AT: Which photo books are you particularly inspired by?
RN: I was first exposed to the photo book when I was in school, and I remember being really struck by Chris Killip’s In Flagrante, John Gossage’s The Pond, Larry Clark’s Tulsa, and Alec Soth’s Niagara and Sleeping by the Mississippi. That was the first time I saw how an image can transform so radically when seen in a well thought out sequence. I began to appreciate subdued images, the ones that can lurk in the quieter corners of an edit, the mortar that holds an edit together. It can be so tempting to have fifty loud images back-to-back; however it’s hard to tell a poem without pauses, where everything is exclaimed with no room for whispers. Appreciating this can be especially hard in our current age of social media, with everyone competing for that extra second of exposure as we all scroll past our feeds with blinding speed. I am guilty of this as well, and it’s definitely not a bad thing that image-makers are consistently creating these bold, eye-grabbing pictures. But I find it important to take the time to pause and reflect. Getting off the fast lane is so crucial, more than ever really, as life keeps accelerating beyond our abilities to fully grasp our surroundings.
That being said, it has been so reinvigorating to see how the medium has been adapting and evolving. I’ve been recently looking at Thilde Jensen’s The Canaries, Doug Dubois’ My Last Day at Seventeen, Sam Contis’ Deep Springs, and Gregory Halpern’s ZZYZX. I also recently got to see Mathieu Asselin’s Monsanto: A Photographic Investigation and Nick Sethi’s Khichdi (Kitchari), which both really stood out to me as refreshing takes on what a photo book can be.
AT: I can see how many of those photographers influenced you by looking at your work. There is an elegance to your edits that’s really refreshing. Let’s talk about A Distant Land. What was the impetus for the series?
RN: Thank you! A Distant Land was my first serious foray into photography as an artistic medium. While I was in school, I had been struggling with making personal work while living in the U.S., a country that was completely foreign to me at that time. I wasn’t connecting with the pictures I was making, and each time I’d make an edit, it felt as if I was just pushing around images with no weight. Around this time, my professors suggested to search for images when I went home, and as obvious as it is now, I realized I desperately needed to photograph this place I came from.
That following summer I went back to Paraguay, excited to finally have some semblance of direction for my work. I spent the next three years going back and forth, making pictures every summer, then going back to school in Rhode Island to edit the work, indulging in the process every step of the way. I learned so much about myself through this project, both as a photographer and an individual, and I had the beautiful realization that making work was so much more than the end product. Your audience gets to see the pictures, but only you get to carry all the lessons you’ve learned, the people you’ve met, and the experiences surrounding each frame. My good friend recently reminded me to “just trust the process,” a simple statement that continues to carry me through every project, especially when I get stuck and begin to doubt myself too much.