INTERVIEW: NIKKI VAN DE POEL
June 28th, 2020
Words & Interview by Victoria Campa · Artwork by Nikki Van De Poel
Nikki van de Poel is the photographer behind Satellite June, a website offering a plethora of vintage finds, musical inspiration from the 70s, and images of self-love. Nikki’s photographs are gentle in their touch and striking in their mellow, natural light. She teaches online and in-person courses on finding a creative voice through image-making, and she photographs herself and others to create conversations around body positivity. Nikki has been isolating with her partner in Holland during the pandemic. Here, she talks to us about finding inspiration during quarantine through music and long walks. The photographs in these piece are self-portraits she took at home.
How are you staying creative?
This period has been a crazy rollercoaster ride, to be honest. I have felt all the feelings on the spectrum, from having too many ideas and too little hours in a day, to not getting out of bed because the world felt too heavy. But once I started to get used to the whole quarantine situation, a calmness came over me and I decided to test all the ideas I had in mind and never had the time to execute until now. I even tested all my cameras that I had laying around, something I had never gotten around to doing before.
So in the first month of home isolation, it was on and off with inspiration.Right now, I try to make something everyday (as small or as big as I want). This can be a poem, a photo, an installation, a letter - anything to keep my creative brain working. It is so much fun and I am learning so much in the process.
What revelations or realizations have you had about yourself or your life during this time?
Being in isolation definitely made me think a lot. I started to really listen to myself, to my needs and to act on them. Making our house feel like a home because that was something I really missed, feeling at home. So I painted the walls in warm colors, added some art to the walls, framed some of my pictures, bought some plants, and it feels so warm and cozy and I feel totally at home now.
I noticed that I was held back in my work because I started thinking about what other people might say about it. I shared things that I knew people would like. But from the moment I decided to listen to myself, I started sharing my favorite work, only sharing it for me. It is my work and I can decide what I create and share. I felt true to myself and more empowered than ever before. I needed to create in isolation to get back to my roots, back to my needs and not be influenced from the outside. It was the perfect period to listen to myself and create for me. I feel so much lighter.
Tell us about art (books, movies, music, etc.) that you have discovered or revisited during this time.
I re-read "Big Magic" by Elizabeth Gilbert and started diving into the work of Joan Didion. I watched her documentary and read "The Year of Magical Thinking" and "South And West: From A Notebook". Currently I'm reading "The White Album", also by Joan Didion. I absolutely love her work. The album I have been listening to non stop is "Feeding Seahorses By Hand" by Billie Marten. Besides that, an artist whose record you'll always find on our record player is Townes van Zandt. His words touch me deeply, my all-time favorite.
Is there a particular favorite piece of work you like to reference during difficult moments, such as this one?
Not really; this always tends to change. It depends on my own state of mind. Sometimes I start to focus on poetry, sometimes I get lost in movies, flipping through photo books, and other times music is my saviour. The thing that always happens when there's a difficult time like now is that I turn to art for comfort. It makes me dream away for a while. Takes me to different places in my mind.
What are some silver linings that you've encountered during this time?
This crazy time felt a bit like big clouds were hanging above us all, but I decided to search for the light. Behind these massive clouds there is always a silver lining. By allowing these clouds to be here you will find your light shining through. I found my light in taking my time to really feel at home, cook, bake, spend more time with my love, but also in feeling the need to keep on creating. No matter how dark those clouds are, creating makes me feel light, makes me feel happy, grounded, at ease. It takes time, but light will be there and when it hits you it feels so nice and soothing.
What routines have kept you grounded?
I have been walking around 5-7km a day every morning for the last two months. Avoiding all the main streets, I found a lovely walking route through empty streets. Dreaming away by seeing all these beautiful houses and amazing nature. The perfect way to start the day and clear my head.
What changes do you hope are in store for the post-quarantine world?
I hope everybody learns to be more in the moment. Takes better care of our planet. More appreciation for each other. A slower pace. Everything felt so rushed before we went into lockdown. Everything needed to be faster, better, more. I think it's good that we had to take a step back and remember what is really important to us.
What has been inspiring you lately?
It might sound super random but I have been really into watching YouTube channels of farmers, people who live on a farm growing their own vegetables and fruits and flowers. Cooking all the time and drying flowers. It made me realize that I wanted a slower pace in my life. I started cooking more, planted some herbs on our balcony, bought flowers at the market every week, appreciating the little things in life much much more. Besides that Joan Didion's books have been a great source of inspiration. I love diving into her written world. Photography-wise I have been experimenting a lot with shapes, textures, colors and different types of film. Studying what kind of effects these things have on my photography is such a fun ride. Can't wait to start shooting with others again and applying all the things I learned in this period of isolation.
This interview is part of a series of conversations with artists discussing their experiences during quarantine.
Victoria Campa grew up in Madrid, Spain, and has traveled around the world with her camera. She mostly lenses women in quiet moments within their environments, and she is interested in exploring the passage of time, strength in vulnerability, and inner lives through stories. She writes a bi-weekly newsletter about art, film, and writing called things to look at. You can explore her work at www.victoriacampa.com