Saturday, 28 July 2012

Amanda Jasnowski

Dayton, OH

What inspires you the most right now?

A lot of what I see on a day to day basis inspires me, my perception has created this visually interesting and beautiful world around me. Things I'm feeling inspire me, even if they're sad. I'll take it all. I get inspired often by my observations of everything and everyone around me. That's awfully vague but it's hard to be specific when there's so much. There are photographers whose work I see on a daily basis that inspire me. The notion of instagram, the fact that it can be this little visual pocket diary, to me, it is inspiring.

Do you ever get shy when it comes to photograph strangers?

Certainly! I can be shy in general, but I've progressed over time and it's become a lot easier to ask strangers to photograph them. My current job has also instilled a stronger sense of self-confidence and general improvement when talking to complete strangers and minding my word choices. I always remember that if I don't ask them it's a chance I missed because I couldn't muster up the guts.

What's enjoyable and what's annoying about shooting self-portraits?

What's enjoyable is that it's all you. It's a self-documentation, a way of getting to know yourself through your own work. A young photographer named Lexi Mire, whom I admire,  began a series of self portraits titled “self portrait therapy” and it really got me thinking about the therapy within them, and how it really can be quite calming and healing. Another advantage of being both the photographer and model is that you know yourself best, and can get across what you want to without having to try to find the words to explain it to another individual. The annoying thing, I think, is that you're pretty critical of yourself.

You have a series called "An Awakening", in which you depict the a form of "enlightenment" of the self. Do you think of it as a moment or a process?

The series originated on a moment, but in retrospect it can apply to the whole process. It originated the moment I took this photo. I had just finished preparing the girl in the photo, and setting everything on the camera. I asked her to open her eyes and as she slowly did, powder fell from her eyelashes and her striking blue eyes came into view below the soft, white flurry. To me, it was a visual interpretation of “an awakening”. At that time I had been learning large format for the first time, and it was intimidating. Every negative I shot made me shake and sweat rolled down my back. I took so much time for every turn and twist of the camera, I could hear myself breathe. This process took so much out of me than any other process had before. I was learning something new and soaking myself in it all, so the process alone was like an awakening of sorts for myself.

What are you working on currently?

Currently I've just been shooting editorial work for the magazine I'm a staff contributor for, Fixation Magazine. I have gotten to work with some great models this year and I only hope that continues. I'm always working on side projects and brainstorming for future ones. I am currently trying to finish putting together a photo book and looking for publishers. I really hope to collaborate more as the year continues and that the collaborations only grow into the next year. The idea of creative brains merging together makes me so excited.

How did you feel when people started getting interested in photos showing your hands (like in "#Ahanda) more and more?

At first, I thought it was funny that my hands were getting such attention, because they never had before. Every once in a while a stranger would kindly compliment my “long, skinny fingers”, but it wasn't very often. They all sort of made me see the beauty in my own hands, the beauty I had seen in my mother's hands from a young age. I really enjoy doing the series and I'm smitten that others do too.

What's your position on nudity in art?

If you want to do it, do it. If you don't, then don't.

As a photographer, do you ever get the feeling of being a "chronicler" of the times we live in?

All the time! I feel as if I'm documenting my life, and the lives around me (from my perspective). It's going to be really surreal looking back when I'm older and having this large visual time line and to be able to see how I evolved as well as the world around me. I am forever a chronicler.

Something that makes living in Dayton, OH special?

The fact that it's a tiny city in rural Midwest. The Midwest has it's own certain beauty as well as the folks who inhibit it. Dayton was once a bustling place but I'd be lying if I said it still was. It's certainly got a lot of folks working hard in their own ways to revive it and for that I am thankful. There's a small but heart-warming community of artists and good people. Living in a place like this makes you more resourceful; you don't have things to do and places to see at your fingertips. You go out and find adventure and find the tucked away gems. Their rarity only makes them all the more special. For a long while I really disliked living here, then something happened and I started to see the beauty and comfort of the Midwest.

What couldn't you live without?

My family. I'd be one eternally unhappy human without them in my life. Light comes next.

Striking portraits. Take a look at her work!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Campbell Sibthorpe

Bristol, UK

You're originally from Australia. How was it when you first moved to England?

Yes - I was born in Australia, Queensland. But have been living in England for the last 15 years. Moving was good.

Did the move change your interest or vision as a photographer?

Unfortunately I was too young for the move to make a real impact on me, though at the moment it’s my friends, who push my vision. I live in a small village and though it is only a quick train ride to the next town I find it easier to concentrate on how my friends and I find things to do in a reasonably quiet place.

What do you search for most of the times when you go out to shoot photographs?

Normally I just search for something that makes me look twice. But trying to be a snapshot photographer and still use this method of observation doesn’t really work out a lot of the time. If I have missed taking the moment, I will usually note down what I have seen and at some point try and subtly re-create that moment with my friends or family.

What do you like most about photographing your friends?

When I take pictures of my friends, I feel at ease. I will usually take pictures of the friend who looks the most natural in that moment. Though a lot of the time I might tell them what kind of expression or glance I’m looking for. So many people are used to having cameras pushed in their faces, too. That means that often any notion of surprise or spontaneity from having your picture taken is gone and therefore sadly needs to be created in a different way.

Are you as comfortable in photographing people on the streets?

I don't think I have any problems taking pictures of "People on the streets", I just find taking pictures of my friends more personal and valuable to me.

Which artists have inspired you lately?

Well I just bought Jonnie Craig and Tim Barber’s new book, so that’s a month worth of inspiration I guess. I can be a bit of a garbage bin a lot of the time ... I like to absorb other peoples’ work and always check out what’s fresh on the scene.

Are you interested in other forms of visual art as well?
Yes – My house is filled with so much art and sculpture I feel like I have a balanced interest in all kind of art forms.

What led you to found BAD BANANAS?
I founded BAD BANANAS on my couch, I had been thinking that it would be great to start something that connected local photographers and created a way for them to showcase their work to each other.
In my head it was well though out, but when the blog got up and running and the initial hype had long gone, there were some obvious flaws … there were only four photographers in my village. Which maybe is an exaggeration, but there didn’t seem to be as many as I thought. Knowing that the submission count would vary in size, I set up an "inspiration page" so that people didn’t necessarily have to submit all the time, they could come and look at some work from top or upcoming photographers that might give them some inspiration for their own work.

 BAD BANANAS is still going, bit quiet sometimes, but still pressing on. We are holding a small exhibition at my house soon which should be fun. I’m just looking forward to gathering all the photographers and looking at big prints together.

What do you enjoy most about curating yourself?

I'm not sure I would call my self a curator, as I think I am still developing as a photographer. I just enjoy receiving submissions and thinking “wow, that’s a great picture, everyone needs to see that.”

Will you be traveling this year? If so, whereto?

Yes - Last summer I went back home to Australia, it was good to go somewhere new for a change and take photos. I am looking forward to getting out of the village and going to a few places this summer, as well as traveling to Poland in September to see an exhibition that I am a part of.

Other than that ... I will see where the wind takes me, I guess.

Where do you see yourself in, say, five years?

Hopefully in five years I will still be taking photos, be better than I am now, going new places, taking part in exhibitions, living ultimately.

Quiet but fresh mind. Take a look at his work!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Regina LeMaire Costa

Paris, France

You study filmmaking and directing. How does photography fit in between these subjects?

I think that partly I am self-educated by watching and dealing with motion pictures! Film is a big deal to me. The real difference between filmmaking to photographing is that photography is a one man's job, so I'm my own director and cinematographer when I shoot. The images are all about specific memories and stories, so they have to feel nostalgic. And this is where directing and different techniques come in. They're essential for what I do.

Do you ever find yourself 'directing' the people/models you photograph?

Yes, I always ‘direct’ when I work on a photo shoot, but I try to do it as little as possible when I'm photographing to document something. I wouldn't want to "stage" genuine moments. 

What do you find most appealing about visual arts?

It's a powerful art form. People literally see it, so you get to convey ideas in the most direct way. Photography, for instance, is often wrongly seen as an "easy art" because we all have access to it. But then, on the contrary, it gets really difficult to stand out. It motivates you greatly to outdo yourself.

What kind of movies or film genres are you interested in personally?

I think all genres are valuable as long as the movie is good. I'm not big on horror, but if it's a good movie, I might watch it. I have a soft spot for classic movies from Hollywood's Golden Age. Crazy, devastating love stories are my favourite ones. I also keep an eye on cinematographic work. Aestetics of the 60s and 70s are appealing to me, because everything feels different and has that unique colouring... It’s odd, but that makes me nostalgic. 

Do you think that photography helps you to sharpen your vision for setting up and/or capturing certain imagery?

You learn a lot from practicing so it's helped me to improve my skills, to know what I like and to build my own style. But I'm still learning. 

What makes you feel that a day of shooting was 'successful' at the end of it?

I shoot analogue almost exclusively, so usually I'm only completely happy the next day, after the images are developed and everything is there. There have been times where nothing came out off the negatives. These mark the less successful days. A good shooting day would be one on which models were open to listen and would even improvise. I’d also see it as a good day, when the weather plays along.

What did you want to capture with your project "young experts"?

It's mostly about freedom. These young people I shot, each one of them are working to do something in this world. Most of all, they are able to do so, which cannot be said about every kid everywhere. I wish to capture as much young professionals as I can. A side note: I'm Free by the Rolling Stones was part of my inspiration.

You're currently working on another series called "Godots". Can you tell us more about it?

A friend from Brazil asked me to collaborate with her team on this project. It resembles one I did myself called Waiting lessonsThe series was inspired by Beckett's famous play Waiting for Godot. I can't say much about it until it's out, but basically it'll be about waiting and expecting, a lot like Waiting lessons, but based on a different rule: all subjects will be photographed with their backs turned to the camera.

From your point of view, how do collaborations with other artists help you in your development as an artist?

This will be my first collaboration so I don't know much about that yet. I guess it teaches you about teamwork and how to build your ideas around established limits, so that's challenging. It's inspiring to engage on a themed project because you get to explore an idea to the core. 

Is the glass half full or half empty?

What's in the glass?

Directing is half the job it seems. Take a look at her work!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Michael Chia

Brussels, Belgium

Going through everyday life, our days frequently are accompanied by little dreams in between. Figuring out possibilities, recalling past events, imagining the future, constructing new imagery. Although they most of the times don’t have the spontaneous character of dreams one might see when sleeping, they still are similar to them in that they transcend time and space. Seemingly making it possible to do away with omnipresent categories and causalities of everyday life, they enable the reconstruction of new horizons of possibilities. And meeting Michael Chia I found out that it can be possible to mould imagined possibilities into actual images and photographs. I met Michael in a surprisingly quiet café on a busy afternoon near Porte de Namur in Brussels to talk about his work as a full-time photographer. Word on the street was that he taught some of the best photography courses in Brussels, so I was eager to learn some tips and tricks in between myself.

Michael seems to enjoy the process of learning greatly. Thinking back of the first photography courses he had offered over 10 years ago, he remembers how they helped him to grow as a photographer over time. Especially his very first workshop had been an “eye opener”, he admits. He found himself trying to answer unexpected questions, to explain techniques as comprehensively as possible and to “level up” with the participants’ anticipation: all of this had been both work and fun at the same time, he says. What does he advice photographers? “Think analogue, shoot digital” is one of the fundamental rules for him when it comes to photographing efficiently. Michael says that he likes to use all the possibilities modern technology brings and that he enjoys shooting with digital cameras. However, he argues, these means for engaging in photography should stay being instruments for achieving one’s goals. For him,  it is the conceptual idea behind his projects, which determines the technology that he will use to create the images he envisions in his head. It becomes evident that he highly values creative thought processes prior and parallel to the active “shooting” of photographs. But what is it that he seeks to create in the first place?

His artistic work offers clues for the answer to this question. When looking at his two projects “Happy Rain” and “Dreams in Dreamland” the viewer is presented with two series of colourful and blurry images that leave a lot to the imagination. Both projects were predominantly produced during his travels to Southeast Asian cities, but a lot of the pictures could be set in any city of the world. “I have deliberately shot everything devoid of elements one could associate with stereotypes about Asian cities,” he notes, believing that “I can make you see, what I want you to see.” So his idea here was to leave subjective views and familiar imagery behind as far as possible, he continues. The goal was to “subtract the obvious” in order to leave space for imagination. His vision then was to create space for possibility as opposed to determining a set image. Thus space plays a big role in the conception behind both projects. “Instead of using the subject to determine the space, space was used to frame the subject,” he argues and refers to the blurred human movements in the images. Abstract spatial settings aside, why did he choose shoot primarily hazy images, I wonder?

Michael concentrated on haziness in order to create a notion of “fuzziness” and a feeling of expectation, he says. As if one has just woken up and remembers fleeting images from a dream. Also, the blurriness would serve to avoid static and stiff compositions, bring movement into the picture and ideally activate the imagination of the viewer, he hopes. By presenting human motion in correlation with processes around them, by connecting both in blurred compositions of colour and movement Michael follows his goal of portraying social action and moments of city dwellers. This is also why he chose rain to be the decisive element for the series “Happy Rain”: for him, rain becomes a social element when viewed as something connecting people on the streets.

Thinking about this idea and looking once more at the series, the notion of individual pedestrians trying to shield themselves from the raindrops with their umbrellas and therein forming a composition of colourful movements has something reassuring - and maybe even soothing and hopeful – to it. The haziness enhanced by the rain not only avoids the reminiscence of familiar categories; it also takes away spatial boundaries and opens up new rooms of possibilities. With the blurriness and colourfulness of the images offering new dimensions for imagination, the viewer can get carried away enough to enter the space of the image created. What might ensue could be an active participation of the viewer in the creative process of the photographer, forming own interpretations, imagining possibilities and rethinking categories while doing so. More and more I get the feeling that Michael Chia’s major goal might be to offer spaces of indefinite time and location for imagining new realities. And seen from this perspective, it seems that Michael has achieved his goal. Because if you allow yourself to let go just a little bit, looking at the images of these two series is indeed a bit like entering different “dreamlands” of possibilities.

The pictures shown here are from his projects "Happy Rain" and "Dreams in Dreamland". Take a look at his work! Also, you can catch a free e-book by Michael via facebook, featuring tips about how to improve your photography.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Mikhail Porollo

Brussels, Belgium


Artists ask questions. As simple or natural as this might sound, a conversation with Brussels based photographer Mikhail Porollo made me feel the joy of discovering this little detail in artistic creativity anew. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Porollo over a coffee on a very grey, thus - forgive me for saying so - very Belgian, and somewhat rainy Saturday morning in Brussels to talk about his recent projects, about art and culture, and life in general.
Born and raised in Russia, Mikhail got in touch with photography at an early age. But it was during his time in South Africa - he studied at the South African College of Photography - when he started to engage in photography “professionally”. He thereafter would take on various courses and projects all over the world, travelling between the continents, going the distances between South Africa and Namibia, from Belgium to Russia and back. Listening to his travels, I wondered if people from different places also looked at art from different perspectives. And if yes, how so?
This question seems to have interested Mikhail during his time in South Africa, too. He argues that ways of looking at art would be strongly connected to cultural differences. Appreciation of art in for instance the UK, Belgium and also Russia, he says, would be very similar: the concept of looking at art and objects in museum or gallery settings would be a common cultural practice in these three countries. In South Africa, however, this way of observing art would be a rarity. There, art would be lived and experienced mostly outdoors, Mikhail remembers: it had been a part of “active social life”. This difference in dealing with art, he feels, eventually had appeared as a great inspiration for himself as a modern artist, as it had opened up new ways of approaching art and photography for him.
It seems that this notion of changing perspectives continued to live on in his later projects as well. Take for instance his collection “Goddesses”, from which the images featured here are taken. One of the major objectives of this project is to present the gaze of the viewer with an altered image and to challenge his or her dealing with portraits by establishing a normally non-existent symmetry in the models’ faces. Mikhail Porollo experiments in this project by taking the left side of the models’ faces and mirroring it onto the right side, taking away the naturally uneven division of the human face. And it is here where Mikhail implemented the conceptual idea behind the series. Dealing with the idea of visual symmetry and balance, he started the project out of curiosity about what might happen if the portrait viewers were confronted with completely symmetrical faces. “What happens when it [the face] is balanced? How do we accept it? How do we see it?”, he asks. He goes on to theorize about the different facial halves, about the left side being the spiritual and the right side being the rational “and brutal” part of the human face. He tells me about how, with continuing age, the right side would become more and more similar to the left side of the face, and how he therefore thinks of the left side as an outlook on future and maybe even as a portrayal of eternity. What happens if through an artificial symmetry between the facial halves, an eternal balance is established?, one might ask. I can almost see question marks hanging in the air of the busy café. But I feel that not all questions can or have to be answered definitively. And for Mikhail, asking seems to be the starting point and goal of the project at the same time.
Getting back to the idea of cultural diversity and differences, it is then interesting to see how the series portrays women wearing clothing and headgears from different cultural backgrounds. Here it becomes clear that the representation of various cultural identities is another interest of Mikhail’s in this project. But they all are based in Brussels, he says, and seems to be keen to display a part of the diverse cultures existing in the Belgian capital. For such goals he notes how “it is best to photograph “real persons”” and adds that all of the models are friends of his as well.
Talking about “Goddesses” I find that - almost paradoxically - symmetry and difference seem to be fascinating Mikhail the most. In this sense, in his most recent project “Harmony of Form” he succeeds to combine balance, symmetry and difference in one project again. Setting out to photograph round ceilings, Mikhail once more searched for continuity and balance. He found these in ceilings and parts of ceiling decorations of different cultural and political architectures throughout Belgium and Europe, ranging from cathedrals to mosques, from theatres to law courts. As for his “Goddesses” project, this latest series also displays a strong interest to portray balance “dressed” in different artistic and cultural representations.
Moving further, leaving portrayals of individuals and their cultural identities behind, the new project depicts how notions of harmony reveal themselves in different cultural architectural constructions. Here, Mikhail once again seems to ask a question, this time it is the question of harmony its architectural dress. 
Take a look at his work! And if you're in Brussels, be sure to visit the PÔZE IV TERMINUS exhibition at Bozar, the Centre for Fine Arts; you can see selected work of Mikhail there until 16th September 2012.