Natalie Arriola Photography

Hello and Welcome

My name is Natalie and I’m a fine art photographer. If you’re like me, you probably feel like art has the capacity to stir your deepest hopes, desires, and fears. It can inspire joy, pain, love, anger, liberation, and perhaps most importantly empathy.

Art can take many different forms. Whether you’re a painter, engineer, programmer, insurance agent, lawyer, filmmaker, etc. if you love what you do and you do it well, art is no doubt involved. We are practicing art each time we ask ourselves to push past the boundaries of what is conventionally perceived as possible, acceptable, or logical.

I’d like to invite you to join me in my artistic explorations through my chosen medium of photography. Here you will find my images, a bit about me and my philosophies, and the stories behind my art: why I make it, and why it’s important to me. I hope you will also find something that resonates with your own experiences in art and life.

What is it about portraits that is so fascinating? From old family photos to J.C. Penny’s studio portraits to high fashion editorials and fine art, the portrait holds a timeless allure. Portraits tell our stories, they tell us where we’ve been, who we’ve been, and who we want to be. While I do not believe that portraits present us with a realistic portrayal of the individual we find captured there – forever frozen in a single fragment of a second – I do believe that portraits tell us something about our humanity. They also provide us with a window into the past. All photographs exist solely in the past; they become relics the moment the shutter clicks.

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This series of images sort of sprung up of its own accord. I created a couple portraits with a dear friend of mine which were heavily influenced by the imagery in the 1928 French silent film La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc (The Passion of Joan of Arc). If you’re a movie geek like me, you may know that this film is widely respected for its spectacular minimalist imagery, as well as the unearthly performance of French actress Renée Jeanne Falconetti. My friend, Hannah, is someone who I perceive as a fierce and powerful feminine force. She is someone I deeply respect and admire for her tenacious and independent spirit. Portraying her after this classic symbol of feminine will, perseverance, and resistance seemed like the perfect way to capture the juxtaposition of vulnerability and strength which I believe forges a truly unbreakable spirit.

The images which have followed likewise explore the enduring prowess of the feminine through classic symbols surrounding femininity.

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This series began with combined inspiration from Renée Magritte’s painting The Son of Man and the They Might Be Giants song Chess Piece Face.

Surrealist art can be intriguing, hallucinatory, and mysterious. It can also be heavy handed, ugly, and abrasive. What I love about Magritte’s approach is his knack for creating visual puzzles that leave the interpretation up to the viewer.

Magritte said of his work: “My painting is visible images which conceal nothing… they evoke mystery and indeed when one sees one of my pictures, one asks oneself this simple question ‘What does that mean’? It does not mean anything, because mystery means nothing either, it is unknowable.”

In this sense surrealist art becomes an exploration into the unknown without the typically desired end of unveiling mysteries. Since so many of the questions we ask through art, science, philosophy, etc. do not have definitive answers, the simple evocation of mystery or posing of questions becomes our source of meaning. The answer lies in the question itself: in the act of exploration rather than in the result.

I think this opens us up to a playfulness and lightness in art and in life. If we can enjoy the mere process of inquiry and find fulfillment within curiosity itself, we may come as close as ever to the secrets of life.

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In the philosophical writings of Immanuel Kant he speaks of his idea of the sublime. The experience of the sublime, for Kant, comes in part as the result of a failure in human cognition. When we find ourselves in the presence of something truly magnificent in scope or design our minds attempt to process and understand it, but we are incapable of fully comprehending what is before us and it is this failure which produces within us the feeling of awe which Kant referred to as the sublime.

This may also be thought of as a spiritual experience. It is a moment in which the shear enormity of the universe presents itself to us and reminds us of our own insignificance. Paradoxically this experience of insignificance is not limiting, but freeing: it reminds us how petty are the complaints and discomforts of our daily lives and allows our joyful moments to reveal themselves as the tiny blessings that they are.

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This is an intensely personal series of images. In part because they are all self portraits and in part because they say something about who I am at the core.

I have gone through an intense period of change over the last two years. Most notably I quit drinking and have found myself trying to remember who I was before I began my decline into alcoholism.

What I have discovered is that I was and always have been exactly the lost and confused person who attempted to find solace in escaping herself.

I am still this person. I have changed in that I have chosen to stop chasing a phantom that promises release, but only brings more pain and suffering. I have chosen to fight the good fight and try to find a way to live and be in this world.

Sometimes I feel like I’m succeeding at finding my path and others I feel like I’m wandering in the dark.

This lyric from one of my favorite musicians, Elliott Smith, conveys these feelings far better than any words of my own ever could.

"I got static in my head
The reflected sound of everything
Tried to go to where it led
But it didn't lead to anything"

- Elliott Smith

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