Artist Interview: Yuko Kamei

Yuko Kamei, a long-time Art-Byte Critique member, is a photographer based in Tokyo. In this interview, Yuko talks about how her other forms of artistic expression inform her creative and photographic practice and the personal nature of her work for In the Details. You can read more about Yuko on her bio page.

Explain your work in up to 40 words.
My works stem from inquiries on having a material body and thinking at the same time. The beginning of my artistic journey was in contemporary dance, especially Contact Improvisation, which its founder Steve Paxton describes as “dancing about physics”.

Could you talk about your creative process for responding to the theme of In The Details? Did your idea come to you right away? Did you have to experiment a lot?
Rock surfaces are the first thing that came up in my mind for “In The Details”, but initially I wasn’t clear about exactly where my ideas were at or how to make an exhibition around them. It took a couple months to create and select an initial set of works, and feedback from fellow artists at our regular ABC meetings aided me in deciding which ones to include.

What would you like people to know about your work?
In recent years I have been interested in the world outside the human realm, and visited several volcanic sites in national parks. There were many different types of ground condition such as solidified lava eroded by the sun, and bedrocks altered by volcanic water. By looking into the details of ground surfaces, I enjoyed imagining how the compositional ratio of earth elements results in different shapes and types of rocks, and how the latitude of the Earth affects their course of transformation. 

Last year when I attended a funeral, I was surprised upon seeing bones at a crematory because they had a colour similar to rock surfaces that I encountered at the top of a mountain. I was fascinated by the similarity, and my imagination flew to deep ocean trenches, the grand motion of plate tectonics, and the skeletal development that happens at an early stage in our life.

It is this sense of wonder, regarding planetary processes that occur similarly across bedrocks, organisms, and other artefacts, that I wanted to present in this exhibition. 

Along with photographs I am also showing “stones” which were collected at the shore of lakes and oceans. When you look into details you may find what they used to be and think about how they ended up in these forms.

An interesting thing about looking into something closely is that while your vision is locked in a tiny space, the physical relativity of your body and the subject diminishes, and your mind travels freely deep inside and goes beyond the material limitation. I am looking forward to seeing various artistic attentions to details and discovering how laws of nature operate in our multi-faceted world.

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Artist Interview: Kit Pancoast Nagamura

Kit Pancoast Nagamura is a professional photographer and award winning haiku poet. You can find out more about Kit on her bio page. In this interview Kit talks about her photography practice and the challenges of being a photographer in the social media age.

Do you have a favorite color or color palette?
Until recently, I’ve never thought about a photographic palette, because that seemed a contrived World-of-Instagram kind of thought, where it’s common to wash over images with one shade or another so that they all play nicely together like designer furniture. To me, things are the color that they are, and if I’m shooting a subject, the real color is the color I favor.  I find that certain dirty pinks and some sun-faded dance hall greens appeal. Deep moonlit blues, and golds send me, too.  But, really? It’s red that is the ultimate challenge, the siren call, and when I find it, I’m a slave to it.  

Do you have a favorite artist?
There are hundreds of artists that I love, and they have all had an impact on how and what I see in the world. But, if I’m allowed to limit the list to photographers, these are the ones I go back to again and again to study:

Eugène Atget, Man Ray, Henri Cartier Bresson, and Edward Weston are ones no longer with us, and living influences include Sebastião Salgado, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Rinko Kawauchi, and Sally Mann.

How do you know if an idea needs is working, needs revision or needs to be abandoned?
There’s a dance around this, usually.  At times I can be absolutely certain, even as the shutter releases, that a shot will need no adjustment.  Other times a really good shot surprises me, leaping out of the dross, from hundreds of “frames of frustration.” My rule of thumb is to not quit until I get what I came for, unless it starts to rain hard or go pitch black. There are times I go home disappointed, in the dark.  Other days the shot is right in front of me, at eye level, and I’m done. When I review work, I’ll usually find a couple of shots (usually) that are solid; a great shot, though, comes along a few times a year. Occasionally I’ll try to fix or jigger a slightly off shot, but 99% of the time, this a risky, because overworking a photograph with filters and adjustments is all too easy to do, and people can see and sense it.  I’ll abandon any photo which I cannot use for reporting, memory assist, experimentation, or which doesn’t make me say “Wow!”  

Describe your studio practice? Do you have any habits or rituals when producing art?
My habit is to shoot every single day.  I read up on techniques, keep up on technical advances in equipment, study gallery shows, and pray at Shinto shrines, but the real lynchpin in my practice is just that: practice. Every day.  

How long have you been working in the medium used for your work for In The Details?
I’ve been shooting professionally for about 20 years. First ten years were all film, and the more recent ten have been digital.

What do you like about this medium and what are its challenges?
Photography in Japan, where nearly everyone over the age of three has a camera, is a genuine challenge.  I love challenges, and I love the world of photographers here. People say photography is easy, and there’s nothing creative about it, but put 50 trained photographers in a room with one subject and they will find 50 different approaches and produce images that are expressive of their style.  That fascinates me. But with so many wielding smart phones, pocket cameras, and massive top-of-the-line DSLRs, to stake out a signature visual hallmark that resonates with viewers requires that one dig deep, and work very hard. I’m game.  

Could you talk about your creative process for responding to the theme of In The Details? Did your idea come to you right away? Did you have to experiment a lot?
“In the Details” is actually a theme that I and a group of female photographers were tossing around when considering a group show two years ago. So the thematic idea came naturally to me; I’ve spent about a decade focusing on details, which is one of the jobs and joys of a photographer. I was thrilled to know that painters, fabric artists, and sculptors could run with the concept. For most artists, the devil is in the details, but heaven is there too.

What would you like people to know about your work?
In much of my work, my hope is that people will initially suck in a deep breath and think, “Hey, that’s gorgeous, but what is it?” But then, as they look more closely, I hope to lead the gaze into a realm of dialogue.  What is going on there, exactly?  Is there a writing form that plants use to appeal to our senses?  Do tendrils reach out to one another in order to strengthen their position or to offer up something in trade for our gaze? Are the structures we build amazing or mazes from which we cannot escape? In some cases, capturing the natural world in a moment of transcendence is enough for me to want to show work. In others, I feel it’s useful to examine the human element in structures, patterns. and shadows, of our world. We learn from what disturbs or intrigues us.

Artist Interview: Lori Ono

portrait of Lori Ono at Tama River

Lori Ono is a Canadian photographer, illustrator and writer. You can read more about her on her bio page. In this interview she talks about some of her inspirations and how she created her work for In The Details.

Do you have a favourite color or color palette? 
I gravitate to black and white, but when I go for color, I often find I’m working with aqua in some combination. I also love orange with blues. Lately purple, chartreuse and charcoal call to me.

Do you have a favourite artist? 
For photography I like Edward Burtynsky and Gregory Crewdson. Burtynsky for his scale and Crewdson for his cinematic staging. I adore classic photographers such as Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, Eugène Atget  and Ihei Kimura.

I also like Tim Burton and Quentin Blake. I like their humour and that messy style– cute with a hint of something… dark. It looks easy to do, but it’s not. Their drawings have a freedom and looseness I like. I struggle with not being obsessed with precision. I’d like to see that humor and looseness in my photography.

Do you pursue any themes? If so what?
I feel like a little leaf blown around by the wind of creativity. I‘m interested in almost everything. Lately I’m fascinated by mushrooms. When I look at my work, I see an examination of hidden things, hidden moments, or the ignored. I’m always looking for the underside, the hidden world, or the hidden pattern. My work also has what a friend generously called a “lyrical melancholy.”   

How do you know if an idea needs is working, needs revision or needs to be abandoned?
I struggle with that. I’m looking forward to reading my colleagues’ answers. All I can say is that if it bores me, I can’t expect it to intrigue someone else. 

Describe your studio practice? Do you have any habits or rituals when producing art?
Habits and rituals are goals for 2019! 😉 

How long have you been working in the medium used for your work for In The Details?
I’ve been doing photography for about15 years.

What do you like about this medium and what are its challenges?
I love the immediacy of photography and the way you manipulate and create moods. A darkroom space is challenging in terms of space and price.  Digital photography allows artists more flexibility. I think it’s easier to make handmade photo books or try out different analogue processes by adding digital elements.

Could you talk about your creative process for responding to the theme of In The Details? Did your idea come to you right away? Did you have to experiment a lot?
Burtynsky’s landscapes really inspired me. From the high arial perspective, you notice some really unique patterns and colors. So the idea of changing perspective to examine something intrigued me. I don’t have a drone so I decided on macro-photography. A lot of my recent work has been about mushrooms so that meshed well. The gills reminded me of ocean waves but also the sandstone formation the Wave in  Coyote Buttes which is on the Arizona-Utah border.

Sourcing mushrooms to photograph was challenging. Mushroom gills have interesting patterns, but mushrooms with large gills were hard to find. I expected I’d have to make a specialty order. Finding the large porcini mushrooms at my local yao-ya was a pleasant, and eventually tasty, surprise.