The photography of Natalie Dybisz a.k.a. Miss Aniela
By Diane Berkenfeld
The ubiquity of the internet has allowed artists far and wide to reach a much larger audience than they would have been able to by traditional means. This is true of Natalie Dybisz a.k.a. Miss Aniela, (www.missaniela.com) a photographer and artist who has turned her self-portraiture, initially created and posted on Flickr for her own enjoyment, into a brand, complete with a new liveBooks powered website, two self-published books, exhibitions and more to come.
“Aniela is my middle name. I wanted a kind of alter-ego to serve as a name to use on Flickr,” Natalie says. Once she started exhibiting her work, she says it felt right to stick with that name as her artist’s moniker.
Natalie explains that she was fond of snapping photos as a teen, when she first began to shoot self-portraits. Her interest in photography blossomed when she went to university. It was at this time that she discovered online photo sharing as well as the joys of digital processing.
Early on she used Sony compact cameras and lacked a tripod. Natalie then graduated to a Sony R1, which features a swivel screen that makes capturing self-portraits convenient, and a tripod. She used the R1 for about two years. In September 2008 Natalie transitioned to her first DSLR, a Canon EOS 40D. She recently upgraded yet again to a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, a larger, sturdier tripod and flashes.
Natalie’s first website was created in 2007, as a place on the web where she could display a gallery of her photos and write about herself. She transitioned to a liveBooks site this year. “I liked the look of their sleek, fast Flash sites. It looked ideal for displaying photography, and I also liked that I was able to talk about my ideas and have the designers create a custom site based on my vision for my brand,” she says. Adding, “I also like being able to edit my site whenever I want, to edit text, and to add or remove pictures, which is easy enough in the editSuite that comes with the site.” The liveBooks site is the portfolio or gallery, for Natalie’s more refined work, as well as a place to disseminate information about her books, prints and her contact information. “The website is a showcase, a place that is generally consistent. My blog, (www.missanielablog.com) however, is a place with constantly updating information, a place to share essays or thoughts, or to promote my events,” she says. “The way I choose to use Flickr is rather like a studio, where I share lots of images, to see which gauge the most reaction or comment, or just for me to see images build and then to determine which ‘do it for me’ in the long term, and I may then add them to my galleries on my main website. I use Facebook and Twitter to link through to blog posts or to Flickr posts,” she adds.
In addition to a number of exhibitions and speaking engagements, Natalie has produced two books which are available on Blurb (click here): Self-Gazing, a collection of self portraits taken over the course of three years; and Multiplicity, with images taken over the course of more than four years that showcases her evolution of multiplicity photographs. As savvy a businesswoman, as she is a photographer, Natalie also offers fine-art prints of her work and commercial licensing opportunities.
Natalie has also collaborated with other artists. The books She Took Her Own Picture, Selections from the Female Self Portrait Artists’ Support Group available on Blurb (click here), features the work of 44 female self-portrait artists on Flickr including images from Miss Aniela; and In Her Own Image, Selections from the Female Self Portrait Artists’ Support Group also available on Blurb (click here).
Q: What inspires you?
A: I have an assortment of inspirations. I don’t look at as many photography books and exhibitions as I should, and I spend too much time online looking at photo-sharing sites. I am inspired by anything from childhood thoughts to dreams, to raging depressive thoughts, from the joy, yet futility of life, to the chilling mystery of death.
I like the work of several people I have seen online, like Rossina Bossio and Rosie Hardy. I also admire the work of Gregory Crewdson, Julia Fullerton-Batten, and Ellen Kooi.
Q: How did you know you were onto something with the Miss Aniela brand?
A: It wasn’t easy for me at first to see Miss Aniela as a brand, probably because my work is so personal, so it was like the images were not just my work, they were me. The stage, therefore, of separating myself from my brand whilst also being able to accept that my brand is very personal, was a challenging step. So, whilst I saw from 2007-2008 that my work was becoming popular and I wanted to go further with it and do it for a living, it still took me a while to see that my artwork can be considered as a brand and a business, something I can sell without feeling as if I were selling myself. As such—I could objectify the self-portraiture as one aspect of what I do, and not the sum total of my being.
Q: What did you think when you realized the large number of people that were viewing your images on Flickr?
A: I was surprised and pleased but always aware that it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Just because a load of people have clicked on your work doesn’t necessarily validate one’s images. It just meant I had the attention of an audience for an unforeseen length of time, and yet, the audience wasn’t all mine to play with, it was an audience through Flickr. I try to use that audience the best I can in encouraging them to visit my site, join my mailing list, join me on Facebook and Twitter, etc. Even then, the number of people following you and your updates doesn’t often feel like it means anything till someone actually offers me an exhibition or buys a print.
Q: How have you been able to grow your photography into a brand?
A: It has been fairly easy to self-publish books and to make these available to people online, and also to show and sell them at presentations and events. Exhibitions are an aspect that is harder to achieve, as they require collaboration with galleries or other venues. Most of my exhibitions have been offered to me, so the whole scene of approaching galleries is something new to me. I try to keep my brand consistent across books, gallery shows, and my website, in terms of graphic identity, but with the exhibitions, it is harder because the gallery will present the exhibition on their own terms.
Q: What direction do you think you’re going to take your work into next?
A: I would just like to carry on doing what I do, producing images I am artistically engaged with, and pursuing exhibitions and print sales. I would like to have a large-scale exhibition that is accessible to both the art scene and the general public. Another angle to my photography goals is to broaden my experience and my learning of the technical side to the art so I can teach workshops in the UK and beyond. I would like to become a published author (outside of my self-published books) and write books on photography and art, something that I will hopefully begin this year.
All you have to do is take one look at Natalie’s work to see that she’s got a great eye for photographic composition and design, and we expect to see much more of Natalie Dybisz a.k.a. Miss Aniela in coming years. Go to the website www.missaniela.com to see more of her work, or check her out on Flickr, Facebook and Twitter.
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