Monday, 25 July 2011

Levi Mandel

Levi Mandel
New York City
tumblr website

What's in photography for you?

The ability to preserve ephemeral moments, allowing me to both revisit them in the future and share them with others.

Do you like to analyze imagery and visual art, or are you more interested in creating it?

As an artist, the obvious answer is that I'm more interested in creating work than analyzing it. That said, it's an important part of my practice to invest time in other people's works, other environments, other means of inspiration...

What are you studying in college/university? And what would have been your plan b if it wasn’t for that?

I study at Cooper Union, a somewhat conceptual school that requires no declared major. Rather than entering a program in say, photography, the school encourages students to explore all practices and mediums, allowing one to execute a piece or body of work in ways most appropriate to the concept. This opportunity has been crucial to my practice, as I have expanded my work from strictly photography to video and sculptural installations as well. I'm not sure what would have happened if I were not accepted into Cooper. To be honest, it wasn't an option I considered. I discovered Cooper Union after moving to New York, told myself I needed to be studying there, and applied.

You also have video work on your website. Do you like to think of it as a side-business to or rather a part of your “artistic work”?

Everything I make is a part of my "artistic work".

For both film and photography: do you think it's important to know basic theories and to be confident in various techniques to create art or can one just go out and "shoot away"?

My first actual photography class was last year. Everything I have made before that was self-taught, or better yet experimentation. Although it is important for one to know how to handle their camera, understanding photography down to a science is completely unnecessary. The beauty of art is you can make whatever you want; however you want to.

Risking that you might not like the drawing of such an analogy, I have to say that watching the Recital Video Zines I was reminded of the videos Amelie Poulain sends her elderly neighbor.  Have you watched the movie? Would you say there are similarities in the videos or the idea(s) behind them? 

I have seen Amelie, and although I have never considered my Recital videos and the videos within the movie related, I guess I can see a resemblance.

The video "Charles", appears to be a very personal one about your grandfather. Where do you draw the line between personal and public photography/video making?

There is no line nor should there be one.

And would you say, as I have been often told in journalism classes for instance, that a certain amount of showing one's personal life through one's work is even necessary to keep it interesting and to endow it all with your personal signature?

Again, nothing is necessary to keep art "interesting". There are no rules, this is what makes art special.

On your tumblr you keep a photo diary with one image per day. Do you actually just shoot one photo or do you often have to decide which one to upload?

The tumblr page is only curated down to a photo a day. Most often I shoot much, much more. Other times I won't make a photo for days. The tumblr page is nothing more than a photograph a day.

What are the plans for summer?

Right now I'm working on an ongoing series of 4x5 portraits, a book I'm self-publishing and a couple exciting photozines. Other than that, traveling, riding my bicycle, spending time with my cat, exploring new neighborhoods, making new friends...

Ephemeral moments standing still. Take a look at his work!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Damian Beard

Damian Beard
United Kingdom

Which part of the "picture-taking-process" do you enjoy the most?

I'm not sure, it probably changes a lot, depending on what I'm doing.  Sometimes I'm having a good time doing whatever and I'll just take a picture without thinking about it, which will turn out good, like this one.  Other times I don't enjoy taking photos at all; I was having the worst day when I took this picture, for instance: I thought I was going to get beat up and robbed, I felt like hell, hung-over, and proper disgusting. But I love the picture that I came away with.  I take a lot of photos, because I'll see something and will want to see what it might look like as a photograph. So I enjoy my own curiosity whether I'm having a good time or not.  The best bit out of the whole thing is waiting for my films to get developed and bricking it that nothing will come out.

And what is it that you're hunting for with your camera?

What I want to get, when I take a picture, is a print or an image that is almost like a made up thought or experience or something.  I take most of my photos out of curiosity to see what stuff looks like when it's photographed. The finished photo doesn't have to resemble what it was that I had actually photographed; for instance, if you went to this place, it probably might not look like this. Maybe there would be vacancies or you wouldn't be standing in the right place to see the signs or you wouldn't notice some of them, but the photo brings all the signs together to invent something that isn't really there, and that's what I want to capture with my camera.  I don't really hunt for it, but I definitely keep an eye out for it.

Who has been the biggest critic regarding your photographic work?

Me.  It takes a lot for me to like any of my photos, I've got boxes of prints that I think are just trash.  I don't show my photos to too many people either, at the same time I'd like more people to see them, so I could get more criticism and take better pictures. Harvey helps me out though, and tells me what he likes.

In art, often it all seems or is claimed to be subjective. But what defines a "badly taken picture" for you?

Anything that just feels or looks forced or unnecessarily complicated, whether it's because it's too staged and is trying not to be, or whether it's a photo that didn't need to be taken in the first place.  Sometimes you see something awesome that you really want to photograph, but looking at stuff with a camera is so different to just being somewhere or seeing stuff in person. Sometimes the two views just don't add up and there isn't a decent photo to take; if you take a photo then, then it's going to be bad.

Would you consider being a professional art critic someday?

No.  Unless this question is a job offer, in which case, yes, I have few scruples and need the cash.

Which art form would you say is most similar or different to photography?

Maybe painting? You've got the same kind of decisions to make when painting as you do when you’re taking a photo. You also have to overcome the same kind of problems when presenting a painting or a photo. For instance, unlike in film or a piece of writing, there isn't a voice to describe what you're trying to say or what you're thinking, there's just a static silent image.  And you're limited by all sorts of circumstances, too, for instance your canvas or your viewfinder is only so big so you've got to choose what to include, what’s important, what's dragging your picture down … You don't have an extended time period where you can show several things from different perspectives like you could in a movie.  I think that in the end, photography is really unique, though.

Do you think that it is important for an artist to exchange with other artists, or do you prefer the romantic notion of the lonely individual?

It’s important for sure, even if that exchange consists of you looking at the work of somebody else.  I'm pretty rubbish and don't really know any other photographers or anyone that I really talk to, and I'm not too good at doing this kind of thing over the internet either. But I think that's probably a bad thing. And it doesn't feel very romantic.

Summer in the city or summer at the beach?

Summer in Barcelona, a city with a beach.

Let's see if things work on film. Take a look at his work!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Sara Peixoto

Sara Peixoto
GuimarĂ£es, Porto, Portugal


At what point did photography enter your life?

Well, I think that photography entered my life in a really spontaneous way. It happened when I went for college to study architecture that it became my main influence, because image plays an important role in this area of study. Since then, my interest in photography started increasing highly. I was always exploring and experimenting some cool shots and trying to express myself through my photographs in some way. Then someday, on happy day, I bought my first rangefinder camera and it was then that my deep love for analogue photography was born.

Have you ever felt frustrated or disinterested so you played with thoughts of stopping to pursue photography?

No. I can't say that I have ever felt frustrated, I was not even ever so disinterested that it could somehow have influenced my pursuit in photography. There are so many talented photographers emerging everyday in this world. I guess it is just natural if at some point, after seeing such beautiful photographs, I feel just like a tiny girl with her simple photographs, trying to do her best. When that happens, I just try to take the best out of it, let them inspire me and help me in my growing process as a photographer.

There's a certain romantic and dreamy notion to your recent pictures. What is your interest herein?

I love looking at a photograph and feel completely absorbed by it. I tend to create the whole moment that is behind the image in my mind; as if it was a movie still that someone had the desire to eternalize. I wander about the whole that is portrayed, the atmosphere, the beauty of that place, and the essence of that person, the meaning of that particular moment in someone's life. I do have a very romantic way of looking at photography and all I do is try sharing this through my photographs. This is the case for especially the recent ones. I try to make people look and wander about the moments that are behind the images, to see the beauty of who and what takes part in my life, just exactly in the same way that I do.

You also seem to enjoy playing with body language. Are there certain narratives you have in the back of your mind while doing so?

Not really, but I have been exploring it more and more, trying different expressions with different people. In my recent shots it just came in a natural way... I'm lucky to have such a very expressive friends, especially my girlfriends.

Sometimes artists seem to be desperate in trying to embed in-depth messages and meanings in their works. Have you ever observed this, too? If so, what's your position regarding this "phenomenon"?

I think that a photograph can fully embed a meaningful message if created in a natural and true way. In a forced way, I guess it just looses all that power to communicate ‘its message’ to whoever looking at it. I think it has to do with the sensibility on both sides, too. The photographer has to be sensitive and true about what he or she wants to communicate and the viewer needs to be able to read and apprehend it. Subjectivity plays a big role.

And can art even be superficial? If so, does this have to be something bad?

Yes, I think so, but I'm not sure if it's good or bad. We live in a highly superficial world and in some cases art needs to follow superficial ways to express itself effectively. Superficiality has a huge power to captivate and to move the majority of the societies of our world.

What are you working on currently?

I'm currently finishing my master's degree in architecture. I intend to attend some photography classes so I can increase my knowledge and photography skills, mainly in analogue photography. I am dreaming of having my own studio, working on architecture and design, with a little gallery and a lab where I can develop my own films. Yes, I'm a full time dreamer.

A lot of my friends have been telling me that the beginning of spring has energized them. Does your motivation ever change with the seasons?

Oh a lot! I really love the neutral seasons, so spring and autumn are my favourite ones. It's amazing how these seasons can provide us with such a diversity of atmospheres on a single day. Ironically, these are the seasons that influence my emotional side the most and then I tend to feel more unstable. But, at the same time, they're also the ones that inspire me the most. Yes, I guess I’m just one of those complex human beings.

Finally, it’s summer right now: what's your favourite ice cream (flavour)?

Chocolate! I can't resist a huge yummy chocolate ice cream.

Repeating memories through visual art. Take a look at her work!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Martin Petersen

Martin Petersen
Odense, Denmark

My first impression when going on your website was that your work appears to be quite consistent. What it is that interests and catches your eye most in photography?

I became interested in landscape photography a couple of years ago, and it sort of made everything fall into place. Before that I took a lot of gloomy pictures of factories at night and abandoned buildings, but that became a bit too depressing. So landscape photography is what I do, and landscape photography is what I prefer to look at, when I go to exhibitions, buy books or look at the Internet. I like to see how others interpret nature, and the interaction between manmade objects and nature. Some photographers are able to make a big open field seem claustrophobic; others can make an old house placed in the middle of nowhere seem like the most natural thing. I find all this very interesting.

And would you describe your work as conceptual art?

No. I wouldn’t even describe it as art, and I don’t describe myself as an artist, I don’t even describe myself as a photographer. I just take photos; there is no urge in me to put neither the photos nor myself up on a pedestal.

There is a certain calmness to you pictures, regardless of the imagery or setting they portray. What do you cherish most about soft colour/light transitions and compositions?

When you look at my pictures you should get the feeling that not much is happening, and hopefully start thinking that no matter how long you would look at the scenery (in real life) not much would ever happen. You use the word calmness, and I think that the word that best describes what I cherish the most about these compositions.

When you browse through other photographers' galleries, do you feel drawn to art, which is more similar to yours or rather the opposite?

At first, my answer was that I prefer work similar to what I do, but after a quick look on the bookshelf I deleted that answer. I’m quite fond of portrait photography and landscape photography, of course. But it’s photography in all its glory with all its subgenres that tricks me, as long as it is done properly.

Without even attempting to create any generalizations, do you ever have the feeling that artists based closely geographically have similar interests and employ similar motifs in their artwork?

Not really, I mean, when you photograph landscape you run the risk that others might take a photograph at the exact same spot, but no, I don’t think so.

How would you describe the art scene that you communicate with the most?

I’m not part of a collective or an artist group, and I haven’t done a lot of exhibitions. So the correct answer is the music scene. I own a small record label, I’ve been doing reviews and interviews for a lot of years, worked in a record store for ten years and (thank you for asking) even released two EPs with songs for kids. But it makes sense, when I took those gloomy pictures I would probably listen to some early eighties post punk on my iPod while doing so, today I never listen to music while photographing. But I normally listen to stuff like Midlake when I edit the photos.

Whose work do you consider to be a "landmark" within photography?

I always get inspired when I look at work done by David Goldblatt, Sune Jonnson, Per Bak Jensen and Nicolai Howalt. Their work has helped me to define the direction I want to go with my work. Most people probably know David Goldblatt, but I would like to encourage people to google the rest.  

You write that you prefer to work within short periods of time, like a couple of hours. Has it nevertheless ever tempted you to formulate a project that documents changes over a longer period of time? If so, what would you be interested in illustrating?

I would probably describe the change of something; right now they are removing a forest, field and marsh like landscape near where I live to make way for a new road being build. That could have been a cool project, but I am not all too keen on the idea that you can see the seasons, the surroundings and the light change in such a series, I prefer to keep it simple with no larger changes in the settings.  

Finally, you also write that one of your interests in about emptinesses in spaces. To ask slightly more provocatively, do entirely empty spaces even exist?

They do, but they are hard as fuck to find. Entirely empty spaces really lack characteristics.

It's not conceptual, it's probably relational. Take a look at his work!

Friday, 1 July 2011

Alison Withers

Alison Withers
Copenhagen, Denmark
flickr  tumblr one two

What led you to move to Copenhagen?

I got hooked on a Danish boy.

Has your 'artistic' eye or interest changed due to this biographical change?

Sure, it's more nuanced. My photos were blunt to begin with. I lived on the west coast of Canada, and aimed my lens at big landscapes. Urban routine in Copenhagen doesn't boast the same sort of natural 'mouth-agape' splendor, so I've learned to notice smaller things, the details.

You seem to be keen on both outdoor and indoor settings and more specifically appear to have a distinct interest in portraying different lighting situations. Would you say that light constitutes one of the most important elements/motives in your photography?

I don't use flash; I don’t have one. So technically light and available light dictates everything. I'm intrigued with coziness - or hygge, a staple of Danish culture. My photos are very simplistic; I try to preserve feelings in a given space.

Do you ever feel uncomfortable photographing people on the streets?

Can't you tell? I really admire photographers who can do this with ease. Then again, I find it pretty rude when people take my photo without asking. That sentiment doesn't translate well into making myself a stealth street photographer, and I'm too shy to ask for permission.

What defines 'artistic freedom' to you?

Free of money woes or financial strings.

Is there a recent album cover or art that you have liked a lot? 

The Tallest Man on Earth picks these photos for his covers that are both humble and striking. They complement his music well.

Connected to this: how important are cover illustrations for music albums or books? 

Hugely important. Have you ever picked up another edition/translation of a well-liked book to notice the cover (and font) are illustrated/designed differently? That always throws me off. It shocks my understanding of the characters or theme to the story. 

Finally, which Canadian dish do you miss the most? 

Barbequed sockeye salmon.

Hygge and details. Take a look at her work!