Natalia Mantini’s (@nataliamantini) work is defined by intimacy and youthful soft tones. Mantini started out in her teens shooting her friends and punk shows, always with strong female leads to the fore.
We invited Natalia to lead a portrait session during our New York summer party with the OneStep+ , and before it kicked off we got a chance to catch up and chat about all things photography.
Can you firstly tell us a bit about yourself where you grew up?
I moved around a lot in Los Angeles, I spent my formative years in Redondo Beach, 20 minutes south of LA.
You moved from LA to New York a few years ago now, what made you make the move?
I think it was seven years ago. I moved because I’m self-taught and I wanted to assist photographers that I thought I could learn from. I wasn’t too drawn to anyone that was working in LA at the time. I felt too comfortable and like there wasn’t enough pressure in LA to work as much as I wanted and learn as quickly as I wanted to. So, I moved to New York to align myself with fast paced work, to apply pressure to myself and to learn from people whose work I liked and who had been doing it for a long time.
How did you get into photography?
I’d always taken photos of my friends and punk shows growing up. I guess it was just capturing the environment and what I was around growing up since I was 14 or so. I just wanted to take photos of the shows that I went to and didn’t really think too much into it. I was always taking photos of everyone so that I could develop it and then the next week everyone would be happy that we had photos.
How would you describe your creative process now? Your work focuses on portraiture, particularly females – is that something that happened naturally or is it a point that you want to put across to your audience?
So growing up I always photographed my friends that were women and the communities that I was a part of in punk. I feel like my focus has stayed very similar, which is interesting because I didn’t intend for that to happen but it has obviously evolved because I’ve learned more. My subjects have always stayed similar, it’s always been femmes that are strong that I’m drawn to.
Your work gives off a strong sense of warmth that makes each shot feel that much more intimate and like you’re there with the subject. Is this an intentional feeling you like to create within your work?
It’s very similar to how I used to shoot my friends when I was younger. We’d be shooting in their bedroom and capturing them in the way that I see them, which is with a lot of love and admiration, and also in ways that show their power: these dominant strong presences. I mix the softness with the strength that I see in people, and I like to do that in their intimate spaces. It’s something that I’ve always done but it’s nice to be able to still do it because it’s my preferred environment more than a studio or anything. I do shoot in studios, but if I do that I try to get the vibe or warmth of a bedroom or space where you can be fully comfortable and can be yourself, your sanctuary. I’m interested in being in that when I can.
You have an amazing archive of Polaroid photos, what got you shooting Polaroid?
Obviously it’s so instant, and everyone wants everything immediately, so that’s cool. The people that I’m taking a portrait of, if I’m shooting them on film they can immediately see kind of what it’s going to look like They can see the composition or the vibe or the setting even, so that’s nice that they can get a preview if I’m not shooting digital. I think it’s a nice way to give them an idea of what we’re making. Sometimes I’ll only do Polaroid, because it’s so easy when I’m out or in a less controlled environment. It’s still possible to get a really nice portrait in a moment where nothing is set up, which I like. I like that it’s easy to use in a natural way.