Nina Garner‘s work, is delicate, earthy, and intuitive.  CSA co-founder, Kristy Bishop, had the chance to interview her and learn in depth about her travels, familial influences, and process. Read on to learn more about Nina’s work.

KB: How has living and traveling in Japan influenced your work?

NG: It’s hard to say exactly how living and traveling in Japan has influenced my work because I have a complicated relationship with my Japanese heritage. I am half Japanese (Okinawan, to be exact) but I don’t fully speak or understand the Japanese language so there has always been this barrier there. I think some of my work, especially my most recent work, has been about that barrier and documenting my travels as an outsider and using photography as a means to communicate with my Japanese family. Photographing someone can be a really intimate thing and it doesn’t take much language to do it. So in way, we are speaking to each other, even after I’ve returned home and I work with my negatives and produce a new piece. For me, it’s a constant dialogue.

KB: When creating a piece, what is your work flow like? Do you plan a piece out or is it more intuitive and fluid process?

NG: I usually just start with a photograph and let things flow naturally from there. I hardly plan out what I’m going to do. If I do, things just don’t seem to work out. Things can be so perfect in my head and then on paper it’s just a sad copy of that perfection.

KB: The materials that you use are a beautiful mix between natural finds and synthetic man-made objects. How have you come to that juxtaposition in materials?

NG: I love using natural materials (dried flowers, leaves, insects) because they are so pure, straight from the ground and they produce a nice earthy palette which gives my work an aged appearance. Lately though I have been draw to bright colors and textures natural materials just do not possess like neon pink. So I have been experimenting with this mix of natural and synthetic materials. I think I’m trying to find a balance between rustic simplicity and the hyper cute.

KB: What is the most unique or significant item that you’ve included in a work?

NG: This might be a little weird to some people but over the years I have been collecting my own grey hair. I’ve used this hair in a piece before and plan to use it more in the future. Though I’m still pretty young, I have a lot of grey hair and it’s a constant reminder that I am getting older. It’s a little grotesque, I know. But it’s helping me find the beauty in aging.

KB: What role does family play in your art?

NG: Family plays a huge role in my life and therefore naturally that transitions to my art. I love my family and I treasure the time I spend with them. In a way, my work helps me strengthen those familial relationships. For instance, my Japanese Grandfather is struggling with cancer. Even though he is so far away, it is difficult to know he is suffering. This has been a difficult stage in my life and a big influence on my work right now. I plan on creating a series that honors him and the beautiful life he has lived.

KB: What makes you choose a certain book to be the canvas of a piece?

NG: I have a collection of old books that I work with. I like books that are interesting colors and shapes. But I don’t really think about it that much when choosing. Whatever jumps out at me at the moment is what I’ll work with.

KB: Are there any new materials that you can’t wait to try out?

NG: I’m really interested in working with more textiles, silks and tulle. I’m also excited to get a new batch of insects from my friend’s farm on Johns Island, he’s been collecting some that he’s found in his barn.

KB: What makes film photography a special medium to you?

NG: I love film photography because it’s a slow medium in a world of instant gratification. You can’t rush the process, you have to be patient. Also nothing beats looking at a new batch of negatives and seeing all the possibilities.
KB: What do you like to listen to in your studio? Any podcast or music recommendations?

NG: I have a number of things I keep on rotation while working in my studio. I’ll either be listening to Morrissey or watching crime shows on my laptop. I also really like This American Life and I’m relistening to Serial (I still don’t know what to think!). I’m also a big fan of the podcast from Adam and Joe on the BBC. If you like British humor and nonsense then check it out.
KB: Every artist has a creative block at some point during working. What do you do to get your head and hands back into creating?

NG: When I’m in a rut it’s always good for me to go out and just shoot some new images and be re-inspired. Or just going out and finding new materials to work with is helpful. Other times I just have to sit and work through my block. I’ll sit with something for hours not liking what I’m doing then suddenly something will just come into place and I end up loving it.



Nina Garner is one of the 2015 Fall share artists.



Last week, CSA co-founder Kristy Bishop, had a visit with fall artist, Nina Garner, at her home studio in West Ashley.  Nina’s studio is full of welcoming light.  Her shelves and table tops are covered in a mix of supplies that she is using for her upcoming work.  Whether it’s tingled pompoms or dried flowers,  her studio is filled with tiny surprises from nature and the manmade.




Nina’s studio is a juxtaposition between the organic and synthetic, like these dried flowers and a roll of pink bubble wrap that also plays the role a vase.


Her work desk has a glass top where she can display collected items and past work.










Nina Garner is one of the 2015 Fall share artists.



Fall share artist, Nina Garner, creates work that moves between photography, collage, sculpture, and assemblage.  Her pieces are intricate compositions that “glorify moments in time, the beauty in nature, and people.”  Read on to see how Nina is inspired by the past and present in the creation of her work.


A big influence on my work are vintage mementos created by ordinary people during the mid 19th to mid 20th century. During this time it was common for people to decorate photographs as a way to strengthen the emotional ties to the loved ones photographed. The time and dedication it took to create these intricate mementos, as well as the creativity behind them is fascinating to me. These were not created as art but as object, painstakingly created through the act of remembrance. I try to adopt this same concept to my own work by embellishing my photographs with fabric, paper, insects, flowers, leaves and even hair.


I love books with torn pages and heartfelt inscriptions, handwritten letters, love notes, dedicated piano music and records. I love the mystery behind them.

I love the idea of family heirlooms, objects passed down through generations, rich with history and tradition. I don’t have very many heirlooms myself and I think that is why I have such a fascination with them. I like looking at items, such as quilts, baby clothes, handkerchiefs and jewelry at antique and vintage store because to me those are the kinds of items I consider to be heirlooms. I like to think that at one point someone loved these items and that maybe they were their family’s heirlooms. But the fact that they are being sold and then bought by me suggests otherwise. In turn, I like to give these things new life by incorporating them into my work and then maybe they will be heirlooms for my family someday.


I draw a lot of inspiration from nature. While on photo shoots I like to collect leaves, fungus, flowers and insects and incorporate them into my work. But nature is also a great source of color and pattern inspiration for me. I mean, come on, look at that birds feathers!


Lately I’ve been finding a lot of inspiration from craft and party supply stores. First off, it’s fun. I like the festive nature of it all, the vivid colors and the all the whimsy. I also like the contrast between these synthetic materials with natural, found materials.



I like to watch movies. I like all kinds of movies but one of my favorite movies is LATE SPRING by Japanese film maker Yasujiro Ozu. It’s a story set in post war Japan about the relationship between a father and his only daughter. It’s a simple story structured around the very ordinary, everyday life of this small family but it is rich with emotion. It makes me cry everytime. What’s great about this film though is that all the shots are so meticulously planned and each still could be a photograph on its own. I love the little details and the way Ozu frames his subjects. You get a real sense of the characters and the lives they live. It’s not complicated or over the top and I like that. It’s something I want for my own work.


A great influence on my work is Japanese photographer Masao Yamamoto. The instant I saw his work I knew there was a place for me in the photography world. On one hand he is a traditionalist in that he uses 35mm film photography and darkroom techniques but on other hand he is doing his own thing by staining his prints with tea and printing very small. Every print is different and tells it’s own story but at the same time each print works together to weave a larger narrative. It’s magical.


Another photographer I greatly admire is Sally Mann. I love her series entitled ‘Deep South’ which includes photographs taken throughout Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Virginia. These images are so haunting and ethereal. Just stunning.


There is a lot of fine art photography and photographers that I draw inspiration from but I love everyday, ordinary photography just as much, specifically vintage snapshot photography. I love the vacation photos, the family portraits, the first day of school, the clothes, the hairstyles…they are so authentic and rich with memories.


Nina Garner is one of the 2015 Fall share artists.