today I have yet another interview for you. The photographer Namsa Leuba has won several prizes and is published in many of the world’s best magazines for her great work. On her blog you can see many of these publications.
As you know I went to Vienna International School and was therefore in touch with many cultures starting at a very young age. I have always been interested in identity and in people in search of their roots. Furthermore I love colours and patterns. These two reasons made me notice Namsa Leuba’s work. I contacted her and she replied to my questions almost immediately.
Please read this interview and reflect upon the feelings that Namsa’s colourful photographs evoke.
A) Are you currently in NYC or Switzerland? What is it like to live and work in NYC compared to Switzerland? Would you like to stay in one or the other place in future? Is it better to have both as your basis (Switzerland and the USA)? Or rather move on and live in different places still?
I was born to a Guinean mother and an Helvetian father. I grew up on the shores of Neuchatel’s lake in Switzerland.
Now I am living in New York.
It is a such exciting city that I would love to stay here.
Below is a self-portrait of Namsa Leuba:
B) What are your childhood memories? Have some of these influenced your art/photography? If so, can you tell a story?
In 2011 I went to Guinea. This trip was an opportunity to reconnect with some of my roots. I have always wanted to explore and share this other culture that is part of me. And I knew that the best way to do so was to visit the village founded by my great grandfather. This pilgrimage to the land of some of my ancestors inevitably and immediately raised the sensitive question of “origin” or “origins”. Mine, that of my parents, of others (my subjects) and of my approach.
All I knew before the trip was that my mother is muslim and that my father is a protestant, although I’ve not been baptized. The religious aspect of my mother’s country became very prominent. I discovered an animist side to the Guinean culture which is based on people’s respect for it. I had been exposed to supernatural part of Guinea as since I was a child, I visited ‘marabouts’ (some type of witches) and this time around took part in many ceremonies and rituals. And for me it was important to do this work, because now I feel more aware of this situation, the existence of a parallel world, and the world of spirit. It was important for me to this work because it enabled me to be more aware of the intricacy and the existence of a parallel world, that of spirits.
C) When did you know you wanted to be a photographer?
In 2004 I studied Design of Information in the Art School of La Chaux-de-Fonds (CH). When I was in my second degree, I realised that I wanted to improve in photography.
In 2011 I graduated from ECAL/ University of art and design in Lausanne, obtaining a BA in photography. During my studies I developed a curiosity, sensitivity and a particular focus towards the world around me. For the last two years my research has been focused on African identity through Western eyes.
D) Can you give insight into where you live? What is your home decoration like? What is a typical day like for you?
I am living in a typical New Yorker loft with flatmats. It is a mix of vintage and contemporary things.
E) Costumes are important in your works. Can you tell me how your models are dressed? Do you sew the fabrics or do you buy/borrow fashion for the shootings? Are there any fashion labels you cooperate with?
I went to many places to find the best fabrics to use and to choose the right people for my project Ya Kala Ben.
I created all the costumes by myself and I chose every thing that I used by myself.
In Africa when I was ready to shoot I could not waste time to avoid the sometimes violent reactions from people.
For the other fashion shoots I sometimes worked with Célia Lutangu. We have the same mind when we are together. She’s from Switzerland too.
F) Do you have your own studio or do you work in different locations? What camera(s) do you use?
It depends on the project. Sometimes I work in a studio sometimes not.
Most of the time I use a Mamyia R647 120mm and a Leica 35mm camera, analog camera.
G) Are there any people you would like to work with creatively? Any projects you would like to do in your creative life?
Yes, I would like to collaborate with many people whose work I enjoy. I hope this will be possible in future.
I have so many projects in my mind that I want to do. The only thing I hope is that I will have enough time.
Here are some of the photographs by Namsa Leuba:
Image credits: Namsa Leuba