Photographic expressions, astronomy, cosmic visuals and Nikkita Bhakta

Nikkita Bhakta created a beautiful photograph. So beautiful that she won a competition with NASA for it to be launched into space on the Space Shuttle Atlantis STS-135 mission. The photograph was entitled ‘Universal Thoughts.’ Bhakata even received a VIP pass to attend the launch from the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida where she was among dignitaries, congressmen, governors and families of shuttle crew members to view the lift-off. We’ve tracked her down to ask how it feels to have her art work sent into orbit and discuss her latest projects.

Where are you from and where do you live?

I originally hatched from New Mexico, though my current abode is Mobile, AL.

Why did NASA launch your photograph into space? What was the significance?

A dear friend of mine submitted my artwork to a contest hosted by NASA/Etsy without my knowledge – and the judges selected my piece entitled “Universal Thoughts” as the winner. I was elated at this news, as it was a world-wide competition. The significance of “Universal Thoughts” was that it was titled that before the contest, along with the fact that I used inks and an aquarium to create a tryptic of images that resembled outer space. The triptych piece was part of a body of work I put together in the summer of 2010 entitled, BRiNK. BRiNK was about conceptually capturing the mind as if it was a physical place. The mind is like the universe, thoughts appearing like galaxies, ideas like planets, and memories forming into constellations. I found a way to photograph the universe in a fish tank, with inks and oils. Part of what fascinates me most is that after creating this entire concept into a body of work, one of the pieces found its way to the actual place that inspired me to begin with…space.

What do you draw your inspiration from for your pictures?

I don’t draw my inspiration from a specific source. Rather, I think of novel ways to express myself through various types of photographic methods. Who would have thought that dropping colored inks into an abandoned fish aquarium could create such beauty? The work was hard – there were many sleepless nights until I completed the series of images. But I’m a very all-or-nothing gal, I throw myself passionately into the work. The process itself can be greater, and more rewarding than the finished work. Connection. If I can visualize something in my mind, I will find a way to bring the intangible into a tangible form. The first time I created what resembled man-made lava, I was hooked on producing many more images of the same technique, I was hooked on discovering more. Experimentation and trusting yourself to walk around in the unknown is key to revelation. To me, there is nothing greater than that feeling of touching upon untouched territory. That is organic revelation.

Who or what are your influences?

The world is a strange and beautiful and unfair place. I was raised unconventionally and I think that’s instrumental to answering this question. Something as simple as listening to music or studying someone’s face lost in thought. Perhaps the most remarkable influence is when I make a human connection conversationally. That special zing-zing rapport lights up my brain and gets me going. I want to see the world in THEIR eyes, and it becomes infectious for me to achieve that in a tangible, aesthetic way. And above everything, the known and unknowns of the universe is what moves me the most. I can get lost there, it’s where I travel every night for questions and for answers.

What makes a good picture stand out from the average?

Cutting the clutter is something I value highly. In an oft mundane world, it’s easy to blend in and be forgettable. So what makes a good picture stand out from the average? It’s a picture that makes you think and contemplate. An open-ended statement. A piece of work that commands you to interpret it. Concept. That is the kind of art that lingers and stays relevant. Capturing the essence of perfect timing and light will show you the very atoms of beauty.

How important is it for a photographer to “connect” with his subjects to bring out their true self?

It’s vital, essential, and necessary. All of my work is a conduit for my mind, heart, and soul. There are some messages that words, written or verbalized, cannot justly express. So I turn to art, into creating. I love being given a small number of ingredients, and then making something lovely from them. You can very well say that it’s requisite for me to connect with my subjects. Life can be riddled with much serendipity. Life is all about breaking apart the reasons why and connecting the dots. People want to relate. People strive for one thing, truth.

What projects are you looking forward to getting involved in the future.

I’m looking into projects involving the human condition. Perhaps spending time with people of different cultures and capturing the essence of what makes them tick, what moves them, what sets them apart from our country’s standards of beauty and success and normalcy. I’d love to explore it, and give myself that opportunity to learn knowledge unfound anywhere else. I’d love to take a large-format camera and photograph the most wrinkled faces of the oldest people on Earth. I think the older people become, the more earthy their presence. It would be a lovely concept to capture… human bodies like earthly landscapes.

On another spectrum, I am hoping to also explore stereoscopic photography, creating a three dimensional body of work. I’d love to have a gallery space for a photographic exhibit with no photos on display! Just a room, with little boxes, each encasing a set of dual images, forcing the viewer to look inside, and depend solely on their mind to truly experience the work as it is meant to be seen.

What’s your favorite piece of music that makes you want to jump up and dance?

At the moment, I love Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines. Who can’t help but to groove to that song?

See more of Nikkita on her website