The photography you create is so electric and ripe with hints of narrative coated in confectionery colours. What goes into the process of creating these photos? Do you have a set concept or are you navigating as you go along?
I, like Godard, prefer to shoot in the heat of the battle.
Raw. Unrehearsed. Genuine.
I work a lot off of mood-boards, but I kind of let my mind free flow as I go. I’m beginning to dabble a little bit more in narrative photography, which requires a bit more planning and vision, but I will never tell someone that they should pose this way or that way. They are not dolls; there isn’t an emotion under the sun they cannot relate to somehow.
When did you first start taking photographs?
About 14. I started with cheap disposable point-and-shoot cameras through which I documented a trip to help kids in an orphanage in Tijuana, Mexico.
What artists have influenced you over time?
To be honest I never really took note of photographer’s names until the day Ren Hang died. He had a daring attitude about his art that was so ‘out-there’ - some would say taboo - that it made all the other steps in between there and where I was, nice and baby smooth. I’m just now starting to open my eyes to other visual artists who influenced me along the way. Alex Webb, Fred Herzog, Alex Prager, Marc Riboud, Mary Ellen Mark, Jeff Cronenweth, Jean-Luc Godard, Vivian Maier, Wes Anderson, Robert D. Yeoman, Gerald Sullivan...to name a few.
What is it about visual art and photography in particular that gives you an advantage to express yourself over other art forms?
For me it’s not about expressing myself as much as it is inviting others to participate in an experience - another state of mind, perhaps. We artists all have our own catalysts by which we do this. For writers, there are words that form images. For me, there are images that form words. No two experiences are quite the same; they were never meant to be so, and it is precisely this vagary which makes photography so powerful. The ability to communicate something, without really communicating anything at all.
Tell us about the last piece of art you fell in love with.
It’s been a while. Perhaps the film by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, In a Year of 13 Moons (1978). It’s a haunting tale that takes a psychoanalytical approach to exploring subjects of identity, repression, suffering, abandonment, and the vanity of existence through the eyes of a troubled transsexual who tries to uncover his past in attempt to cope with the unbearable present. The film spoke somberly of the divided state of West-Germany post World War II.
It is timely piece. I’ve seen many friends tossed against the rocks by identity crises and broken by their fear of homelessness or, conversely, enslaved to their desire for belonging.
Your work is primarily portraits, how do you find working with people and what relationships and boundaries do you create when taking photographs with that person?
Humankind in the most relatable way, embodies the underlying paradox of existence. They are, to me, the most majestic of all life on earth and the most fit to be its caretaker, and yet they are also the most cruel, heinously ugly, conniving, and stupid. They love each other and bomb each other; they lie and hate those who lie; they tell each other not to do things when they do those things themselves; they do those things themselves to understand those who do those things themselves who told them not to do those things themselves and so on.
But in spite of our tendency to destroy, we almost equally seek to create, sometimes simultaneously, for survival or for reason to survive. It is this light and absence of light that gives humans a dimension and certain impact that I simply do not feel when I stare out into a flourishing landscape or shimmering outline of steel on sky.
With this understanding, I do not attempt to bridge a relationship or enforce boundaries with those in front of my camera. Those things come naturally. All I do is convey the mood and let them find their place within that world.
How would you define human?
To be human is to be broken, desperate and flawed. Anything contrary is more inclined to heavenly attributes which manifest themselves through humans from time to time but are often works in progress, not nearly completed.