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Duggal Exclusive: A Quick Q&A with Fine Art Photographer, Reka Nyari
Reka Nyari is a professional fine art and fashion photographer based in New York City. Born to a Finnish mother and a Hungarian father, she grew up in both Finland and Hungary and was drawn to the arts at a very young age. She moved to New York at age 17 to attend the School of Visual Arts.
After graduating from SVA, Reka began modeling and quickly found herself drawn to in the other side of the lens. It was while working and traveling through Europe and Asia when she discovered her true passion for photography and decided to move back to NYC to pursue the art form as a career.
Reka is a longtime Duggal client who has photographed for esteemed commercial clients while exhibiting her work in galleries worldwide. Her breakthrough project, Geisha Ink, recently came to Emmanuel Fremin Gallery in Chelsea, where we had a chance to produce and learn more about the highly acclaimed series.
What is the story behind Geisha Ink?
Geisha Ink is a multi-layered story of female independence told through a young woman who was raised in a traditional, repressive culture and family. She rebels against the typical expectations of a woman by having each of her lovers throughout her life tattoo her body. The result is the true story of her love life told through tattoos. Her family actually has no idea that she any tattoos, so it’s a literal, visual rebellion underneath her clothes.
What was the inspiration for the series?
The female form and strength of the female body is truly beautiful. For me, nudity does not necessarily mean sex. It’s a strong statement on its own. Having photographed many nude female models, I was fascinated with the idea of shooting a naked woman’s body with art on it.
I casted for a woman covered in tattoos, and when I met the model, Ginzilla, I knew she was the one for the project. I decided to compare her artistically to the Geisha women of Japan, who were the most independent women of their time, and to the Yakuza crime family. The comparisons, however, are solely artistic and not literal. Ginzilla is not an actual Geisha, nor is she a member of the Yakuza. The prints are archival pigment prints, old-fashioned on textured watercolor paper, to achieve an early 20th century aesthetic.
What was your creative process for Geisha Ink?
I started with research on both the Geisha and Yakuza, and then created a mood board with additional references that I liked. From there, it was all about collaboration with the model. It was a small set and one-day shoot in my Tribeca studio, with makeup and hair artist, Maggie Lesniewski, on site. We pretty much shot for 12 hours, simply seeing where the day took us. Getting to know Ginzilla’s story added a deeper dimension to the images.
How long have you been working with Duggal, and how have they helped bring your images to life?
I want to say almost 10 years, with Hillary [Altman]. I love working with Duggal because I can always count on their quality and service. Hillary has an artistic eye herself. She makes sure everything is perfect, especially when it comes to a series, where every photo needs to match the tone and mood.
The Geisha Ink prints are particularly impressive. They are these massive inkjet prints that just stop you right where you are. People were gasping and even crying when they walked into the show at Emmanuel Fremin Gallery. That’s how impactful the images were.
What’s on the horizon for you?
Geisha Ink is going to the Venice Biennale, which runs from May to November. Duggal is actually sponsoring my show there. I also just signed with Emmanuel Fremin Gallery and we are developing our schedule to exhibit Geisha Ink all over NYC and overseas. Additionally, I have a big solo show at the Chelsea gallery in February 2018 that I’m shooting new material for. I’m working on two new book projects as well. It has been really busy, but very exciting.