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Untitled, by Paris

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Paris' Instagram: @naikneenan


A Conversation with the Artist

We interviewed Paris on their views and artistic journey.



The Full Conversation









The Abridged Version:

Timestamps next to each interview question correspond with the audio version. If there are certain parts of the conversation you'd like to listen to in full detail, feel free to skip around. 


So to start off, what inspired you to join the zine? [6:16]


Paris: I saw one of your tik toks and, I'll be honest, the pandemic has got me feeling really isolated and alone. Despite being at uni I haven't met anyone in my course, or any other creatives. I was just stuck in my flat with a lot of marine biology students. So I saw your tiktok, and I thought, oh, I'll join the Discord. And it was interesting to see people really uplifting each other. It’s so positive. It’s also kind of upsetting because that positivity was what I wanted from my degree, but unfortunately, my degree seems to be very competitive. I wanted to be around people who are doing this because they really want to, not because it's an easier route. I want to surround myself with people who have just as much passion for what they do as I do.


Interviewer: I'm happy you’ve experienced it as an uplifting thing because that's what this whole community is all about. Is it supposed to be just fun, no obligation, and helping each other.

So with your zine entry, what was the creative process like making it? Was there a specific approach you took or obstacles you faced in the process? [8:55]


I thought it could be interesting to explore femininity, friendships, stuff like that. Something happened with me and my flatmates at the time — we had taken in someone because they were by themselves. We wanted to support him, but unfortunately, he just wanted one thing. He was never really kind without something in return. We were all so nurturing, trying to make sure that everyone's okay, but he somehow turned all the girls in our friendship group against each other. I just thought, how is this happening? He was being creepy, and it felt like such a shame for us to all turn against each other. We all came to this realization at different times. But when we did, we came together and realized we were stronger together rather than against each other. And when that happened, I thought, ‘Right. Let's just have a group nap. Let's just get all our pillows, duvets, just build like a pillow fort. It'll just be for us, and we'll just relax.’ And, it turned out to be a really nice and relaxing atmosphere. I wanted to create that in my work, where people could feel supported and just overall cared for. That group nap had some really positive, lasting effects on our friendship because we all just had each other's back. I think we need more of that nowadays — to just support each other.




The manipulation with the Polaroids was to symbolize the insecure male influence that always creeps in. It starts to turn everything black and almost toxify the situation. Some of the images are so distorted that you can barely see the models and how carefree they look, in the same way your insecurities get in the way of your perspective of reality — with the way people are treating you and such. That was kind of my process when capturing these photos.


I definitely feel the comfort you were trying to evoke in these photos. With people holding hands, everyone so close together, calm and content — you really did capture a sense of warmth and comfort in this piece.


Yeah, that was definitely the aim. We just decided to take a self care day because you kind of struggle to take time for yourself. And obviously, it’s a universal experience, I’ve been almost touch deprived — the fact that it’s hard for us to physically comfort each other. As we’ve started to come more out of the pandemic, at least in the UK, I've noticed that when I give people a hug I like to hold on to it longer.



So, this next question is something I think about a lot. I’m not sure about you, but I’ve always associated specific music or songs with pieces of artwork. I was wondering if you ever connect music with art, and if so how? [16:02]


Yeah, actually, there is — the “Life is Strange” ambient soundtrack. It provides such a sense of comfort and nostalgia for me, it has for years, and it's just so comforting. It has the same warmth of, I don’t know how to describe it, but almost like a golden hour kind of thing. Even though that's specifically a technique for photography, I almost feel that golden warmth in the “Life is Strange” music. 


That's amazing. With the ambient soundtrack, it's very mood driven. And I know exactly what you're talking about with that golden warmth. It’s hard to describe, but it’s like it surrounds you? I feel that what inspired your work is the same thing that inspired mine.


Yeah. It’s like a hug — getting a hug from your parents after a really bad day. In my music and work, I just want to be a source of comfort.



Speaking more broadly about your art, are there particular artists, concepts, or colour palettes that inspire your work? [18:44]


For this piece, One of the images I was inspired by, the poses, some of the color palette, and the warmth, was Gustav Klimt’s “The Virgin.” But in general, I have two very different styles. For this style of work (Polaroid photography), I would say Dash Snow definitely inspired the way I used Polaroids in a different series, which is the “party girl performed.” That project was to exemplify the self destructive and performative nature of being the party girl. Feeling like you have to amplify everything you experience to show you're having a good time, rather than just having a good time. My other work is more about mental health and trauma, and Daniel Reagen is a big inspiration for that. He works a lot more with self, self portrait, digital work, neon colors —like bright oranges and dark blue hues. I really like that. I kind of want to mix both styles together; I'm still trying to figure out how I could do that. And overall, my style is kind of driven through many different aspects and inspiration sources. Sometimes it's movies, but a lot of times it's video games. As I’ve mentioned, I take a lot of inspiration from Life is Strange — the soundtrack, the visuals, the Polaroids. There was another game as well called “Tell Me Why;” it has a similar game style and and nostalgic flashbacks — I definitely took some inspiration from that.  But yeah, I take inspiration from a lot of places. I'm just telling you the ones I can name. But sometimes it is just like I walk down the street and I'll be like, oh, I know that person's wearing, oh; I like what's in that window shop. And I'll take a photo. 

In terms of your art, do you ever explore mediums other than visual art? (Music, writing, etc) [24:47]

Yeah. I definitely want to work with different mediums, maybe more so combining them together — mixed media. Painting on photographs, doing embroidery, more experimental — because I want there to be something tangible with my photographs. When I'm capturing digital photographs, it feels like it can get lost in the masses of the internet. Whereas with taking Polaroids , or painting on them — doing experimentations like I did with these images where I added bleach and dish soap — I just wanted there to be some physical aspect to it. It’s as if I’m trying to prove its existence beyond it being on the internet. That's kind of like a personal conflict with mine; I have a love-hate relationship with the Internet.


I also have a tendency to show my creativity through my clothing — maybe a bit too much for my bank account). But, I like to sew, redo clothes to fit my changing aesthetic. I’d like to get more into poetry, but I think I get a bit too in my head about it. I focus too much on the real literal meaning of it instead of more of the symbolic meaning. I would also like to get into films — they’ve had a massive impact on my work. I have a whole folder of my favorite compositions from films. Perfect Blue is one like one of my favorite films and BoJack Horseman my favorite TV show. 

What are your earliest memories involving creative expression? [31:36]


My earliest memory of creativity is helping my mom decorate my childhood bedroom. With this little projector, she would project an image of Disney Princesses on the wall, and we would paint it together. 


Alot happened in my childhood. I had a speech impediment, which meant that I didn’t speak until the age of five, and I had ongoing speech problems until I was 10. A lot of that impacted me when I was younger, as well as being mixed race in a very white suburban area. I got bullied a lot, and it made me want to create artwork that people can relate to, so they don’t feel alone. Because I felt alone a lot of the time. And I, as a creative, want people to look at my work and realize they’re not alone. 


How have people in your personal life influenced your art journey? [34:55]

My dad has been a massive influence. He does a lot of tough love, but in the end, he's my biggest advocate. When I said I want to study photography, and everyone asked why I wasn’t going into a STEM subject, it was him who had my back. He knew it was what I know and love. And he used to do photography when he was younger as well, so he has knowledge on it and I’ll go to him sometimes for advice. 


My A-level photography teacher has also had a massive impact on my work. We had a great teacher-student relationship, where we’d end up in screaming matches about whether or not I was using the right blue in my work. So she was very passionate — just as passionate as I was about my work. She pushed me to be the best photographer and person I could be. 

In general, are there any themes or topics that inform your artwork? [36:48]


I recently did a project about my current mental health — a series of photographs that portrayed how I felt during a depressive episode.  I made it not for people who have depression, but to communicate the burden of depression to people who don’t understand. Because it's hard to communicate that, especially for me, someone who’s had speech difficulties when I was younger. Sometimes I still struggle to communicate how I feel, so I use my work to do it. The series was called “Don’t be Negative,” which was meant to be a pun. I was feeling very sardonic at the time, and I’d just gone through a severe trauma, so I poured all my feelings into that work. With previous work, I did a lot of stuff around childhood trauma, primarily my mom. She was bipolar, so I had to deal with being separated from her when I was younger. I found that quite traumatizing, and I explored that through my photography.


 I’m also currently working on a project. I’m not sure of its direction, but I think I want to portray what it’s like to be a survivor — how it impacts you, how you almost have to grieve this life you never got the chance to live. It’s really sad, but I think it’s part of the process. 


Do you ever feel obligated for your work to have a “deeper,” or more profound, meaning? Do you think that “deeper” meaning makes artwork more valuable? [41:34]


I don’t think every artwork has to have deep meaning behind it. But, I do feel obligated when I'm doing more performative and portrait photography. I started doing photography as a way to kind of process everything I was going through, so I guess I got into the habit of feeling like everything has to have a deep meaning. Well, except my protest photography. For that, you see it for what it is: people protesting for a cause. That's it. I didn’t/dont want to put any deeper meaning behind it because then I'm manipulating what they're trying to say, and that's not what I want to do. When studying photography, I definitely feel obligated to add deeper meaning. It’s kind of tough for me to just take photos or just do art without it having some meaning. You can't just have a fun photo shoot with your friends. Like, I struggle to maintain my personal Instagram. I'm actually considering deleting it because I can't take a photo without it being very well considered or having to take it again — not just in a sense of how I look, but I’ll think, “oh, is there a deeper meaning?” to an Instagram photo of my food. Like, it's not that deep. I just get in my head about it. 


I think there should be more art that's more shallow because sometimes, especially for people who do have mental health issues. At least for me, sometimes I just want to see content that just makes me feel better and comforted. Sometimes I don't have the bandwidth to think about all the deeper meanings in life. 


So are saying you kind of want to transition a little bit out of this mindset? 


Not for my work; I would still want to keep a deeper meaning in it. But I think for my personal life, I definitely want to kind of shift from that mindset. Sometimes it’s a bit tiring to constantly analyze everything that I'm going through instead of just living my life and enjoying where I am in the moment. 


Yeah, I love that. Do you feel like University (Uni) has encouraged this divide between feeling the need to put deeper meaning into your artwork versus not? 


Yeah. I mean, I was already putting deeper meaning into my work before but it was more of a choice, whereas in Uni it's a requirement. I don't like that because there were people in my course whose work were more “surface level” — a humorous piece of photography or the like — but they got lower grades because of it. And, they’re these really amazing pieces of art that are being downgraded simply because they don’t have that “deeper meaning?” I just don't agree with that. I think it can be quite elitist. It's a conflict that I will continue to have for a few years. 

How much do you think creative ability is an innate talent? Versus a skill, you can work at over time? [54:36]


I don't see my ability is innate. I've taken a lot of influences from when I was younger, because my mom's an artist and so was my grandmother. I don't agree with people being born with talent; I think people take in information throughout their life, especially when you’re younger. (Younger than people expect). I think the way to be a great artist is to stay ambitious and keep practicing — working to make your next project better than the last. But yeah, I don’t think I have innate talent. My dad would say differently, he wants to think I was born with this, but I don’t think I was. 


Our last question — what’s something that’s made you smile this week? [59:11]


My cat, Moon. I love him very much, and he's just so squishy and cuddly. He's made me smile.



Paris interviewABFA Zine
00:00 / 1:01:46
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