Studio Visit: Nathan Bajar

What does your process in the studio typically look like and how is it informed,  encouraged or constricted by the parameters of the space?

It is not essential to my picture making process to be in the studio— it is more of a space for me to contemplate ideas, work on e-mails, and to look at my pictures on a wall. I also have set up a digital work station for Photoshop and scanning. I would say that the space both encourages and at times constricts my process— encourages because all the resources I need to work are within the space, but constricts because my studio also doubles as my bedroom. I like that if I have a certain idea or problem that I can’t solve right then and there, I could step back, call it a day and sleep on it— Then usually, I just pick up where I left off when I wake up.

Do you often reorganize or revise the contents of your workspace or is stability more conducive to your process?

I frequently change the photographs I have up on my wall— I enjoy sequencing, putting pictures together, and moving them around. Other than that, the space has stayed the same since I moved in. Mostly because I have gotten used to where everything is— and because my room is so small!

What has been your favorite/most productive space to work in as an artist thus far?

I spend a lot of time at this darkroom rental and print studio in Chelsea called My Own Color Lab. I learned how to color print there and was employed there. I could spend all day in the color dark room! There are always people coming in and out of the darkrooms talking and hanging out. Think of it as a local barbershop but for photographers. It really is a special place and the owner, Gerard, is one of the sweetest guys I know.

Most of your personal work is divided between two places –your home in New Jersey and the Philippines. Have you noticed parallels between these differing locations?

It is definitely something I’ve thought about! I think both bodies of work inform each other, but I have been trying to find a connection between both projects besides being pictures about my family.

Have you found that working in different spaces/ environments greatly informs the outcome of your work?

The outcome of my work is similar regardless of environments— at the end of the day there are always going to be pictures that I like and dislike. However, the processes are different. For example, at my parents’ house in Jersey, I work more slowly, more relaxed, and might make less pictures because I can visit anytime. Working in the Philippines is a completely different story. During the first week of my month long stay, I had to get the “OMG! I’m in the Philippines—I have to take pictures of everything” feeling out of my system before I could go out and make pictures. Being pressed on time, I would also make more pictures much faster than usual.

Family seems to be a major aspect to your work. What is your motivation in exploring familial relationships and the domestic experience?

Larry Sultan says it the best in his series Pictures From Home: “What drives me to continue this work is difficult to name. It has more to do with love than with sociology, with being a subject in the drama rather than a witness.”

What projects, other bodies of work or photo books are you looking at for inspiration?

Listening to music always puts me in the mood to work. Right now, I have been listening to a lot of music by LA based producer Knxwledge and Toronto based producer Max Melanin. Larry Sultan’s Pictures From Home and Richard Billingham’s Ray’s A Laugh  have both made a huge impact on me while I was still in school, and it is still one of my favorite photographic bodies of work of all time. There is this intimacy between the photographer and their families while also having this outside looking in perspective. These were both very important bodies of work for me to see because it taught me to not be afraid of what the camera can reveal to me.

Do you have plans for any upcoming personal projects?

I am trying to get myself back in the Philippines as soon as possible so I can photograph more! Other than that, I am continuing to make pictures around my parents’ house in New Jersey. I also want to try putting something together for New York Art Book Fair. I’m still trying to figure out if I want to make a small book with my family pictures in them, or just give it a little more time.


To see more of Nathan’s work, please visit his website.