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Beyond Boundaries: Nadia Huggins


Transformations No. 1, 2015


Nadia Huggins (b.1984) is a photographer whose documentation of the authentic natural and human environments of the Caribbean explore the idea of imagination beyond geographic or man-made boundaries.


From nature to figurative photography Nadia Huggins shows through her practice how human beings and the environment are connected, interact with each other and our impact on one another. Her work are scenes of dreamy and cinematic underwater landscapes, colourful flora environments as well as human beings interacting with Nature. Huggins currently has a group show at the Johnson Jenkins Gallery in New York and an upcoming solo exhibition and residency at the Betsy Hotel in Miami.


“Photography is not just about what you put within an image, but also what choose to leave out of that frame”

Image credit: Kate Elliott


Nadia Huggins was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, and grew up in St Vincent and the Grenadines, an island of the Caribbean situated at the south of St Lucia, where she is now based. The daughter of a seamstress and an architect, Nadia was surrounded by creativity and images from a very young age. At 14 years old, she was diagnosed with alopecia, an autoimmune disease that causes partial or complete hair loss on various parts of the body. This was a traumatic episode in her life, challenging her femininity and how she was perceived by others. However, it was a door to another world which pushed her to step past her own boundaries and comfort zone and helped her redefine herself and her environment. It had an enormous impact on her identity and is today a big part of her subject matter. As a teenager, Nadia’s dad took her to job sites where she started to develop a taste for photography, specifically documenting the natural milieu of the island. Nadia’s first choice was to study film, but as they could not afford to leave the island, she pursued photography as her main practice. She started to work for advertising companies and later around 2010, took photography as an artistic practice, wanting to get away from sensational press photography. Combining conceptual and documentary photography, and redirecting her own experience and emotions into the practice, Huggins’ work focuses on the subjects of belonging, place, identity and memory.


Circa No Future no.8, 2015


Huggins compares photography to the life experience in the Caribbean where in both cases, there is a boundary: a frame in a photograph and a shoreline in an island. She describes it as a possibility to develop creativity and imagine what is beyond that frame that we don't see, instead of seeing it as a place you cannot go any further, a limitation. Applying this concept to the sea, she realised how people were behaving differently under water. Her solo exhibition in London Circa No Future (2014-ongoing) was her first time introducing human beings into her photography practice, observing behaviours. Challenging the performance of hypermasculinity of Caribbean men, this series shows and captures moments of vulnerability and comfort past that sea boundary. Huggins’ work questions the social constructs that separate gender, class, race, sexuality, trying to show that once we cross that boundary, there is an immense range of possibilities of transformation and change, beyond the social construct imposed to us.


Transformations No. 4, 2016


Ash column from second eruption of La Soufriere volcano, St. Vincent, 2021Transformations No. 4, 2016


Huggins ventures into the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic ocean, observing the fauna and flora hidden around the seabed. The series Transformation (2014-2016) is a combination of the two concepts: documenting the change in the environment she studied during her daily swim and the changes we go through in life. This series shows our closeness and connection with nature which sometimes helps us to see different parts of our personality, but also the importance of it for our own survival. In documenting the flora of the island, Huggins is showing another experience of Caribbean life, away from the colonial gaze; the ‘exotic’ and paradisiacal idea of the place. Huggins creates familiar images to establish a connection with the viewer. An imagery that creates a more authentic experience of the Caribbean, not pre-made for tourists. On 9th April 2021, the volcano La Soufriere erupted after 42 years of inactivity. Huggins developed a series of photographs entitled The Beginning is the End and the End is the Beginning, documenting the event, giving testimony from a Caribbean point of view. Huggins captured tortured skies, and muted coloured landscapes covered in greys ashes, giving a different perspective from iconic Caribbean images.


Image credit: Addis Foto Fest


Nadia Huggins describes her process as very organic, and solitary practice, where she likes to immerse herself into Nature, especially the sea, and observe how the environment and herself interact with one another. She captures moments of her expeditions to share with the viewer. Huggins’ process is meditative and self-explorative: as she uses photography as a means to document but also a means to express herself in ways she couldn't do before. Her practice is very experimental and mostly underwater, although after Covid and the volcano eruption, she started to explore more of the land - jungle, forest… Her main focus being to create a record, an archive of photography to document how it is to live on an island at a specific period of time and create something that can be looked at in the future as a different testimony of what happens on an island to Caribbean residents.


Nadia Huggins has had numerous exhibitions across the USA, the UK and the Caribbean, most recently in Haiti, Leicester (UK) and Canada. She had solo shows in London (UK), Missouri and the Dominican Republic. Huggins had residencies in Haiti, the Azores and Vermont and will this year complete a residency in Miami with the Betsy Hotel which will result in a solo exhibition. She currently has a group exhibition Echo opened at the Jenkins Johnson Gallery in New York until 27th August 2022. Nadia Huggins had her works in several important publications such as A to Z Caribbean edited by Melanie Archer and Mariel Brown, Black Futures edited by Kimberley Drew and Jenna Wortham, and has been featured online in National Geographic, Vogue, Aesthetica Magazine or Photoworks.


Transformations No. 1, 2015

Digital photograph, chromaluxe (white gloss finish)

30 (h) x 46.5(w)



If you’d like to acquire this or other works by Nadia Huggins, email info@yourartmatch.com.


Watch Nadia's Ted Talk, "What's beyond the boundary of the shoreline?":


References:

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