Friday, August 12, 2016

The Teenager

My innermost dream is to achieve something in life; then when I will be older I will share it with my own children and I will be really proud, looking back and thinking “I did this”. And I really want my parents to be proud of me too.  

“ - So, are you a professional photographer”? Her beautiful brown eyes look at me; she is genuinely interested to find out about my project, as we walk to the playground at the end of the street. It’s her special place and that is where we agreed to have our photoshoot. I paused and thought about how I really want to answer this question.
I am always nervous before any of my sittings, regardless whether I shoot someone famous or a child. Actually, children and teenagers make me be even more nervous because I think a lot about how I want to interact and how I relate to them. The last thing I want is to come across as all-knowing or patronising.

I remember myself as a rebellious 15 years old teenager – I was always happy in my mountains but otherwise pretty disappointed for not being heard, especially by the grownups, who almost never treated me as an able dialogue partner.

I decide to be honest and I just simply say that I never really call myself anything else but a dreamer. That anyone with a good DSLR and a bit of practice calls themselves a professional nowadays and I just don’t want to be one. I prefer to dream.
It doesn’t come as a surprise – Nina gets what I am saying. A very accomplished artist at a very early age –and I suspect, a dreamer herself – she get exactly what I am saying, from one artist to another. Age is no longer an issue. I feel at ease and so does she, it seems.
The minute we get to the playground, it does make sense why it holds such a special meaning to her and I can see the magic for myself: the trees are in bloom, although we are in the middle of the winter, after a couple of extremely cold weeks. (We shot this story in July).

I saw her drawings long before I met her and – like everyone else in our circle of friends - I was amazed by her talent. Meeting her in person was even more amazing.
Nina is 15 and her story is still in the makings. But the beginning is pretty good.

- When I was 4, all I wanted to do was helping little animals - I still want to do it. I always wanted to make the world a better place. How? Well, when I was little I always found the animals in need and took them home. You know – little birds rushing in the windows, little cats…I remember my parents asking “Nina, what are you doing?” but I always got emotional about seeing an animal suffering. I remember that 2 years ago, my Dad and I were walking through a park and I found a parrot that couldn’t fly. It was an adult, something happened to it. I tried to help it, but there wasn’t much I could do. I was really upset; no matter how many times my Dad said to me there was nothing else I could have done, it affected me a lot. 
It couldn’t be a better cue – Nina’s father comes in smiling, telling her that Maggie is out the back. I must look intrigued; she tells me about the magpie that she is looking after:
- It was about a year ago when Maggie the magpie started to come around all the time and I feed her. Now she comes with her chick and I feed them both. I love that she trusts me and she is bringing her chick along.

- My favourite story? When we were kids, my mother had this giant book with stories that she was reading to us at bed time. I used to love Little Red Riding Hood – I love the story, I love that there is a plot twist to it. The book itself was very old; my mother had it when she was little.

After I finish college, I would like to enrol at ANU and study medicine; I want to become a surgeon. If that doesn’t work out, I would be really happy to have a career out of art. 
I am still figuring out who I really am; I don’t think I know it yet. One day, it’s going to hit me: that’s who I am! For now, I just want to be this creative person. It’s a great time in life, right now; I hope I can keep it up.

My innermost dream is to achieve something in life; then when I will be older I will share it with my own children and I will be really proud, looking back and thinking “I did this”. And I really want my parents to be proud of me too. 
The one thing that keeps me going is my family; their support and their faith in me. It would be really hard to find motivation without them. High school life can get hard sometimes, with lots of assignments and activities. If I feel flat, they pick me up I love arts, photography, painting ; they are really great parents and they support me in everything I do.

Where do I see myself in 5 years’ time? Hopefully still studying at ANU, on the way to become a surgeon. It takes 8 years of study.

It’s a question I ask every sitter – what would they do with fame? I ask it because I am truly fascinated to learn about people and their dreams. Without hesitating, this 15yo gave me the best answer about her 15 minutes of fame. There is a lesson for every one of us, right there:
- If I ever had 15 minutes of fame, I would use it to raise awareness of mental health problems. It seems to be a very big issue; I see lots of articles about people being depressed. I think everyone should pay attention to their peers and ask the most important question “Are You OK?” A while ago I had a really stressful time and I really appreciated my friends checking on me. It’s really important that we all do that. Everyone is experiencing depression at one point; no one talks about it and I think we should. We have this program at school, “Where’s your hat at?” – It’s a great program where we can raise awareness with peers and we can discuss anything. We do touch a lot on mental health.
And I would also advocate for everyone to follow their dreams. If they don’t do something they like, they will not enjoy life.

My parents were my first role models. I feel that when you are a kid you need someone strong to copy. The way they talk, the way they behave, a kid is copying it. I wouldn’t be an artist and I wouldn’t be as straight forward without my parents. They helped me become who I am.
They still are my role-models. I think I got my mum’s creativity and my father’s imagination; I am a blend of both.

My favourite story now? Peter Pan! I just like the whole idea of flying, immortality and the lost boys. There have been lots of plays and movie remakes lately but every single time I hear “Peter Pan”, it gets my attention. I often have this dream about flying, without having to flap my wings. 
(Within only one week of interviews, Nina is the second person with whom I found to have this in common: we share the flying dreams and the love for Peter Pan's story).

My biggest regret is that I didn’t start to paint before, I didn’t put myself out. Back when we still lived in Slovenia, I was bullied in kindergarten and primary school. I had short hair and I was playing a lot with the boys. The girls bullied me and it made me shy. I am past that, now. In the end, it made me stronger. My brother was also bullied in year 1. My parents changed schools; they were very upset to hear what was going on.
Moving to Australia was definitely a turning point. I was very nervous about first day in school here, but everyone was very nice. I didn’t know what to expect; I thought no one would like me but everyone wanted to talk to me and they were genuinely interested to know me. That was when everything changed. It was such a different experience, to realise that wow, people really like me, there is nothing wrong with me. And I liked it a lot. It feels like home; I cannot even imagine myself being back in Slovenia. I wouldn’t be this person I am now, if we stayed there. Being here, in a new country pushed the real ‘me” out. Later on, I shared my story because I wanted to help people who were going through bullying. It doesn’t happen as much in my high school but I am aware it does happen around.

My special place where I feel at peace is the playground at the end of our street. There is a little bench under the tree. I go there often; it’s a place where I like to meditate, especially when I was feeling upset or lost. I just sit there a bit and then the inner child comes out and then I forget about everything else. I love feeling surrounded by trees and not by houses. I love being in the nature. 


I was genuinely interested to hear what arts means to Nina. I also asked her to describe herself in one word.
- There isn’t just one single answer. I started to draw when I was little but I only started to really paint when I was in year 4. There was this class for adults where my mother took me and in the beginning they wouldn’t hear of it. But my mum insisted “let her show you what she can do” and then the teacher said “I think she should come to my classes”. I loved that little group; I liked being surrounded by grownups and being the only child there, away from the bullies. My art means that I can be myself, being able to put everything on a page. It means being able to express feelings – if I feel upset, angry or happy, I can just lay it all on that white paper in front of me.
Then there are those days where I get this urge, “I have to draw this”. I am in my room, up until late and I keep drawing.

If I had one word to describe myself, it would probably be “creative” but I am not sure. It is hard to use only one word to describe yourself.

Does Nina feels that there is a gap between generations? Does she find it hard to make her voice heard?
- Sometimes! I feel that the older people don’t really listen – we’re still teenagers and we’re still figure things but we need to be listened to as well. Teachers do listen; Parents do; but if –say – you’re at the mall and say something to a grown up, most of the time they will think you are joking.

I asked Nina where does she see the future in art – traditional mediums or digital?
- I do a lots of digital stuff now, with the ipencil and the tablet. But creativity and working on a piece of paper cannot be replaced; it will be even more special in the future, I think. Take for instance Mum’s drawings – I can see the detail so much better. On an electronic piece, you don’t know if it’s the original, whether they have done it or whether they have stolen it from somewhere. On the paper, you can always see the original.

What motivates Nina better: success or failure?
- Failure. Because when I fail, it is something I take as an experience and I know I can do better.

How would I describe my art? My art is all over the place right now. I had different phases; I did nature and landscapes, then I had a portrait phase when I started drawing celebrities or characters that I imagined. Now I do everything: nature, portrait, abstract, digital art – everything.

Given the latest trend in games and having witnessed some of the frenzy around Pokémon hunting, I wanted to know how Nina feels about it.
- Everyone talks about it but I decided I don’t want to play it; I don’t want to be addicted to games. There has been some talk about people getting hurt or killed while playing- I don’t think it’s right.

Before we parted, Nina modestly shared some of her art with me. Her portfolio is truly amazing and it encompasses each of the phases she was telling me: celebrity portraits, imaginary characters, watercolours, animals, landscapes. I was really in awe with a portrait of Emma Watson; the drawing detail and the likeness were remarkable.



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