Artwork: Itv with Samantha Muljat
Samantha Muljat located in the state of Washington, USA is known for her analog photographs of desolated landscapes. This aesthetic was something we saw working very good with Black Snow Desert, the latest album by Nonsun. So we asked Samantha to take care of the artwork for this one and she came up with an amazing photograph fitting perfectly to the sound. We sat down with her and talked about her work and profession.
- Your website learns us you were born and raised in Germany. When did you decide to move out? And why to LA?
I moved to Los Angeles in late 2011. I just finished college and was dating my now-husband. I had a very good old friend living in LA and my back-then boyfriend got accepted into school there. We wanted to be together and I didn’t necessarily have a great plan of how I wanted to continue life in Germany. I knew I wanted to make a living as an artist, so I thought “why not?” Los Angeles opened a lot of doors for me and even though I don’t live there anymore, I think it was a good choice at the time.
- You studied Photography and Fine Arts back in Germany. What is the most important lesson you learned in art school?
There are two important lessons actually: Learn as many tools as possible and don’t get discouraged by what your professors think of your art. I started out as a painter, then dabbled into film and ended up doing photography and graphic design. I felt like I never quite fit into one of the categories and always felt an urge to bend borders between them. I did a lot of collage-y mixed-media stuff, which was neither liked by the photographers, nor by the painters. For many years I thought it to be a flaw, not being able to decide where I belonged. Now I actually think that I learned so much more that way. It’s not about perfecting any of those arts - I’m far, far away from that. It’s about changing perspective. Painting has helped me to become better at taking photos, graphic design has helped me to have a better understanding of use of space and composition. Learning how do to typography properly has deepened those and so on and so forth.
- When reading your short bio it mentions that besides a main focus on photography you're a multidisciplinary artist. What other art forms have you been using? You're working a lot with musicians, are you a musician yourself?
I’m not sure if I would title myself as proper “musician” but I have always played music since I was a teenager. I sing and have done so in several bands. Music and visual arts go in hand-in-hand. I see a lot of similarities in both, that’s why I mostly cater to musicians. I believe you can transport the feeling of music into an artwork. Dismantle layers of a song (or album) and put those layers back together into an image.
- I assume photography is your full time job at the moment?
Yes, photography and graphic design.
- How do you prepare for a project? And more specific for the Nonsun shoot?
It is always important to me to talk to the musicians a lot, look at references, listen to the music, read the lyrics and work with the album title. I try to be as thorough as possible to make sure I get the vibe of the album. For Nonsun, we wanted to reflect the album title “Black Snow Desert” and I was working closely with the band in order to determine what kind of feeling we want to convey with the art. We decided to use recent burn areas as the canvas for “Black Snow Desert” and we talked about being on a journey into the unknown, that’s why there’s a path on the front cover that seems to disappear. Melancholy was also a central aspect of the album, a lot of that got incorporated via the color scheme.
- What gear are you working with? I've read you're using both analog and digital cameras. Are you really using digital cameras? I couldn’t really find a photograph that doesn’t look analog.
Yes, I use both, though currently I’m focusing more on analog photography. I have an array of analog cameras, from several old Nikons, to Polaroids, to Pentax. My favorite and most used analog camera is the Pentax ME Super. For digital I use a Canon EOS 7D.
- Your work strongly reminds me of the Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich. (Who is by coincidence one of my favorite painters.) Not only because of your painterly photographs but also because you seem to share an interest in the desolate landscape as a main character, with or without model.
Funny that you mention CDF. He is one of my favorite romantic painters as well. I have “Uttewalder Grund” hanging in my living room. I love how he uses light and shadow and how you can easily get absorbed into the atmosphere of his works. I love the dichotomy of calm and unsettling; and the feeling of yearning versus loneliness.
Solitude is often a theme in my images. When I go out to shoot photos, I often seek “aloneness” and even if I shoot a model than they’re usually alone in vast nature. It also has to do with the way I operate. I do everything myself, from shooting photos, to layout and typography, to putting the finished art in the printer’s templates.
- Maybe a little bit the same question but between the artwork there's also a lot of photographs that don't seem to be for 'a customer'. If you’re not translating a musicians idea into an album cover what is it that you would like people to see or feel when beholding your art. No need to answer this if the previous answers make this question redundant.
Ideally, I’d like to create an intriguing atmosphere. The beginning of a story that has yet to be told. People have told me that they would like to “be” or “live” inside my pictures. Others say that they’ve dreamed of a similar environment. Those are really amazing compliments. If people can get lost in my otherworldly landscapes, than I’ve accomplished what I was hoping to do.
- I can see in your photographs why you moved to California. Amazing landscapes everywhere! That being said you moved up North just recently. It sounds impossible to me but were you running out of landscapes? However you also shoot a good amount of your pictures abroad right? Are you using photography as a medium to explore and make a location your own?
I wasn’t running out of landscapes but I did in fact become more interested in other landscapes. You’ll see a lot of desert in earlier shots - and don’t get me wrong, I love the desert - but recently I find myself more intrigued by mountains and woods. We have a great abundance of those where I live now. I do like the idea of wandering around and getting somewhat lost. Or I sometimes drive around and explore paths I’ve never been on. Exploring and being inquisitive is a big part of what I do. Traveling to far places is only the natural extension of that.
- Unfortunately huge wildfires in California were in the news again just recently. Do you sometimes feel slightly guilty knowing that disasters like this will result in the perfect setting for a shoot like Black Snow Desert? Then again once in a while these fires are part of natural landscapes in general so it makes sense that they are part of your work as well right?
Yes, I do have ambivalent feelings towards taking pictures of a natural disaster, much like the wildfires yielding some ambivalence in themselves. As you mentioned, the fires are creating new life, but they’re also destroying existing life. There’s definitely a feeling of guilt or being exploitative. On the other hand, I don’t present the pictures I’ve taken during wildfires in a sensational way. I document and I pour a layer of my own feelings on top of my images. I see beauty in those landscapes but also melancholy and sadness.
Black Snow Desert [2xLP]
Comes on 180g double colored vinyl, reverse cardboard