Alongside Pitt’s photo essay, we were lucky enough to enjoy the most frank and illuminating discussion with Nettie. If she’s generous and open with photographs – which she most definitely is – she’s equally forthcoming in conversation too. There’s an extensive interview in Issue One, and you can enjoy an extract from it here:
Nettie Harris is a model whose images have spread far and wide across the internet; she’s a phenomenon on social media and especially so amongst the Tumblr communities. Her unabashed and often fearless presence within the image-making process serves to make her endlessly fascinating; and, also, increasingly opens doors to a broader portfolio of projects.
Nettie describes herself as an ‘adventurer’, inspired by movies, books, art magazines, music, her dreams and the hardship of day to day living. She tries to always look at the upside to hardships, make the most out of life and seize the moment. In her own words, she has ‘no single goal but to create’ in all forms.
Whether it be appearing on advertising billboards for American Apparel, on gallery walls in exhibitions of photography by rising star Ryan McGinley, or all across the internet in photographer Terry Richardson’s latest portfolio, Harris’s own star is clearly shining ever brighter.
But there’s much more to Nettie than just pixels on a screen or the dots of a printed page. She’s also a fine photographer herself, writes, and works as an actress too (appearing most recently in HBO’s acclaimed crime drama ‘True Detective’). Much more importantly though, Nettie has a point of view; she is a deep thinker and is passionate about the creative process, her sources of inspiration… …where she comes from, who and what she is.
Below is an excerpt from our interview with Nettie, which can be read in full in the launch issue.
To comment on the photographs first, George Pitts images of you suggest that you are completely at ease with him. Are you always that self-confident? Or do you simply find it easy to put on a convincing act in front of the camera?
I do consider myself at ease with myself and generally confident. Of course there are moments when I can lose that confidence, but as I get older this becomes increasingly rare.
I would find my confidence shaken should someone try to force me to perform in an area that I know isn’t one of my strengths; especially something that I’m aware that I have been weak in from childhood – like spelling for for example.
So yes, I am a self-confident individual… …not always in everything, but especially and even defiantly so in front of the camera. Something switches on in me when a camera is pointed at me, a certain awareness and an alertness.
Were you aware from the beginning of George’s intention to create explicitly sexual images? Also, was there a brief, or did he just ‘release you’ to perform for him?
I’m sensible enough to always investigate a photographer as much as is possible, and certainly to communicate with them via email before actually meeting to create images together; so I was aware before the shoot that George wanted to push me sexually…… but to what extent I wasn’t sure.
That said, I trusted him.
George always has clothes for you to wear and props or accessories to interact with, so you’re a part of an environment that he has created for you – but it is an environment that you can freely move within.
Then, if George likes something the model is doing he’ll ask you to work with that pose, or he may make a suggestion that prompts you towards something more erotic, but he has never directly asked me to assume a particular pose; he works with what I’m giving him.
Have you worked with George Pitts before the shoot that is featured in the Quite Frankly issue, and can you describe your session with him as a rewarding experience?
I have actually modelled for George several times, and it’s easy for me to say that working with him is always special. He just has a way of listening to you that makes it clear that you’re an important part of what’s happening too. When you wrap up a shoot with George you can feel as if you’ve just walked out of a session with your therapist. He is knowledgeable, cultured, and he’s very hip to what’s going on… …but it’s not just that, he’s very wise and sincere too.
You seem to be very ‘giving’ to all the photographers you work with. Where do you think your unrestrained openness comes from? Is it a consequence of an ingrained expressiveness that is simply part of you?
I am honestly just as unrestrained, giving, and open to a fault in my day-to-day life. It drains me. I’ll meet a perfect stranger and invest all of my time, energy and emotion in them because I can see that they’re lost or lonely.
I know that I need to keep focused on me, but it’s not the way I’m made. I’m going through too much of my own shit to be everyday investing in someone else, but it is a part of who I am and what can you do…
But because I’m like this, I expect others to be as equally open and giving of themselves, and I’m still always shocked, every single time, when others aren’t as open, or when they withdraw or even become offended when, for example, I ask the same personal questions that are constantly asked of me and which I willingly answer.
You often appear in shoots that are very sexually expressive, is this because photographers approach you (perhaps with a knowledge of your portfolio of work) as ‘the one that will’, or do you particularly seek to take part in the process of creating forthright and fearless photography?
To use your own description, I am genuinely interested in creating forthright and fearless imagery, honest imagery, whether it is sexually charged or not.
Personally, I try to explore as many sensations and emotions as the photographer will allow me, giving my all, and it can be discouraging because photographers often seem overly focused on sexuality and not at all interested in other things, like me as me.
For me, photography and expressing myself within an image is just as much about human emotion as it is obviously also about an expression of form. If I find myself involved in shoot after shoot with a sexual theme, things very quickly get boring quickly for me. I like to mix things up as often as possible.
Many might consider some of your images shocking. ‘To shock’ of course suggests many possible meanings – to surprise, to offend, to electrify – but what in particular appeals to you when you create an image that you know is going to push people’s buttons?
Maybe I’m more desensitized then I thought but I really don’t find my images shocking.
Much more importantly, I have no desire to create an image that is shocking for its own sake. I consider simple shock value to be an exercise that’s hollow and cheap, a way to grab attention just for the sake of attention.
There is something about pushing against someone’s comfort zone that does appeal to me. The idea of making someone feel uncomfortable and having to think about why that is, now that is interesting.
I hope there is more in an image of me then blatant shock. I hope that if there is an initial shock there is also an additional sensation, even if it is quite subtle, of substance, sadness, comfort, fearlessness…. …something. A feeling that grabs, locks in and holds the viewers attention for an extra beat even when flipping through a magazine full of otherwise beautiful images. An image that stimulates and stands apart. I want to turn people on through their minds and souls much more then I wish to physically.
Check out Nettie Harris’ tumblr here.