Nettie Harris. There is something about her.
Watching her photos, unable to tear off my eyes from the images even for a second, I always though there was something beyond her soft hair and an edgy glance.
Maybe it’s about the way she moves, perfectly at ease in front of the lens, or maybe it’s about her disarming smile she’s not afraid to show. It’s even possible that it’s about her infinite expressions. There is so much to say about this woman, but we prefer herself to tell us something more, something that gets further than her polymorphous pictures.
So this is her story from Chicago to New York, through New Orleans!
Your first project, last project and future project: how would you describe them?
My first projects really where the plays I wrote and directed and acted in for my parents and grandparents and the drawings I did as a child and the journals I’ve kept through the years.
My last project I did was a short bit in a movie called Dream Throat. The whole movie takes place in one room. It shows five separate relationships. The room is a bit ambiguous. My character is in that kind of relationship that you know is coming to an end. Me and my old lover are laying back to back in bed and we are mourning the lost love between us.
My future project is really exciting. I am co-writing, acting and co-producing a web-series. The web series is still in its baby stage but it’s influenced from events in my own life. It’s also about having a dream and going after that dream… It’s about the sacrifices we make for our dreams and distractions that pull us away from them. It’s about our fears and how we fight them. It’s about being a woman in the modeling industry and the film industry on both sides of the camera, about criticism you endure like weight gain and aging and directing large crews. But it’s also about triumph and the humor of day to day hardships, which happen to everyone… whether you are rich or poor, male or female, young or old.
What do you find inspiring and how would you describe your lifestyle?
I am inspired by movies, books, art magazines, music, my friends, tumblr, my dreams and day to day living. The upside to hardships is that they often make for good stories. I tend to look at life with humor and for example with the web-series I am working on… the episodes are often inspired by events that at the time were pretty traumatic but in retrospect that I see a great deal of humor in! I am inspired by the hardship of day to day living.
I would describe my lifestyle as adventurer, a little bit of a gypsy, and a lover of water… I need, need to live by a body of water… I’m no inlander!
My motto for life is: Carpe Diem! And quoting Henry David Thoreau “I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”
What would you probably be today if you hadn’t followed your dreams of being a model, or what is your actual dream?
My dream is to create art… in many forms. Modeling is one forms of following my dreams but I’ve always felt that modeling is a short career. I will continue to model for some time. I don’t know if that is another two months or another two decades, but I am and will continue to pursue other forms of art. I want to write scripts, books, I love to draw, I am a photographer, I want to direct films, I act and will continue to do more acting, I have no single goal but to create. If I wasn’t creating on a regular basis then I would probably be a painter or a sailer. I’m actually fond of manual labor. I am sort of masculine so it suits me.
Artists and events: can you tell us the most interesting that you’ve found in your career until now?
I really loved working with Ryan McGinley. I worked with him the Spring/Summer of 2011. This timing was beautiful. We worked in rural areas of North East America, down to The South East. I was so refreshed by being submersed so long in nature. I worked with great people and great animals. I was physically challenged and I liked that.
I am also very pulled in working on big film productions. I worked recently on a new HBO show called “True Detective” staring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrison. It’s amazing to see a large film production in action. The attention to details is amazing.
The place where you were born, the place where you live, the best place where you traveled with your work: can you tell us something that only you know to describe them?
I was born in Chicago, IL, in a Polish community. I live in New Orleans, LA, the land of new starts, beautiful, cherished culture, and strong personalities.
I travel most to New York City which I would describe as a self centered city for good reason! If you can make it there you really can make it anywhere! New yorkers are in my experience kind, despite of what people say… they are just in a hurry… ’cause they have to be.
Ant let’s talk about your modeling attitude. What do you think photographers love about you most?
When I am on a shoot I am present. I let go of whatever is going on in my life and concentrate on the photographer and his camera. I let go of everything, even of the time which can be bad in, but on a shoot one thing photographers hate is the feeling that they are being rushed. Another thing photographers like is that I am at ease in front of the camera. I am very natural. Photographers always tell me I am great at “posing”, they like that they don’t have to direct me much…
Is there anything you would like to change about your way of posing?
I would really like to do less blatantly sexual poses and expressions and more physically demanding poses and varied emotional expressions. Photographers often tell me to do my own thing: “Do you” they say. However, despite this I still feel like they are ultimately looking for me to turn on the viewer. As I said, I really liked working for Ryan McGinley, because his work is a study of the human body in motion. Your body is physically challenged. You jump off of very high places. I liked the adrenaline, the feeling of flying and the physical challenge.
Is there something you don’t compromise on regard your work?
I will never compromise my personal limits and my dignity.
And what about your acting activity? Tell us why this kind of art is such important to you.
Acting is important to me because it is a language that I can speak. I am still unrefined but I am drawn to acting and even though I’m shy I have been drawn to acting since I was a child. For me modeling is a kind of acting. It’s not to say that you are looking at some “fake” image of me, it’s just that the emotions my body and face are expressing are triggered and surfaced specifically for each image in the same manner acting for a scene in a movie. I feel that acting is a natural progression forward for me. It feels like a challenge and I like challenges.
There is a short movie, “Amanda”. It seems to be really personal and introspective. Who is Amanda to you?
Amanda is ME. Nettie is my stage name and it feels like my stage name. Amanda means “worthy of love” or ‘love’. I think it really describes me well. I am a very loving person looking for love. Amanda is a dreamer, an adventure seeker, a lover of the arts.
So you said you take pictures too. How do you feel staying on the other side of the lens? Have you ever thought about self-portraits?
When I was first modeling I didn’t take any pictures. I think I didn’t feel like they would be good or something. One day I just wanted my own record of my travels. I didn’t care so much about them being good or anything… but, at the same time, you can’t get good at something unless you practice. So I started to just take pictures of the people I met on the road and of the places I went. And I started to focus on composition and the photos subject with an artists eye.
I do take self portraits and I should take them more often. I am not sure how long or serious I will stay on the other side of the camera. I’m along for the ride!
One last question and I let you go… Talk about music for you during a photo session, for you in your life.
One strong memory I have of music during a photoshoot is where the photographer wanted me to cry. We played “Turn the page” by Bob Seger. I don’t know why THAT song makes me cry except it’s about home and the road and it brings bitter-sweet memories alive for me.
Text by: Nina Sever • All pics are Chloe Starke © All rights reserved