Validity Artist Interview: Emily Naff

Laundry blowing in the wind in Waterlands District outside of Amsterdam.

Laundry blowing in the wind in Waterlands District outside of Amsterdam, photo Emily Naff

Emily Naff’s passion for photography was born from an enthusiasm for travel, and for her, those two activities are entwined. When traveling, she allows herself the time to wander and to look.  International travel causes one to see with a new perspective, and this inspires her photography.

But her current inspiration is much closer to home.  She   and her husband, Ben, recently moved to east Hickman County, where they are starting a small farm.  They named it Smiling Dog Farm after their dog, Ellie May, as she is known to greet visitors with a heartwarming smile.   The couple loves that there is such a vibrant community of artists in Hickman County, and they are encouraged that there are many fellow farmers who are using sustainable and organic growing techniques.

Emily has enjoyed becoming active with other artists and says she had a blast at the all night Art Making Marathon at Wild Duck Soup Emporium in Centerville.  Since she doesn’t paint with a brush, she decided that it would be fun to do a collaborative project using a photographic technique called “Painting with Light.”

View from the window. Falmouth, Jamaica.

View from the window. Falmouth, Jamaica, photo Emily Naff

Emily has been conveying these kinds of techniques while teaching full time at Nashville State as an Associate Professor for the last ten years.  She teaches a variety of courses from beginner to advanced, and is excited be offering a three session intensive digital photography workshop at Wild Duck Soup Emporium in July.  She will also be teaching a fifteen week Basic Photography class at the Nashville State campus in Dickson this fall.

Having taught in Study Abroad Programs (the Netherlands, Italy, Brazil and Japan) for the last six years, this year she decided to take a break for international travel to get their farm started and explore her new surroundings in Hickman County.

Her favorite photographs tend to be ones that capture a unique moment in time that can rarely be duplicated.  She has studied and been inspired by many photographers, but the ones whose images resonate the most are Henri Cartier-Bresson and National Geographic Photographer Sam Abell.   Many photographers will credit Cartier-Bresson with their love of capturing “The Decisive Moment,” and Emily is no different.  She has studied his images and contact sheets to learn how this master photographer works.  A more contemporary influence has been Sam Abell, who photographed for National Geographic for years and is responsible for many award-winning photographs from that publication.  Not only is he great at capturing real moments, but he is also a master of creating images that are poetic vignettes of a scene or a location that capture the essence of the place.

Capturing unique moments and making good photographs out of them requires more thought and technique than just picking up the camera and making a snapshot.  Emily’s favorite photographs are usually not posed or directed but capture real moments.  These images have often been captured after much attention has been paid to the lighting, background elements and placement of the subjects.  There is then is a bit of a waiting game to capture that moment when all of the elements align in the ideal composition that captures the spirit of the moment.

Chance Encounter, Florence Italy

Chance Encounter, photo Emily Naff

“There are some moments that cannot be anticipated, such as the image ‘Chance Encounter’,” says Emily. “This images exemplifies, the idea of ‘Chance favors the prepared mind’.  I was in the right spot at the right time, looking for images and was ready to capture the shadow of the spontaneous moment. This photograph was taken while on a teaching trip to Italy.  We had been hanging around the famous bridge in Florence waiting for sunset.  I am drawn to strong light and interesting shadows, so I was looking at the shadows that the bikes cast on the beautiful yellow wall, when all of the sudden two friends saw each other and stopped for a chat.  I had the camera up to my eye in a heartbeat, to capture the moment when the shadow shook hands.”

During the Hickman County Arts & Ag Tour, Randy Toy invited Emily to show work at his gallery, Toyzini, on Hwy 100.  As a result of that exhibit,  gallery owner Bo May saw Naff’s work and asked to show it at RioCarabelle, in Carabelle, Florida.

Now that summer is here, Emily is enjoying exploring the backroads of the area. She especially loved seeing many of the farms and artisans on the Arts & Ag tour, and is now inspired to begin work on a new portfolio of images focused on life in Hickman County.   Look for more images of hers to be exhibited in local galleries and other venues.  For more information about the upcoming workshop, call Wild Duck Soup Emporium.

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