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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Miss Aniela: Master of Flickr

Known to much of the world as Miss Aniela, Natalie Dybisz has found a promotional niche by taking advantage of the huge online community at a popular photo-sharing website

miss anielaMiss Aniela is a photographic self-portraitist, or as I keep hearing with unbelievable regularity, “One of those self-portrait artists who likes to take pictures of herself.” When I meet her, I’m struck by her personality. It’s almost antithetical to what you’d imagine it would be by looking at her pictures. The model in her images is confident, bold and daring. In person, Miss Aniela is well spoken, slightly shy and humbly grateful for all the attention she’s getting. My first question sounds like something you’d hear James Lipton ask a celebrity on his show Inside the Actors Studio: So who’s the girl in the photographs?

“Aniela is my middle name. It translates to Angela in English. I hated the Polish pronunciation growing up. But as I got older, I began to identify with it. So I used it as the name of my alter ego—the one you see in the photographs.”

Miss Aniela also is the name that Natalie Dybisz chose for her Flickr account. The photo-sharing website is partly responsible for Miss Aniela’s two international shows, an appearance at the Microsoft Pro Photo Summit, as well as a documentary about her and her work that will be in production by the time this article is published. All this for a young shooter who never intended to be famous; she just wanted to get away from herself.

Cheaper Than Being An Alcoholic

Miss Dybisz freely admits to having a phase in her life when she was mildly depressed. She was living alone as a student, writing daily in her diary as a way to deal with her feelings. Photography was a casual hobby, and Flickr was the public repository for her work. As she became more involved in the community at Flickr, she found that she was becoming increasingly motivated to shoot more images. Catalysts for career leaps are wholly unpredictable in their shape and timing. Miss Dybisz’s came in the form of a Flickr page layout. Her attraction to the site design made her want to produce a “proper body of work” to fill up her Flickr account. She started shooting images of herself, and Miss Aniela was born.

Along with her first self-portraits, Miss Dybisz was writing candidly about her depression. The people who stopped by to view her work responded with understanding comments about her despair and enthusiastic comments about her images. Encouraged by her new friends whom she never physically met, she assigned more alacrity to her photography. She quickly became totally immersed. Shoots became more conceptual, and the hours spent experimenting with Photoshop to finesse her images turned into days.

The more confident she became with her photography, the less despondent she felt about herself. Photography was the perfect obsession. She channeled her emotions into her work, and as a result, it became full of depth and emotion. She noticed a difference in herself, and the Flickr community noticed a difference in her photography.

Self-portraiture is the focus of Miss Aniela’s work. Photographer Natalie Dybisz uses Photoshop on all of her photographs, applying a mixture of techniques that can give them a surreal look. Sometimes she uses textures, diffuse filters and lens distortion, but mainly adjusts shadows and highlights and color balance on specific parts of an image to manipulate the appearance of light. Dybisz explains that self-portraiture allows her complete control over every element of a shot and that allows a different character to be created in every image. “It’s strange what can happen on a self-portrait shoot,” she writes on her Flickr page. “Most of the time it is a brief, energetic, but blind journey where the most unexpected ideas emerge.” Her popularity on the photo-sharing site has proven fruitful, with two international exhibitions, a documentary, an appearance as a key speaker at this year’s Microsoft Pro Photo Summit and a book.


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