Our fifty sixth interview in this new series of intimate interviews is with talented mobile photographer and artist Nicole Christophe from Amsterdam, Netherlands. This interview is engaging and evocative and ultimately poignant. Christophe is a fascinating artist with vast talent to boot. Enjoy!
To read the other published interviews in this series including artists, Adria Ellis, Rino Rossi, Mehmet Duyulmus, Alexis Rotella, Lou Ann Sanford Donahue, Irene Oleksiuk, Kerry Mitchell, Filiz Ak, Dale Botha, Lisa Mitchell, M. Cecilia Sao Thiago, Deborah McMillion, Rita Colantonio, Amy Ecenbarger, Jane Schultz, Anca Balaj, Joyce Harkin, Armineh Hovanesian, Kate Zari Roberts, Vicki Cooper, Peter Wilkin, Barbara Braman, Becky Menzies, Sukru Mehmet Omur, Sarah Bichachi, Michel Pretterklieber, Alon Goldsmith, Judy Lurie Whalberg, Andrea Bigiarni, Sean Hayes, Oola Cristina, Kathleen Magner-Rios, Linda Toki, Deb Field, Emilo Nadales, Lydia Cassatt, David Hayes, Jean Hutter, Frederic Deschênes, Mark Schnidman, Fatma Korkut, Fleur Schim, Rob Pearson-Wright, Dieter Gaebel, James Ellis, Marco P Prado, Jeronimo Sanz, Manuela Matos Monteiro, Bleu Chemiko, Manuela Basaldella, Stefania Piccioni, Luis Rodríguez, Marilisa Andriani (@mitrydate) Mayte Balcells (@artofmayte) and myself, go here.
All images ©Nicole Christophe
What was your earliest childhood ambition?
I don’t remember any life spanning ambitions when I grew up. Actually I am pretty sure I had no idea what I wanted to be as a child, and this hasn’t changed yet. One ambition that I do clearly remember is my determination to take a picture of a grasshopper. I was a young teenager with a very basic analog camera (a practica ltl) and no money for prints. So it had to be right in one try. I remember chasing after one of these little creatures for a long time until finally it stopped jumping and I got my shot. I was over the moon when it turned out to be a beautiful picture.
As a digital artist, showing one of my pictures to someone whose judgement I valued a lot. A bit hesitantly, because she had no idea I was creating artworks like this. The astonishment in her voice telling me that it was beautiful and amazing and touching gave me the courage to go on.
Translating medicine labels from Dutch into Latin for a pharmaceutical company that wanted to break into the international market. It was very uninspiring, but paid for my trip to India, so in the end it was really worth it.
Private or State school?
In the Netherlands we don’t really have the distinction between private and state schools, or at least, we didn’t when I was growing up. It is slowly changing now. I did go to a brilliant high school that taught me everything I wanted to know about science, the world, ancient and modern languages and many things about life in general. And since I have always been a very curious person, they taught me a lot.
University or work?
University. I studied philosophy, (a bit of) artificial intelligence and history and languages of South Asia. Eventually I got my MA in comparative philosophy (writing a thesis on Zhuangzi and the philosophy of language).
Who was or still is your mentor?
I wish I had one. I have met many people who inspired me. Teachers, friends, people I admire. People that I have been creating for in my mind. In that I am lucky. But to find somebody who I would call a mentor would be amazing.
How physically fit are you?
Quite. I recently got more inspired to take better care of my body and even though I am not there yet by a long way it feels good to get stronger.
Ambition or Talent. What matters more to success?
I think with just talent and no ambition it is highly unlikely that you are going to be successful. You have to want to work towards something. The problem with this question is that we all define success in a different way. For me it means never running out of inspiration to create images that I find meaningful. For another person it might mean being able to live from selling art. Or maybe broad recognition.
How politically committed are you?
Well… I have my opinions, and my ideals, but they mainly revolve about making this world a better place to live in for all creatures. Politics is nowadays often associated with that, people telling me I am very left of center. But I actually don’t care how that change comes, as long as it does come. Politics is just one way of getting there.
What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?
Time. (I know, you can’t own time, but I don’t need more things. I do really need more time. Although a decent camera would be nice too).
What is your biggest extravagance?
Once every one or two years, I take some days off work and caring for the family and I travel somewhere by myself. Normally I travel lightly and cheaply. But a couple of years ago I travelled for a whole week to see Queen + Adam Lambert in Toronto and visited Iceland on the way there. That trip was my biggest extravagance and the best decision I ever made.
What ambitions do you still have?
Oh, so many. Enough to last several lifetimes. I would love to have my own art show some day. To work in a more creative environment. To make enough money so I can travel. I would love to have time to practice my art, to get better in making portraits. To be able to take good pictures of crowds. And trees. (Or maybe I should tackle these together). To learn to overthink less and laugh more. To get old with a sound mind.
In which places are you happiest?
In my mind
Anywhere on the road
Any place where my two little boys pile on me, almost suffocating me with arms and legs that have grown too long, still wanting to be close to me.
What drives you on?
The conviction that I should get everything out of life that it has to offer.
What do you find most irritating in other people?
Stupidity. Laziness. Arrogance. Egocentrism.
What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?
That my family is whole and functional and that my kids have had a good start in life in spite of the difficulties that were thrown our way.
If your twenty year old self could see you now, what would she think?
That is a difficult one. I think she would be astonished at all that I’ve done in my life, but also surprised at the direction it has taken.
Which object that you’ve lost do you wish you still had?
I bought a shawl during one of my travels through India and it was with me during a lot of significant moments there. After a New Year’s party, when travelling back home, I forgot it on the train, never to find it again.
What is the greatest challenge of our time?
To take care of our planet and each other.
Do you believe in the afterlife?
Not in the way that I think I would be able to be conscious of it. But just as the body disintegrates and gets a new life in the circle of growth there might be a thing like a mind or a soul that returns to be a part of another consciousness. I find that to be a beautiful thought.
If you had to rate your life satisfaction so far, out of ten, what would it be?
I can’t give one number, I’d have to draw a multidimensional graph. Some days it’s a 10, some days it’s a 3. Plenty of days in between. And even then, I sometimes am simultaneously very happy with a new piece of art I made and dead tired of the messiness of life. It probably would be possible to calculate an average but I don’t think it would really mean anything. I do count myself lucky because even though I had my share of difficulties, I always bounce back. So maybe I would put my baseline at 8 with dips and highs.
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