Waking up at dawn, first year student Natalia Seth said that Natalia Seth, a media arts and design major, ventures into a snowy forest. She only wears a white dress and can’t help but feel horny as she poses with a certain image in mind. With the clicks of the shutter and 10 seconds of waiting for the timer, the idea in her head comes to life as the perfect shot is taken.
Having started at 13 following Photoshop tutorials from the Phlearn YouTube account, Seth has now been featured by Instagram on her official account, which reaches over 270 million people – a dream goal for her. She started out following the Instagram accounts she was interested in, drawing inspiration from designers and photographers like Jimmy Marble, Wes Anderson and Tim Burton.
“I came across this account which had surreal montages a bit like me where it was a girl coming out of the frame,” Seth said. “I pestered her trying to find out which apps she was using and which camera. Then I used my mom’s iPhone 4S self-timer and liked sticking it against the wall and running and posing.
Once she started posting them, she became part of what she says is a tight-knit community of Instagram editors. As the community grew, so did its followers. The evolution of his camera equipment ranged from a simple point and shoot to a digital SLR.
As the face behind @escapingyouth on Instagram, Seth says she has always had a taste for being imaginative and creative.
“I really like the idea of youth and keeping the youth in us,” Seth said. “As we grow older, it seems to dissipate and we have a hard time finding our imaginations. When we were young we could think outside the box very easily, which is why when you ask children they always have the most innocent answers.
Today, Seth’s creative process of taking the image in his mind and turning it into a digital photo begins by browsing countless Pinterest pages and the work of other artists for ideas. She also describes finding ideas in a dream state, just before falling asleep, and waking up to write them down before forgetting. Often times she draws a concept in her sketchbook – inspired by everyday life – and wonders, “How do I turn this into something weird?” ”
“His ideas are so crazy and so unique,” said Rhea Tanamala, a childhood friend of Seth. “His art style is impulsive and it’s amazing that way. No one else really thinks about it or is as spontaneous as she is. She’ll see a photo opportunity and she’ll take it, no questions asked.
Last year, Seth attended Adobe MAX, an annual event hosted by Adobe to promote its latest releases. She was able to take a class with and finally meet her favorite childhood influencers: the creatives behind Phlearn. Now she’s collaborating with them to create videos for YouTube about the process of editing her own photos.
Since she’s been so enthusiastic about her job from a young age, Seth admits she wasn’t sure college was the path she wanted to take.
“I know a lot of creatives in my field, as I met at Adobe MAX, didn’t go to college,” Seth said. “Or they went to college for finance or something and ended up doing videography. I didn’t want to do something that I didn’t think I would do later in life.
She says her father influenced her decision to join JMU due to the creative advertising focus in media arts and design. As she often works with different brands through Instagram, she knew it was fine for her.
Although she is still in the application process, she says she looks forward to learning more about the program so that she can continue to develop her skills in the field. With that goal in mind, Seth says she accepts the difficult task of balancing her passion, school and everyday life.
As for Instagram fame, Seth was initially overwhelmed by the sudden number of people following his art. But, she finds more positivity within her community of followers than negativity. Since she works with so many models and creatives via Instagram collaborations, Seth expresses that it’s a surreal experience to meet them in person for the first time.
“At first she didn’t have a lot of models because she was just starting out, so I would be a model for her,” said Jun Luu, another childhood friend of Seth’s. “She’s still very real, like a normal person and I love that about her. It’s amazing what she does, but it’s also amazing the time and commitment she puts into all of her work.
For his latest project, Seth is working with a company called Thought Catalog, an online magazine that helps creative writers express their thoughts, to publish a photo book this coming year. In 2017, Thought Catalog also worked with Instagram influencer Brandon Woelfel, who Seth also befriended via Instagram, to create a similar book.
“I want to do something super interactive so that the reader doesn’t just flip through,” Seth said. “The book will be an adventure, dream landscapes, different worlds. I worked so hard on it that I’m really excited.
Contact Traci Rasdorf at email@example.com. To learn more about the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture office on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.