"Take more pictures for yourself, not for others or for validation. Just for you."
Nina Titovets is a fantastic photographer from the border region of El Paso, Texas, which is famously known for its star on the mountain and the beautiful picture-perfect sunsets. In the recent years, El Paso's music, art, and photography scene has blossomed and the city has slowly but surely embraced it. Although it's not always the easiest thing to tap into, some of these people are making a name for themselves within the community. Nina is one of these people I am talking about. She has demonstrated her amazing talent through her pictures involving people, scenery, land scapes and even local bands. It really showcases her versatility and skills. Not only that, but she is really good at evoking certain emotions in her photos ranging from nostalgia to happiness.
I recently got to ask Nina a few questions and this is what she had to say:
Desert of my Eye (Pao): Who is "her vision"? How do you define your style?
Nina: Her Vision is an alias I came up with when I first decided to pursue photography full time around 3 years ago. I liked the idea of separating myself from my work. I wanted to have a sense of anonymity— any notions about me wouldn’t influence how you felt about my photographs. Also, my family is originally from Russia and Nina spelled in Russian begins with the English letter H, so the H in Her symbolizes that as well. I don’t think I have a defined style yet— it’s constantly changing. I love so many different genres of photography that I try to experiment and do new things as much as possible. That being said, I think the one constant has always been nature and landscapes. I’ve always felt my best when I’m outdoors.
D.O.M.E: When would you say is the moment you discovered your love for photography and how young were you when you took your first photo?
Nina: I was first introduced to photography by my dad. Growing up, he took countless videos and photographs of our daily lives and family trips. The camera was like an additional member of the family. I think I was about 7 when I got my first camera, a Kodak disposable (I still have some of my very first photographs). I used it to photograph our cross country trips to different art shows— both my parents are painters and we’d travel a lot when I was a kid. I think I really fell in love with photography when I started to look at my old family photos. My grandma has a shoe box filled with beautiful black and white photographs dating as early as the 1920s. I think it's when it really hit me that photography is a way to immortalize a moment, that I could capture how I felt and saw things exactly in that instance. There’s a particular Andy Warhol quote that sums it up nicely: “The best thing about a picture is that it never changes. Even when the people in it do.”
D.O.M.E: Growing up in the desert, I never really felt inspired by it. That was a mistake. It's only until I started my website that I started appreciating the scenery and this community. It's amazing. Did you have that "a-ha" moment too and when?
Nina: When I was younger I definitely had the “I can’t wait to get out of El Paso” attitude. I think that’s just part of growing up— you feel like no one understands you and you’ll be way better off in some other city you’ve romanticized in your head. I think I began to love El Paso more the older I’ve gotten. The sunsets here are like nowhere else in the world, and the people here are all so kind and helpful. I also think being a border city, a large part of the population is people doing things for the first time— first time going to college, first time buying a house, etc. It’s a city of firsts and in that way, it makes anything possible. T,here isn’t a specific ladder you have to climb, you get to make your own path.
D.O.M.E: I've noticed that lately you have been posting pictures with neon colors, is there a reason for this?
Nina: I recently took a trip to Northern New Mexico to explore some small towns along Route 66 for an upcoming project. Many of the towns are now abandoned or past their prime but at night they come to life with these incredible neon signs and colors you feel like you’ve gone back in time, maybe even the future. I was really inspired and decided to use these bright dazzling colors in my work— give more dimension and excitement to the seemingly straightforward. Things aren’t so black and white.
D.O.M.E: What do you consider a "good picture"? Is it what one captures, the style, the emotion it transmits? All?
Nina: I think it depends. Some of my favorite images are blurry and compositionally lacking, but they carry deep sentimental value to me. I can look at that photograph and be transported to that moment in time, where I was at that point in my life and how I felt— it’s magical. However, those same photographs aren’t ones that I would share with the public or expect others to take interest in. The photographs I share are the ones that I hope to get people to stop and really look at and possibly feel. I think today we’re so overwhelmed with content that we swipe through things and glance at things. I want my photographs to consume you for a moment and get you to wonder. If I’ve accomplished that, then it’s a good photo.
D.O.M.E: Do you feel like it's hard to be a female photographer in El Paso? Were you ever like "yikes".
Nina: I’m very grateful for the time period I’m growing up in. I think today there are so many more women visible within the industry and there’s this overall female energy of “Hell yes I can do it,” it is really empowering. There is definitely a lot more growing to do, sexism is still rampant and I have had moments where I feel like I need to do twice as much to prove myself or deal with the occasional creep. But I don’t let it mess with my head too much, I know what I want and I let my work speak for itself.
D.O.M.E: I grew up loving photographers like Annie Leibovitz, Hedi Slimane, and many more. Who would you say are favorite photographers?
Nina: There are so many. One of my favorite pastimes is looking at photo books and studying the styles/techniques of old and new masters of photography. To name a few off the top of my head, in no particular order are: William Eggleston, Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon, Mariana Yampolsky, Renell Medrano, Daniel Arnold, Leo Berne.
D.O.M.E: What do you hope to achieve with your photography?
Nina: I have a lot of small goals for myself and my work but I think, overall, I want to create photographs that resonate with people. Photographs that 10 years from now are still intriguing and get people to stop and really look.
D.O.M.E: Any ending thoughts/comments?
Nina: Take more pictures for yourself, not for others or for validation. Just for you.