Interview by Madeleine Dore
Art by Anna Thomas
Artist & Photographer
When artist and photographer Anna Thomas was a child, for entertainment her dad who was a GP would dip flowers into a Styrofoam cup filled with the liquid nitrogen they kept for burning off warts and smash them.
She later resurrected the art as she entered motherhood through a stunning Instagram project that shows the fragility of beauty and the natural world.
Flowers are frozen using a larger-scale version of the liquid nitrogen in a Styrofoam cup. Anna then whacks the stems and captures the shards of petals as they land. There is no time for styling or creating a picture perfect image. Instead, Anna embraces the chaos and realness – something she values in art, the natural world, and people.
'I like seeing that someone hasn't completely airbrushed the facade of their life for public consumption. I think multi-faceted people are the most interesting and I enjoy the solidarity that comes from realising I'm not the only one who's not perfect all the time.'
Anna shares with us some of her imperfections in her life and work, and teaches us that the most extraordinary moments come from the little things – if only we could learn to freeze them like flowers in our mind.
On trying to master a morning routine...
I recently finished reading Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin and I'm trying to use some of her suggestions to get a morning routine going. Ideally I'm aiming to start the day with fifteen minutes of meditation, write out a version of Julia Cameron's morning pages and a cup of tea before the kids get out of bed. Truthfully, they get up too early to fit all of that in most of the time! So I'm going easy on myself and waiting until the daylight savings time shift to 'make' an extra hour in the morning for me.
On imposter syndrome and what it feels like to be labelled and artist...
The most difficult thing for me is self-doubt. I think that it's mostly because I'm one of those crazy people that needs to have read all the books, know all the things and have done all the university degrees before I feel that I am a legitimate expert in any particular field.
My background is design and creating these images feels so effortless when I am doing it that it seems more like a creative hobby. It also doesn't help that in my head this is just something I made up to entertain myself while I'm on super extended maternity leave from my 'real job' as a graphic designer. So when others – who obviously aren't carrying around my mental baggage – label my images 'art' or call me a 'photographer' it never really seems right to me. Consequently any conversation involving those words leaves me feeling like a complete fraud.
On advice for dealing with self-doubt...
The only thing that helps is to just keep going. I find that my inner critic is harshest when I'm preparing for a shoot and just after I finish editing the images. The sense of flow I have while I'm working is the only thing that completely erases that little voice in my head. I think knowing the flow will happen is what helps to overcome the inertia at the start and the fear at the end.
It also helps to have my husband tell me what an idiot I am for not believing in myself, you know, incase I just need a little extra nudge!
On the mysterious art of self-promotion...
The ability to promote my own work. I'm so terrible at this, and I guess it goes hand in hand with that little self-doubt thing. I kind of wait and hope that people will just notice, but it's pretty clear that it doesn't work that way! There is a definite art to self-promotion without being pushy and I know quite a few people who are so so good at it. I'm sure it gets easier if you practice, but I really feel like I just don't know where to start or how to continue once I have started!
On how an extraordinary life is actually quite ordinary...
My idea of an extraordinary life has gradually shifted as I've gotten older and had kids. I used to think extraordinariness involved doing really big things, like single-handedly fixing global warming or discovering THE cure for cancer.
Now I'm starting to think that extraordinariness is actually in the littlest things.
Like being self-aware enough to see your own flaws and humble enough to try to fix them. Or having a fierce connection to the people in your life. Raising a thoughtful, compassionate, resilient and ethical generation of children (one at a time). Each of us doing everything we can to reduce our personal impact on the little patch of the planet we get to call ours.
Big things are so rarely within our sphere of influence, but if everyone is working to be their own personal mundane version of extraordinary every day, I feel like it must add up in the end.