be a meditation, to capture how beautiful it was for me when I experienced it, whether it was a slit of light through a curtain or the folds of shadows on sheet in my bed. While this work could be viewed as dreamy, I do not intend for it to be a dream or an escapism. Meditation is an acute awareness to the present moment, shown through images of small and simple things. The images range in terms of their abstraction, but they were all born out of an attentive moment I experienced.
Flowers seem to be a recurring theme in these images. Is there a symbology there?
I think so, I’ve always been in love with flowers, now in my adult life even more so. My Lolo (grandfather) was a master gardener and spent hours each day tending to this giant garden he had in the backyard of he and my Lola’s house. I think his garden served as a bit of a safe space and meditation for him. So I grew up playing in the backyard while he’d be working in the garden, and I didn’t realize until later in life that he actually had really amazing types of flowers, my favorite of which are their peonies. To me, it was just the background of my childhood but when the garden is in full bloom it is just amazing. My Lolo died in 2012, and I think I continue to photograph flowers as a way of paying homage to him and his love of gardening and flowers. I also find flowers to be so fascinating as an example of the epic power of nature. I’m quite curious about our relationship to flowers as human beings. How we commodify them, use them to express affection or to make a neighborhood look a certain way. How much money we spend on them, knowing their inevitably going to die. I’m one of those people that just swoons over a bouquet of flowers when I buy them, but also enjoys witnessing their life cycle. Sometimes I think their more beautiful when they’re dead.
Keep up with Nadiya Nacorda: