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http://photographyartstore.blogspot.com/2010/01/interview-with-artist-kenneth-chou.html

AN INTERVIEW WITH ARTIST KENNETH CHOU

Yesterday we released 3 new limited edition photographs by documentary photographer Kenneth Chou on our website. Kenneth is strongly influenced by photographers who take to the streets & this comes across in his images. All 3 photos were shot with black & white film.  Yes film!  That sure is rare these days.  Recently I had the chance to echat with Kenneth to learn more about his process.

Zoography #31

YOU PREFER THE TERM “DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHER” OVER “PHOTO JOURNALIST”. WHY?
I believe documentary work in many cases tend to be long term projects, and to believe in long projects you must be open to unintended directions and changes to your work. I prefer documentary because ultimately it is a commitment you make to be open to yourself and allow what goes on in the world to transcend through you. We live in a media heightened world that has many truths, I believe it is the duty of the documentary practitioner to fortify his own truth as it is no longer sufficient to just speak of the world around you, you must defend your perspective.

WHO ARE YOUR INFLUENCES?
I’ve always been a big fan of photographers that have taken to the streets such as Gerry Winogrand, Robert Frank and Trent Parke. I also have a really strong appreciation for photographers that infuse humor in their photographs… as humor in a photograph is often the hardest to come across and it is something I often strive for. I believe to grow old with photography we must have a comedic eye because humor is often the great equalizer and keeps you in tune with the viewer. Photographers like Martin Parr and Elliot Erwitt have proven that documenting life does not have to be all serious and gloomy.

CAN YOU DESCRIBE WHAT YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS IS? HOW DO YOU COME UP WITH THE CONCEPT FOR AN IMAGE OR SERIES?
One day I might decide to photograph people on their Blackberries on the streets. I would go out with a simple concept in mind and come home with many photographs. Many will not work, but those that do I find other ideas and concepts that describe a certain condition. I use a system of categorization and then attempt to string together thematic work, so the concept of having an archive is a strong part of my working process.

HOW MUCH OF YOUR WORK IS SPONTANEOUS AS OPPOSED TO CAREFULLY PLANNED OUT SHOTS?
Almost all of my personal work is spontaneous; I want to capture the unexpected. I also believe it is a way of keeping senses sharp and at the same time allowing yourself to be open to new ideas. Although I would not say the images are random, because as soon as you decide to raise a camera to your eye, the decisions have and are being made…

HOW DO YOU DECIDE ON LOCATIONS OR SUBJECT MATTER?
I really don’t. Sometimes I would decide to go someplace or shoot a certain thing but then go off and explore something else. Sometimes it is tough having a photography background because if I mentioned Africa to anyone, they will already have pre-conceptions of an image. It is something I am constantly aware of so I try to keep myself surprised. I carry a Leica camera at all times, so the images are always potentially where I go.

TELL US HOW THESE 3 IMAGES CAME ABOUT?
Zoography #31. I was out shooting with a school colleague of mine, Pauline. We came across this strange scene as if people were behaving like cars and cars were behaving like people. We both stopped and frantically took photos, we didn’t really tell each other what we saw… almost believing we were both secretly onto something strange that had happened in front of us. Later when we both looked at each others negatives, Pauline admitted I had gotten the photo that she was going for. It was a strange scene and many people have asked me whether it was staged at all.

Rachyl and Charlie

Rachyl and Charlie. This photo came about perhaps 10 minutes after I was stopped by a questionable character who claimed I took a photo of him and demanded my film. I was reluctant but rather than giving him the film or getting into a physical confrontation I simply pulled out my film and exposed the whole roll to light and then later the garbage. I came about the scene soon after, and having being quite upset that I lost a roll of film I threw myself into engaging the dog and it’s owner until another passerby Rachyl stopped to play with Charlie. It was photographed on Kensington Market in Toronto.

Makeup, Toronto Fashion Week

Makeup, Toronto Fashion Week. The photo came about while I was given access to photograph the backstage at the annual fashion show. The makeup section had these squares for models to stand in, I do not know if it was the consistency of the models to be of certain shoe size but the square seemed to almost fit the particular model’s feet perfectly.

WHAT DO YOU HOPE PEOPLE TAKE AWAY FROM YOUR ART?
I hope people get the sense of humor in my images. It is often difficult to describe the particular humor that is in these photos because we are so heavily bombarded by internet photos or blatant office email photos that are supposed to be funny at someone else’s expense. These are just moments captured which I hope will lighten people up, but also make them see life with a little bit more humor.

UNLIKE A LOT OF PHOTOGRAPHERS THESE DAYS YOU’VE CHOSEN TO STICK WITH FILM AS YOUR SHOOTING MEDIUM. WHY?
Without being too sentimental, one of the main reasons I still shoot film is its material existence in relation to the subject. If you can imagine looking at Robert Capa’s negatives from D-Day, the very existence of that film, at a certain time, physically existed in a box parallel to the image of the world. The fact that the very physical material of film was carried in, by the photographer, and exposed to light is very profound to me. When I look at my negatives knowing each single piece of film was present at where it was taken really gives me a metaphysical connection. It’s like looking at water and understanding that particular drop traveled great distances to get to you.

WOULD YOU EVER CONSIDER GOING DIGITAL?
As a working photographer I do keep up with the latest digital aspects of photography, but I don’t believe they have to be mutually exclusive.

WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW? TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT CAN WE LOOK FORWARD TO NEXT?
I’m at the very beginning of research into a project. In my previous work I photographed ecological graves. I am hoping to continue the concept of things of significance hidden beneath the ground. The possibilities involve particle accelerators around the world or sites with significant activity hidden within nature.

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