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INTERVIEW #68: NICOLA ODEMANN

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INTERVIEW #67: SUJI PARK




Suji Park, b. 1989 from South Korea


http://suji-park.com/


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Coming Up Strong: How did you get into photography?

Suji Park: When I was a child, taking photos merely meant documenting events and was something only my parents would do. I participated in student exchange program in high school time and digital compacts were coming out at that time. I got mine ahead of my adventures and I spent hours and hours taking random photos. It did fascinate me but still I did not have a concept of photography. As I became busy with school back in Korea, I did not take photos often. It was after I became a university student that I started taking photos more seriously. By browsing sites like flickr, I could know about photography in artistic aspect and it was a whole new world for me. Ever since, photography has become my biggest passion in life. 





CUS: Did you study, or are you studying, photography? If not, how did you learn?

SP: No, I haven't taken any photography courses. I learned by taking photos and looking at photos taken by others.



CUS: Tell us a little about where you live. How does your city/country/location have an affect on your photography?

SP: I live in a medium sized city in South Korea. I like my town is not very crowded. Although I see more and more new buildings are coming up these days, it is still surrounded by nature. I don't think the place where I live has significant influences on my photography but its calmness and surrounding nature allows me to refresh myself and furthermore leave spaces to be inspired.




CUS: Tell us about your photographic process.

SP: When I take photos, it can be both impromptu and planned ones; mostly it is series work that involves planning. Inspirations hit me and I may have specific imagery on my mind. Then I would do rough sketches and shoot based on them. To finish a roll, it usually takes 1-2 months. 



CUS: What did you have for breakfast this morning?

SP: Soup and rice (Korean meal)



CUS: What makes a good image?

SP: I believe a good image comes out when you listen to what your heart speaks out.




CUS: Who, or what, is your biggest influence?

SP: Poetry and Rimbaud.



CUS: Who are the people in your photographs?

SP: Myself, family and friends.





CUS: Nature seems to play a major role in your work. Can you elaborate on this?

SP: Nature is where we are from and where we go back after death. I think nature has the power to console and heal human being from negative aspects of modern life; I feel being refreshed and soothed when surrounded by nature. I love how nature has various looks depending on time and season. They bring specific scents and sensations. For example, I like the scent of soil after spring rain and 4 pm sunset in winter. As these sensations evoke feelings of nostalgia, it becomes one of my inspiration sources. Furthermore, when being in wild nature, it makes me feel like escaping from real life. 



CUS: Do you believe that with the rise of digital photography the phrase “everyone can be a photographer” is true? What are your thoughts on digital vs. film photography?

SP: I would agree only if it referred photographer as someone who merely enjoys activity of taking photos. It is true that digital photography has allowed people to approach photography easier but it doesn't mean everyone can reach certain level of depth in photography. 

Digital and film photography—each has pros and cons but I think there is no need to compare them or debate over which is superior. I first started with digital and enjoyed it. Although digital is more time saving, now I do prefer film photography because it appeals stronger to my aesthetics and fulfills my curiosity. Whichever medium you take, if you enjoy and make great shots—I guess that's it. 




CUS: What are your thoughts on photography and the Internet? (For example, mass amounts of images being uploaded every day via sites such as Flickr, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram…) How do you differentiate “art” photography and “non-art” photography?

SP:  With the advance of social medias, photography has got into daily life deeper than ever. I think it is good to enjoy photography on a daily basis. When it comes to art photography, however, I wouldn't think instagram photo of starbucks cup as art. I believe that art photography should convey photographer's philosophy and involve more profound thinking. 





CUS: Do you think that the Internet (as opposed to a gallery or any other art institution) is a legitimate place to showcase photographic work or do photographs have to be seen in “the flesh” to be fully appreciated and experienced?

SP: I think both the Internet and any off line sites can be good places to showcase photographic works but of course, they can be appreciated better in the latter case. Going to exhibitions already requires more efforts and its main purpose is to appreciate someone's works. A few days ago I went to a photography exhibition held by LIFE. Some of exhibited images were ones I already saw on the Internet but looking at them right in front of me left stronger impressions.  

To add more opinions about the Internet—for someone like me who has no art/photography study background, the Internet gives great opportunities to showcase works. Also it allows people to encounter many great photos at their convenience. However, there is a side effect of this. Probably because it is simple and easy to just look at images on screens, it seems that sometimes people underestimate their values and are reckless when sharing and using images. Whether taken by amateur or professional, you can see photos that are not simply "snaps." So many photographs were made with lots of efforts, time and deep thoughts. It is sad to see when photographs taken by fellow photographers are used and blogged without any credits. In the worst case, they even get stolen. If people could respect artists and copyright better, the Internet would be a greater showcase place.  


 
CUS: What are your plans for the summer?

SP: I was thinking about going to France but for some reasons I have decided not to and would travel some cities in Korea with friends. 




CUS: What is the biggest challenge you face with your work?

SP: To realize my imaginations, I would need help of some materials or accessories. Sometimes they are hard to find or way too expensive to buy. 



CUS: What are some of your favorite books and movies?

SP: Book: The little prince
Movies: Der Untergang, Au revoir les enfants, Schindler’s List, Dead Poet’s Society, Toto le hero,Trois couleurs, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Le Corbeau.





CUS: If you could photograph any person (past or present) who would you choose?

SP: Serge Gainsbourg.



CUS: What do you hope to achieve with your photography? Do you foresee photography as a career in your future?

SP: Yes, I have become a freelance photographer since last autumn. I often say that through the medium of analog photography, I follow traces of light, nostalgia and dreams. More specifically I wish to portray the world where we could escape from horrible sides of reality. For now I'm trying to be recognized by a wider range of people; in the future, I would love to participate in various projects, do exhibitions and publish my photography book.



CUS: What advice would you give to your fellow up-and-coming photographers?

SP: Stay true to yourself.





CUS: Our last interviewee, Hudson Gardner, asks: Please share an experience of beauty that you have had.

SP: That would be when I looked at a 84 year old lady putting on make up.




CUS: Last but not least, what would you like to ask the next interviewee? 

SP: If you could turn back time, when would it be? 


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INTERVIEW #66: HUDSON GARDNER


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INTERVIEW #65: REBECCA CAIRNS




Rebecca Cairns, b. 1991 and based out of Toronto & Montreal


Coming Up Strong: How did you get into photography?

Rebecca Cairns: I started taking photographs when I was in high school. I was given my first camera (which was a digital slr) for my sixteenth birthday. It was around this time that I had also started to use the darkroom at school for photography and art classes. It just kind of happened. Something felt right.



CUS: Did you study, or are you studying, photography? If not, how did you learn?

RC: After high school, I attended college for photography. After this, I took a break and travelled/lived abroad for some time and then realized that there was a part of me that wanted to continue on with postsecondary studies. I started to study photography again but this endeavour ended abruptly.


CUS: Tell us a little about where you live. How does your city/country/current location have an affect on your photography?

RC: I am currently floating between Toronto and Montreal and have been doing so for about two years now.
I think that I work best when I am mobile. Of course there is nothing wrong with familiarity, but I think that it sometimes does not work in my favour, or I do not work with it in the way that I should. I begin to feel stagnant after a while- or maybe a little bored.
I am inspired by nature and old architecture and I suppose that when I remove certain elements like these from my everyday life or when they become inaccessible, things can quickly become dull. I feel somewhat more stable and inspired when I am moving around and think that some of my better work has been produced while mobile. As much as I do value the notion of finding and creating a home, I need to stray often in order to cater to some part of myself that pines for the unknown. I love nothing more than wandering.


CUS: Tell us about your photographic process.

RC: My process is scattered and experimental. I tend to put a lot of trust 'in the moment' and leave a lot of how I create work up to my perception/interpretation of the environment at the time. I have recently been incorporating more research and careful planning into shoots and printing, but I am often most content with work that that is somewhat unstructured.


CUS: What did you have for breakfast this morning?

RC: Just a coffee.





CUS: What makes a good image?

RC: Honesty.


CUS: What are five things you can’t live without?

RC: I like to think that I could make do without most things. I suppose that I would be rather lost without books, the forest, a camera, my familiar's and a cat.


 CUS: Who, or what, is your biggest influence?

RC: I think that I am inspired most by the environment. I find inspiration in what is around me. Poetry, as well.


CUS: You seem interested in exploring movement and color, giving your images a cinematic quality. Would you agree, and can you expand on these explorations?

RC: I think that I am more interested in the subtraction or elimination of colour. I am drawn to washed out or monochromatic imagery and suppose I do tend to favour photographs that capture strange movements or sequences.
I believe that the cinematic approach that my work sometimes takes on is a result of more of a performance-based approach while I am shooting.





CUS: Do you believe that with the rise of digital photography the phrase “everyone can be a photographer” is true? What are your thoughts on digital vs. film photography?

RC: I think that the idea of 'being a photographer' is somehow being sold to us. It is possible for anyone to buy into it. I can appreciate digital photography for the fact that it is accessible. I think that any form of creative expression should be accessible for those who wish to explore it. One's goals or longings should not be terminated due to the fact that they lack the resources or financial backing. Then again, accessibility can take away from the 'foreignness' or desirability of a medium.
Because I started out shooting with a digital camera, I have mixed feelings about all of this. I do prefer shooting with film for many reasons but I do not think that the digital realm should be overlooked (though it does terrify me at times). The camera is a tool and each person will use it differently.



CUS: What are your thoughts on photography and the Internet? (For example, mass amounts of images being uploaded every day via sites such as Flickr, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram...) How do you differentiate "art" photography and "non-art" photography?

RC: The internet has been a blessing to me over the past years and most of the opportunities that I have been offered have been because of it. I cannot complain about it in this capacity due to the fact that it has allowed me to make many connections with others and has introduced me to inspiration and material that I probably would not have discovered otherwise. It allows one to connect with another in a way that is not always possible due to geographical boundaries.
I think that flickr, tumblr and other online platforms are great for 'getting your name out there' and making connections with others. Flickr introduced me to a community that has offered me an immeasurable amount of support and inspiration over the past few years-which I am eternally grateful for.
I do not know exactly how I differentiate between the two as I know that each person will perceive a piece of art differently.





CUS: Do you think that the Internet (as opposed to a gallery or any other art institution) is a legitimate place to showcase photographic work or do photographs have to be seen in "the flesh" to be fully appreciated and experienced?

RC: I think that the internet is a place to be found and a place to make connections, but I believe that most art/photographic works (unless they are created for the sole purpose of being displayed/distributed through technological means) appear as very different when they are experienced in person. There are times where I have felt lost within the 'internet' and I have found myself longing to experience work through different means than a screen of pixels and artificial light. Creating a tangible object, for me, now feels much more satisfying than creating something that is is made only for the internet. This is one of the reasons why I have switched from digital to film. I feel more connected to my film/print work than my older digital work. Developing my own film and creating my own prints is rewarding in a way that I cannot fully explain but perhaps it invokes a notion of 'the real'.


CUS: What are your plans for the spring?

RC: I am hoping to travel as long as it is financially feasible. 
 

CUS: What are some of your favorite books and movies?

RC: I read a lot of poetry. I have been reading a lot of works by Anne Michaels and Margaret Atwood and also enjoy A.R. Ammons and Gregory Orr. I am reading 'The White Hotel' by D.M. Thomas and am very much enjoying that. I also enjoy the works of Mark Z. Danielewski.
There are many others, the list is possibly endless. As for films, I lean towards Tarkovsky. von Trier. I do not know. These lists could both be very long.





CUS: Tell us about your book "Belgrade."

RC: Belgrade is my latest self published book. It is a collection of thirty-six photographs and there is a small written piece accompanying the book in the form of a handmade zine.


CUS: If you could photograph any person (past or present) who would you choose?

RC: Virginia Woolf or maybe Simone de Beauvoir.



CUS: What do you hope to achieve with your photography? Do you foresee photography as a career in your future?

RC: I will continue to pursue photography as long as I feel I am supposed to. It is what I love.




CUS: What advice would you give to your fellow up-and-coming photographers?

RC: Be kind.


CUS: Do you have any upcoming news or exhibitions?

RC: I am going to be doing a 300 photograph installation at 2186 Dundas in Toronto.
Other than this, I will also be participating in an exhibition called 'Chaotic Forms' during March at the Nave Gallery in Somerville, USA.



CUS: Our last interviewee, Katai Stienstra, asks: When was the last time you were really, really scared?
RC: I suppose that time is now.


CUS: Last but not least, what would you like to ask the next interviewee?

RC: What is your earliest memory?


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INTERVIEW #64: In Conversation with Katai Stienstra

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