How did you get into making art?
I have been making art in a variety of media ever since I can remember. Professionally, however, for a number of years I was pursuing an academic career as an art historian. My first shift to making was after my daughter was born. I launched a line of children’s clothing. Eventually, in addition to designing the clothes themselves, I began designing the textiles. It was only recently, as my children grew up and my oldest left for college, that I developed the conviction in myself as an artist to pursue a fine art career.
What are you currently working on?
I have a few projects in the works right now. One focusses on face of tourism on Grand Cayman island. I began shooting this in 2018. I knew I wanted to turn it into a book. Fortunately, how I wanted to develop the project for a book has started to come into sharp focus just as the world is opening up again and can actually envision getting back to Grand Cayman to continue shooting. I have spent the last year working on a project that involves my family archive of photos as well as pictures I have taken of my children over the years. I still have some work to do on that project although it is winding down. I would like to do another project on climate and the environment, but more focussed on nature than “When the Trees Are Gone”. For another 2020 project, besides the family archive, I built a diarama. I think I will integrate more work with diaramas and a play of scale into the new environment project, although I haven’t yet nailed down exactly how. For the Grand Cayman project, I am using primarily straight photography. The family project starts with photographs I have taken, but then involves compositing several images. The environment project will likely be mixed media in nature and involve constructing sets. I like the idea of having very different kinds of projects going on at once.
I have been making art in a variety of media ever since I can remember.
Diana Cheren Nygren
What inspired you to get started on this body of work?
I started this body of work during an Atelier workshop at the Griffin Museum of Photography. The class pushed me to start experimenting in my work with a number of techniques and subject matters outside of my comfort zone. This work really began when, on a whim, I decided to try combining three series that I had been shooting. I had years of images of urban spaces from a project entitled “Flat Cities”, photographs of people communing with undisturbed nature at the beach, and a recent project in which I had been shooting dramatic skyscapes from my back porch. I thought, “what would happen if I put these three seemingly disparate things that I love to shoot together in photoshop”? The first images were more fun than anything. The more I played with this concept, the more the pictures began to tell their own story, and trying to pinpoint what made the strongest images ultimately defined what the series was about.
Do you work on distinct projects or do you take a broader approach to your practice?
I have gotten increasingly interested in the last couple of years in working on discreet projects. But I have an incredibly short attention span, so I generally have at least 3 or 4 going in various stages. Some of them will die long before they become much of anything, and some I will drop for a while and then return to. I wish I could sustain more focus, but I get bored easily and need to hop around. The up side, however, is I often find I have an inspiration by the 3rd or 4th iteration of a project that suddenly makes it come together.
What’s a typical day like in your studio?
I’m not sure I have a typical day. My studio is in my house. Ideally I like to get up, exercise, and eat breakfast, before settling into photography. If I’m really consumed by a project, however, I will go right to work in my pajamas and not look up until well after noon. I take lots of breaks, but I’m a night owl, so another advantage of having the studio in the house is that I can keep going back to work sometimes until midnight. Lately my work has involved a lot of post-production. I’ll probably shoot at some point on most days, but the majority of my time is spent working on the computer, printing, and reviewing images. I also get a lot of inspiration from engaging with other artists around my work, so I’ve often got a critique group, workshop, or lecture several times a week.
Who are your favorite artists?
I love contemporary pop art. Takashi Murakami and KAWs are some of my favorites. Among photographers, I would include Julie Blackmon, Edward Burtynsky, Andreas Gursky, Zanele Muholi, Alex Prager, Ole Marius Joergensen, Julia Fullerton Batten, Marie Svarbova, Diane Meyer, Richard Tuschman, and Kimberly Witham.
Where do you go to discover new artists?
I often discover new artists on Instagram when their work is shared by accounts I follow, either magazines, competitions, galleries, or photography organizations. My favorite publications for discovering new artists is Aesthetica Magazine. I also look at new books being published, so I go to Kehrer Verlag’s or Radius’ websites and see what they have on deck.
Diana Cheren Nygren is an artist based in Brookline, Massachusetts who was recently shortlisted for The Hopper Prize. To learn more about the artist: