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An interview with photographer Shannon Natasha

Playful and sunny, yet thoughtful – this is Shannon Natasha’s style. The 17 year old photographer takes a break from her exam preparations to answer our Q&A and show us some of her work.

Written by Jessica Furseth

teebs

Flying Lotus seems to be a man that can do no wrong at the moment. His latest album, ambulance Cosmogramma, viagra was met with resounding praise from critics across the globe and his new EP, visit this site Pattern + Gridworld, looks set to enjoy the same success. In addition to his personal prominence at present, FlyLo’s Brainfeeder label is enjoying similar notoriety due to some inspired signings that are taking hip hop production to dizzying heights. His latest offering, Teebs, is likely to increase the LA label’s popularity even further.

Teebs, real name Mtendere Mandowa, is a 23 year old Californian beat maker who is about to unleash his inspired debut album, Ardour, this month. The elegant piano flourishes and spellbinding harps are closer to the works of Caribou and Bonobo than they are to the works of fellow label mates and beat purveyors Gaslamp Killer and Lorn. This is an album so understated and mystifying that label owner Flying Lotus refers to it as “like an island vacation. The way Avatar looks.” Radio 1 DJ Mary Anne Hobbs has been heaping praise upon it during her weekly show, calling it “a unique and tender magic.”

The Chino Hills native began producing his own music after he tore his Achilles tendon during a skateboarding accident. Due to the fact that he was not physically able to pursue one of his passions, he simply decided to replace it with another. “I was out for half a year and just made music and art during that time,” says Mandowa. “That’s when I just got stuck, since I got the same feeling I did when I was skating.”

Soon, Teebs’ creations took on a life of their own and resulted in the producer making regular trips to Los Angeles to perform at Low End Theory, the experimental hip hop haven that has produced the likes of Daedelus and Shlohmo. “Low End was the Mecca,” advises the young producer. “I think it still is for a lot of artists coming up in the LA area. It’s freedom in the purest form. Anything goes there as long as it has its own honest feeling to it.” 

It didn’t take long before Flying Lotus became aware of Teebs’ talents and the pair forged a friendship through their similar philosophies about what hip hop should music could be. Says Mandowa: “After a few visits to his old place in the valley and a beat CD that I passed over to him, Lotus just texted me and it read something like, ‘So whatsup, will you join us?’”

This seems like a fairly informal way to score a record deal, but Teebs’ attitude in general tends to give the impression that he takes everything in his stride and tries not to force anything too much. This may just have worked in his favour as his debut album, named after his preferred digital audio workstation, easily ranks as one of the most ambitious releases on Brainfeeder to date.

Despite the fact that Teebs’ first album sounds like a focused collection of works that were meticulously threaded together, he is happy to confess that none of it was intentional. “It’s definitely just a collection of tunes that I pulled together after I was asked to make a record,” confesses the 23 year old. “I never thought my music would get pressed or that I would ever really put stuff out seriously until I got on Brainfeeder. It was a strange feeling like, ‘Oh I need to make this work as a single record now.’”

Ardour is out now on Brainfeeder.

teebs

Flying Lotus seems to be a man that can do no wrong at the moment. His latest album, thumb Cosmogramma, site was met with resounding praise from critics across the globe and his new EP, Pattern + Gridworld, looks set to enjoy the same success. In addition to his personal prominence at present, FlyLo’s Brainfeeder label is enjoying similar notoriety due to some inspired signings that are taking hip hop production to dizzying heights. His latest offering, Teebs, is likely to increase the LA label’s popularity even further.

teebs_ardour_cover

Teebs, real name Mtendere Mandowa, is a 23 year old Californian beat maker who is about to unleash his inspired debut album, Ardour, this month. The elegant piano flourishes and spellbinding harps are closer to the works of Caribou and Bonobo than they are to the works of fellow label mates and beat purveyors Gaslamp Killer and Lorn. This is an album so understated and mystifying that label owner Flying Lotus refers to it as “like an island vacation. The way Avatar looks.” Radio 1 DJ Mary Anne Hobbs has been heaping praise upon it during her weekly show, calling it “a unique and tender magic.”

The Chino Hills native began producing his own music after he tore his Achilles tendon during a skateboarding accident. Due to the fact that he was not physically able to pursue one of his passions, he simply decided to replace it with another. “I was out for half a year and just made music and art during that time,” says Mandowa. “That’s when I just got stuck, since I got the same feeling I did when I was skating.”

Soon, Teebs’ creations took on a life of their own and resulted in the producer making regular trips to Los Angeles to perform at Low End Theory, the experimental hip hop haven that has produced the likes of Daedelus and Shlohmo. “Low End was the Mecca,” advises the young producer. “I think it still is for a lot of artists coming up in the LA area. It’s freedom in the purest form. Anything goes there as long as it has its own honest feeling to it.” 

It didn’t take long before Flying Lotus became aware of Teebs’ talents and the pair forged a friendship through their similar philosophies about what hip hop should music could be. Says Mandowa: “After a few visits to his old place in the valley and a beat CD that I passed over to him, Lotus just texted me and it read something like, ‘So whatsup, will you join us?’”

This seems like a fairly informal way to score a record deal, but Teebs’ attitude in general tends to give the impression that he takes everything in his stride and tries not to force anything too much. This may just have worked in his favour as his debut album, named after his preferred digital audio workstation, easily ranks as one of the most ambitious releases on Brainfeeder to date.

Despite the fact that Teebs’ first album sounds like a focused collection of works that were meticulously threaded together, he is happy to confess that none of it was intentional. “It’s definitely just a collection of tunes that I pulled together after I was asked to make a record,” confesses the 23 year old. “I never thought my music would get pressed or that I would ever really put stuff out seriously until I got on Brainfeeder. It was a strange feeling like, ‘Oh I need to make this work as a single record now.’”

Ardour is out now on Brainfeeder.

Shannon_Natasha_children

Take a look at Shannon’s website, online her Flickr or Tumblr, abortion and you’ll get to peek into a world of ‘almost’ – almost grown up, almost ready, almost on your way. I feel I should apologise to Shannon in case that sounds patronising, but I mean this in the best way possible. Looking at Shannon’s photos brings back a feeling of being on the verge, excited and nervous at the thought of everything ahead. Right now, the 17–year-old is finishing her high school exams at home in Australia, and has to choose whether to go on to study photography full time or do something else. Almost entirely self-taught, she’s worried that taking her photography to a more professional level could take the fun out of it. But for one more summer, in a place infinitely more sunny than Britain, she is still free to roam around with friends and her camera.

Shannon_Natasha_selfportrait
Shannon Natasha: self portrait.

Shannon’s photos have a fresh and uninhibited feel, with a playful and sometimes dreamy streak. As her self portrait demonstrates, she knows a thing or two about technique and lighting too, and a browse through her work shows she has a good eye for intriguing detail. I think this is what they mean when they talk about talent.

What is it that you love about photography?
I love having the ability to focus on different points, pinpointing something specific you want people to be drawn to. I love creating stories and dreams in my photos, documenting events and recording emotions. I love being able to alter reality, spinning it whichever way I feel.

Shannon_Natasha_untitled

What sparked your interest in picture-taking?
I’ve actually had an interest in cameras since I was very young, receiving my first one as a birthday present when I was about five. I really developed my love for photography around the age of 14, and I delved further into the art by purchasing my first DSLR camera last year. This gave me much more manual freedom, which I had desired for so long. Previous to this I would often borrow the DSLRs from my school, or use my friend’s. I also used film SLRs. I’m mainly self taught, although I did learn a little more in choosing digital photography as an elective at school two years ago.

Shannon_Natasha_CF_VII

You have some great fashion-themed shots in your collection, but my favourites are probably the more ‘quiet’ photos, such as the wire hanger and the rose-painted doorknobs. Which style of photography do you like best?
My favourite shots are often the simple ones, although my different styles of photos all appeal to different parts of me. I love fashion and that’s why I love taking fashion shots. I also adore story telling, the ability to evoke emotion in others through art, and sometimes just having something pretty to look at, something that will sweeten my eyes and hopefully the eyes of others who see my photos. This is one thing I love about taking photos as a hobby, I take them for me. I don’t have any photos that other people have dictated.

Shannon_Natasha_hang_on
Hang on

You seem to be doing more and more fashion shoots. Is this the direction you’d like to go as a photographer?
I don’t think I could ever decide on one direction. I’m definitely interested in shooting fashion but I’d never want to limit myself. One thing I love about photography is the freedom and having the ability to capture my own visions. Sometimes I may have the intention of shooting a fashion-styled set of photos and end up getting carried away with more abstract or conceptual shots.

Shannon_Natasha_i_see_the_light_surrounding_you
I see the light surrounding you.

From where do you draw inspiration? Who are your favourite photographers?
I often draw inspiration from magazines, websites like Tumblr, amazing artists on Flickr and in the world, through music, through relationships, books and my family and friends. Many of my favourite photographers are not necessarily world-renowned. I absolutely love work by Alison Scarpulla, Jeannine Tan, Mary Robinson, Muszka, Tamara Lichtenstein, Nirrimi Hackanson and Evan Hawke. Their photos just catch my breath.

Do you spend a lot of time getting the settings and light right, or is it a more impulsive process? Do you do much post-production?
It’s becoming much more impulsive now, although I do remember when it would take me four or five shots to get the settings right. Now it only takes one or two. Crazy weather in Australia, when the sun can’t make up its mind, doesn’t help. I don’t edit much if I’m shooting fashion or would like the photos to look more realistic, but if I’m going for something a little more magical I tend to spend a bit of time editing.

Shannon_Natasha_140410

With school over, what’s your plan?
The next thing for me will be university or possible an art college, where I will major in photography. At the moment I’d like to do both photography as well as something like law or psychology, but I may not even pursue photography in future study. I enjoy it very much as a hobby, so pushing money and survival into the equation may take some of my love from photography and replace it with nerves and fear which would ultimately be negative.

Shannon_Natasha_black

Other than photography, what makes you happy?
Other than taking photos, my passion is dancing. Mainly hip hop. Definitely dancing.

Follow Shannon Natasha on twitter here.

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