HESO Magazine

Photography, Music, Film, Hitchhiking, Craft Beer – Cultural Pugilist

Category: Interviews (Page 1 of 5)

Eerie Beauty – Interview with Anna Tea

Eerie Beauty – Interview with Anna Tea

“Societies and cultures nowadays have merged yet they try to preserve some particular values they have and this this can be incredibly confusing thing to experience for young minds particularly as this is the time when one seeks to find him- or herself yet it can happen that the surrounding environment does not organically accept you, that they will make you know – you are not like us.”

–Anna Tea

Eerie Beauty – Interview with Anna TeaMeet Anna, a 21-year-old former Tourism student in Lublin, Poland. She grew up in a small, indistinct town known as Lutsk in Ukraine, studying music, fluent in Russian and Ukranian, as is the norm. Later on traveling and living in numerous European countries (Hungary, Poland, Romania, among others) in an effort to try to understand various cultures and meet different people. It hasn’t quite worked out that way.

“Artists are Aliens,” she says, “but so are everyone else, too,” she probably thinks. The feeling of not belonging, of being unaccepted or simply confused are the motives behind much of her photography. The themes–represented by the forms of young Caucasian women in mundane situations–running through these etudes (Burning, Fantasy, Solitude, Void) depict the isolated emotional state of the teenager grown up, of the adolescent ostracism that reaches into adulthood and beyond. Yet it goes a step further in removing the traditional rite of passage from its place of origin. Displaced from the motherland and speaking a foreign language, the glue that holds us together is capitalism. The irony is that despite the rampant commercial globalization evident in some stage in all parts of the globe, there are cross-cultural signifiers which will always maintain preeminence, that which defines a given culture, and push the stranger to the outer limits, e.g. “We can all share a laugh over a Coke and our new Louis Vuitton but I am still (Insert Appropriate Nationality Here), so Fuck You.”

“I have reached the conclusion that not always it is possible to truly become part of the environment, not always one is able to fully blend into one’s space and sometimes it is better to observe everything from one’s own world – silently, carefully, patiently.” Though not technically proficient, she has adopted the I’ll Be Your Mirror version of travel street-photography and adapted it to fabricated scenes involving aspiring arthouse fashion models. The photographs feel as off-the-cuff as they do rehearsed and staged. Do they subvert some kind of traditional depiction of the European female or is it more of the anonymity of the superfluous consumer? Hard to say, so I had to ask Anna some more questions.

Eerie Beauty – Interview with Anna Tea

HESO: When did you first pick up a camera?

ANNA: When I was 14 years old. That was a 5mgpx digital camera, a present for my mum’s birthday. She agreed to give it to me to take photos of my friends during walking.

HESO: You have a distinct portfolio, turning traditional ideas about beauty, fashion and commercial photography on their head, giving many of them the look of grainy street photography.

ANNA: For me is very hard to say if I am a fashion or a fine art photographer. The line is sometimes invisible, I just do what I feel I wanna do or even have to do. I didn’t attend classes of photography where I could know what I do and see the difference in styles, know more about techniques, but I took photos instinctively, with no teachers around, no classes, no lessons. In fact, nobody can teach you to feel and to think. Also, while traveling I take photos, but I can’t say that I am a travel photographer, it is more like “not to miss the moment”. For memories.

HESO: Do you prefer analog to digital photography or vice versa. Or is it not important? Explain.

ANNA: I use only digital camera, but in the future I am thinking of trying analog, just for comparing. As for me, I do not see any importance in gear, brand, price, etc. The important should be the idea and how artist presents it. I also like taking photos on my iPhone, sometimes I combine sets of photos taken on phone and camera, and for sure, not many people see any difference.

In my opinion, there is no beauty; there should be intriguing thing in personalities, people with zest, what I find inspiring! Click To Tweet

HESO: Many photographs have the feel of an art installation piece. Almost like a sculpture? Is this purposeful? To what end?

ANNA: Sometimes I feel calm and the photos look like sculptures. Sometimes I feel like burning inside and I want to make a fire. Photography is a way of meditation, reducing stress or keeping the feel of balance. I do it more subconsciously, on level of emotions, that I cannot control and don’t really want to. But lately I try to direct emotions toward ideas I have.

HESO: You get up in the morning, pick up your camera, where are you going?

ANNA: Every morning I say to myself: “This day is full of nice surprises.” And it is true! I pick up camera, when I already know what I will photograph. Before my shooting I prepare many things like finding the location, arranging models, preparing garments, sometimes I agree with make-up artists and hairdressers. And I like more shooting around 4pm or even later at home (I have small studio). Morning is not the time for new ideas for me.

HESO: Some of your photographs seem like stills from some film that hasn’t been made. Is this intentional? Do you like film? What particular genres? Favorites?

ANNA: I can spend the whole day watching movies! When I was a teenager I watched really many films, like every day. So, yeah, maybe it influenced on my photography style, it came earlier. My favorite directors are Jim Jarmush and Tim Burton. Films I can watch hundred times are “Leon Killer”, “Edward Scissorhands”, “Night on Earth”.

Life is full of interesting things, I don’t have time for thinking of what to do. Click To Tweet

HESO: Some of your models are not the typical “Beautiful”, which is a good thing. What do you want to portray when you photograph the female face or body?

ANNA: Almost all models I found by myself when I was at school, now they are my close friends. I share ideas with them, I tell them stories and secrets, so the process of taking photos turned to be like a soul time. I don’t really think that they beautiful or not, it doesn’t mean anything! There are as many opinions as there are people about what is true beauty. In my opinion, there is no beauty; there should be intriguing thing in personalities, people with zest, what I find inspiring!

HESO: Who are your favorite photographers?

ANNA: Tim Walker, but I don’t really have time for following any photographers.

HESO: What do you do when you are not working?

ANNA: I am studying, I am traveling, sometimes paint, sometimes watch movies, read books, go to concerts, hang out with friends. Life is full of interesting things, I don’t have time for thinking of what to do.

HESO: What is your favorite food? If you could eat with anyone, alive or dead, in any time period in history, in any place, who, when and where?

ANNA: My granny is my favorite chef! Everything she cooks tastes delicious! The person who I wanted to meet but already cannot is Walt Disney! Could be nice to share my dinner with him, and my granny would be also happy to bake some fairy cakes for him.

The Lost Interview - Junku Nishimura

Lost Interview Series – Photographer Junku Nishimura

The first time I saw the photography of Junku Nishimura I became transported to a different place, like a poor man’s Arthur Dent, though not so much gone on an actual trip as merely dumbstruck, mouth agape, thoughtless and wearing a frayed robe and suddenly wondering where my towel was. It is not as if I was perusing these 35mm film images on stark white walls at a local gallery printed large on 16 x 20′ Ilford Multigrade FB Warmtone Fiber Base Paper, no, I was looking at his flickr stream a few thousand miles away on a crappy laptop and sipping on a lukewarm mug of coffee, thinking how I wished things were different, that I wished I could wander around Junku’s old school Japan with him, hitting the pachinko parlor and the bathhouse, the strip joint and pull up a chair next to him at whatever local divebar he frequents and pound on the counter pouring out stories and fish tales over medium quality whisky and cannisters of film. Sufficiently drunk, we would then venture off to find some spicy kimchi ramen or hit the Karato Ichiba fish market in Shimonoseki for some baby blowfish tempura, anago nigiri, and ice cold Asahi. Not being there I have to imagine it through Junku’s masterful eye, so I project his vision onto what my brain thinks it knows about the reality of people and places that exists independently of myself, to which I have been only a handful of times. My hitchhiker’s guide spits out a series of gritty, vaseline-coated images from the early 70s, a fractured compendium of gangsters and bathhouses, bars and kimono-clad wenches, stray cats and random urban landscapes. The truth is not far off. He would be having hundreds of conversations with all of these people, the photographs coming naturally, not interfering with the human connection. Because to look at Junku’s photography, that is what one finds, humanity, in all its mundane frailty and strength, the perpetually imperfect moment perfectly captured.

Lost Interview Series – Photographer Junku Nishimura

HESO: Who are you and where are you from? Give us some background please.

Junku Nishimura: I was born in a small coal-mining town called Mine-City (Me-nay), Yamaguchi in 1967. I lived there until I graduated from a high school and then studied at a university in Kyoto. After working as a club DJ as well as a construction worker and dish washer for a couple of years, I was hired by a concrete material company and worked for 18 years (6 years in Sapporo, 12 years in Nagoya). During this period, I happened to get a Leica and started to devote myself in photography. Since retired, I am fully engaged in it.

HESO: When did you first pick up a camera?

Junku: I was seven or eight when I first took a picture of a plastic model tank that I made with my parents’ camera. My mother helped me to get a sharp focus. I happened to find the camera in storage at home a few years ago. It was a Minolta HI-MATIC E. My first camera was like a cheap copy of Canon 110ED. I used it when I was a high school kid, but not really crazy about photography at that time.

HESO: Your photos have a very distinct look. Often very crisp and sharp yet there is a grainy feel as well. Are you a mathematical photographer or do you just shoot?

Junku: Thanks. Although my photographs might look completely intuitive and spontaneous, I consider myself quite conscious about exposure. As a user of a Leica M5, I have explored the best combinations of aperture and shutter speeds to create the contrast that I intend. Leica is not easy to handle in terms of exposure, but worth struggling for.

HESO: Do you prefer analog to digital photography or vice versa. Or is it not important? Explain.

Junku: Regarding processing, I prefer analog. There is a very personal reason why I use films. I like the whole process of printing. When listening to my favorite music, soaking a paper in liquid in a little darkroom of my apartment, I feel the same tranquility as when I concentrate on fishing in the ocean. Both require sincere focus to get the “it“ moment. It is not easy, but truly rewarding.

Sound and smell bring back memories and inspire images. For me, music is my inspiration. Click To Tweet

HESO: You get up in the morning, pick up your camera, where are you going?

Junku: I usually go to the market. Fish market is always first.

HESO: Who are your favorite photographers?

Junku: Isao Yamaguchi and Katsumi Watanabe. Yamaguchi took pictures of coal mines in Kyushu. He was a coal miner himself. Watanabe captured vivid images of Shinjuku, selling food on the street. I am overwhelmed enormously by works of people who are deeply rooted in where they belong to. There are such photographers in Okinawa including Mao Ishikawa.

HESO: You mention that you are the “most funkiest funk-old school unknown-dj in the world.” Does music influence your photography? What are some of your favorite styles of music and musicians?

Junku: I might have been the “most funkiest DJ” (lol) when I used to steal the DJ booth at night clubs, but now I should be modest to say “once-the-funkiest.” Sound and smell bring back memories and inspire images. For me, music is my inspiration. Like many other Japanese, I think of an old downtown like Golden-gai of Shinjuku when I listen to 70’s to 80’s Japanese folk songs. When traveling overseas, I shot scenes inspired by folk music of the county, for example, Trot in Korea, Isaan in Thailand and Spanglish Hip-Hop in Spanish Harlem. Personally I love R&B and Hip-Hop from late 70’s to mid-80’s. I was working in my darkroom listening to DeBarge last night. On a side note, I read the Okino interview on HESO a while ago. Once when I was a DJ at a club and he was the manager, I let him stay with me in my cheap apartment. Kyoto, 23 years ago :).

HESO: Very cool. What do you do when you are not working?

Junku: I used to go fishing and camping when I owned a car. Recently, I am making mixtapes, reading, and studying Korean while I am not working. Other than that, just drinking.

HESO: What is your favorite food? If you could eat with anyone, alive or dead, in any time period in history, in any place, who, when and where?

Junku: I am not picky and enjoy anything, but rice is something special to maintain my strength. For the other question, I am thinking of a black woman’s small diner in the last scene of a Norman Jewison film In the Heat of the Night. In the middle of nowhere Deep South, around the season for cotton crops, with young Quincy Jones and Sidney Poitier, it would be nice to have hogshead cheese and Hoppin’ John that Mama Kariba cooked, with a cheap bottle of bourbon.

HESO: Junku, if you want to mention anything else about yourself, your work or a charitable cause you work with—anything—please do so here. Thank you for your time.

Junku: I will be based back in my home town from next year on and engaged in growing rice. If you feel tired from city life, come visit me at www.junkunishimura.com Yoroshiku desu

Junku

A Floating World in Bloom - HESO Interviews Tokyo-based photographer Michael Nguyen

A Floating World in Bloom – Interview with Michael Nguyen

I first met Michael Nguyen on a beautiful spring day in Tokyo, the flowers in bloom. We were in a Shibuya park on Meiji Dori, where an anti-nuke rally climaxed in a costumed hippie drum offensive, bursting in the dappled light. If I remember correctly, Mike had a can of beer and a cigarette (he likes his tobacco, lights it with a Zippo with a dazzling flair that would make a seamus smile). It didn’t take long to establish friendship: he was a Gaucho and so was I, alumni of University of California at Santa Barbara, meaning we’d both known Paradise as younger men and that this heady knowledge acquired as twenty-year-olds had affected our lifelong trajectories. I’ve only known Mike for about two years but judging by his photography, I can see he’s never discarded the pleasures introduced in Santa Barbara. It’s nice to see that he’s still trailing after beautiful manifestations, glad he sees fit to share his gleaning with the rest of us. Mike’s wonderfully eccentric street tableaux aside, he’s well-known among his peers for his bathing beauties—what has been called his “babe in the onsen” motif, but really that is simplifying and involves not a little envy. There is an element in fantasy in such an intimate, sensual image. After all, most of us photographers are not Lothario types, and an attractive woman will not be seduced by the size of our lens. Something more is at work, something mysterious, which I suppose is a secret, and a well-guarded one.

We at HESO then are proud to present a sample of Michael’s work—his women, and because it’s spring, his flowers, for what better way to illustrate the ephemeral beauty that breaks our hearts, then to complement these lithe, youthful figures with the ambassadors of spring, in which we are reminded we have yet another chance to set things right.

A Floating World in Bloom – Interview with Michael Nguyen

A Floating World in Bloom - HESO Interviews Tokyo-based photographer Michael NguyenHESO: Why photography? Why not painting? Or music? Or triathlons?

Michael Nguyen: If you have ever heard me at karaoke then you would know why not music. Photography and painting do not necessarily really differ in terms of how we experience time and space, but the creation phase is different. Painting starts out in the light and develops gradually, but remains visible the entire time. A photo captures a scene all at once and is then developed over time in a dark laboratory. Digital is changing all of that, but that’s another story. Photography for me is the best means of expressing and hanging on to those little fleeting splinters of life we experience each day.

HESO: How did you get into photography? I believe you majored in it at UC Santa Barbara. Do you think studying the subject at university has made you a better photographer?

MN: I was a graphic design major actually. I started taking photography classes in college and fell in love with the zen state of mind in the darkroom. I can’t say I really learned much in college, nothing I couldn’t have learned by going to galleries myself and looking at books and hanging out with other photographers.

HESO: Which cameras do you prefer? And why? Does shooting with film matter?

MN: Ah, the obligatory gear porn question. I suppose it depends on what I shoot. For street photography I have my Leica M6 with a 50mm Sumicron, which is good for much single-subject shots. For portraits and landscape I have my Rolleiflex Sl66 for the slower process and higher film resolution, basically a Hassy with bellows that allows me to play around with the focal plane. I haven’t seen anyone else using one. To keep the film vs digital debate succinct, I’m of the opinion that from a personal expression point-of-view, the process does matter and the process of shooting film slows things down and allows one to think with deeper clarity. It doesn’t help that I’m a sentimental motherfucker who clings to bygone things. The well-worn cliche here being if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. There was nothing wrong with film photography when digital came along. Which isn’t to say that digital is bad or anything per se–it makes commercial work more efficient and streamlined, but it hasn’t added anything to the art form.

HESO: Though we are featuring a series of flowers and feminine beauty, you’re a bit of a street photographer as well. What is it you’re looking for on the street?

MN: Other than the typical “I wanna capture the fleeting moments of life” schpiel, street photography is my way of sticking it to the man so to speak. Like poker, the house always wins. Every now and then the perfect hand comes and you happen to bet big and take down the house. Most of the time we take shitty snapshots of mundane objects, but when that perfect moment comes where you’re at the right place at the right time and had the right settings on your camera, and, well, that time is beautiful.

HESO: Do you enjoy shooting in Japan better than elsewhere? How is it different than shooting in the States?

MN: Difficult to answer really. It wasn’t until I got to Japan that I took it seriously. So I can’t say I’ve had a good attempt at really shooting in other places. I did recently go to Spain however and found the light there to feel harsh and low, quite challenging.

A Floating World in Bloom - HESO Interviews Tokyo-based photographer Michael NguyenHESO: What is the most difficult aspect of being a photographer today?

MN: Coming up with something groundbreaking and new since everything seems like its been done. Cliche is the enemy.

HESO: So much good photography in my experience is due the serendipitous moment. Share with us a story of accidental good fortune.

MN: In life anyway, accidental is the only kind of good fortune I get. As far as photography, I can’t go as far as to say I’ve had any true serendipitous moments. You always try to be in the place with the best possibility of seeing something interesting and be prepared as best as you can. Photography isn’t a terrible John Cusack movie.

HESO: Flowers, youth, the elegant form of the female nude… what else do you find beautiful in this world?

MN: That’s just about it! Haha. With the sensory overload in this day and age I’ve become so jaded and numb that anything that stimulates any kind of emotion, good or bad, is beautiful in this world. Being rather immature for my age however, beauty remains a superficial thing unfortunately…

HESO: Your photos presented herein are just lovely. Any chance they’ll become part and parcel of a more comprehensive project on beauty?

MN: Ideally yes. but again like I mentioned earlier its really hard not to do cliche and redundant things, so who knows. I’m torn between just getting out there or hold out till I have something mind blowing. waiting for that epiphany.

HESO: You are somewhat notorious among your friends for the ‘babe in the onsen’ motif, but a lot of the ribbing is just jealousy. They would love to imitate you if only they could! Any tips for guys on making their beautiful girlfriends comfortable enough to pose in such intimate circumstances?

MN: Lots of booze! Seriously though, women tend to be insecure creatures. Reassuring them of how sexy they are and showing your passion in having them as such an integral part of your vision is key. Everyone just wants to feel needed and loved.

See more of Michael’s work here.

Batida-Ikonoklasta

Musical Revolution in Angola – Interview with Activist Luaty Beirão

Map of AngolaNovember 11th, 2012 was the 37th anniversary of Angola gaining independence from Portugal. But independence sparked off a long and bloody civil war between the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA) and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) against the the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), led by long-exiled doctor António Agostinho Neto. Much in the way that V.I.I. Lenin wanted to create a new society for socialist rule to flourish, so too did Neto, who petitioned the Kennedy administration for aid in throwing off the yoke of Portuguese imperialism, but was denied for having communist ties. Practically delivered into the hands of the Soviets, Neto thus made forays into Cuba with Che Guevara and the ideological world of Fidel Castro, who intervened militarily. Neto’s death in 1979 ushered in the reign of José Eduardo dos Santos, the Angolan Josef Stalin, sitting president for 33 years and running. Dos Santos has been accused of war crimes, vote rigging and crimes against humanity. With a poverty rate of 40% and unemployment sitting at near 50%, the richest oil-producing country in Africa distributes its wealth to the elite few who rule. Since 2011 open protests of his presidency have been taking place. One activist, the rapper known as Ikonoklasta, has been particularly vocal in his dissent, leading a musical revolution in Angola, and he and his family have been visibly persecuted, beaten and framed and arrested for “crimes” in an attempt to cow his popular voice. HESO managed to get in contact with the man behind Ikonoklasta, Luaty Beirão.

HESO: How did you come to be in Angola?

Luaty: I was born and raised.

HESO: You are a musician, what is your modus operandi? What is your music about?

Luaty: Well bro, it’s complicated. For starters I don’t live from my art so my approach to it is rather casual but always passionate, for I only write and rap when I feel the urge to communicate, when I feel I’ve got something to say. I’ve been doing this rap shit since I was 13, 14 years old. I’m 31 now and not a single solo album out. A career was never in my scope, I knew that I would have to compromise a huge portion of my soul in order to make the odd buck off it, so I just take it easy. My music is a reflection of who I am as a human being. I try to portray all my moods, passions, dreams, my aspirations, concerns. The common denominator is honesty and social commentary.

HESO: Can you give us some background on the current social and political situation in Angola?

Luaty: Angola is a country ravaged by the evils that men do: over 400 years of colonial rule, followed by the 14 year-long armed struggle for independence, 27 years of civil war and now, over 10 years of corruption and kleptocracy by a regime that poses as the angel that brought about peace and stability to the country. Honestly, this is no exaggeration: our 33-year long president (who just got re-elected) is officially nicknamed “the peace architect”. So you have a country held hostage by a single man who controls the “intellectual” elite by luring them into the dark side, making them beneficiary of the country’s economic unbalance, hence compromising their very livelihoods by making them dependent on an unfair distribution of wealth, where the few are loaded and the many have to struggle for the daily meal. This is what made Luanda the most expensive city in the world for two years in a row, finally losing its place to Tokyo this year. And boy let me tell you, this shit sucks because this is the only way the word Luanda can be pronounced in the same breath as Tokyo!

HESO: You are said to be a political activist in Angola, actively involved in the student protest movement. What are their goals? How did you get involved in this?

Luaty: Bro, let’s say I’m politically active. You know, there’s only so much anyone can put up with and I feel that finally the time has come for us, Angolan youth, to let loose of that cape of fear and realize that no bloodsucking politician will ever happily relinquish power without a fight. In the name of our future children we need to get on with the struggle now! That’s our goal: wake up, get rid of pussy politicians that steal from us, starting off with that crook José Eduardo dos Santos.

I think me getting involved was just a natural consequence of the way I’ve always positioned myself throughout my adult life and my music reflects just that. No one in their right minds can ever caution the deep inequalities reigning in this country and dismiss the need for action with a mere: “We are coming from a very long lasting war, it’ll take time for things to get back on track. Let’s be patient”. Yet, there are loads of people using that very speech to further postpone our future. I refuse to be one of them.

Batida-Ikonoklasta

Batida-Ikonoklasta – Luaty

HESO: There are reports saying you spoke out against the government during one of your live performances, urging the crowd to attend an anti-government rally. Is this true? What, if anything has happened since then?

Luaty: It is true. In a normal country that would NEVER, EVER, even make it to the news. Here, it was a nationwide scandal. Why is that so? Simple answer: dictatorships don’t usually tolerate freedom of speech when this freedom is used to exalt the masses to revolt against it and especially when two other dictators had capitulated to public protests only days before. So definitely it brought about consequences. They’ve tested me by inducing my friends to fear for my life, they’ve sent my mother death threats, they’ve sent thugs to beat me out in the streets in broad daylight, they’ve cracked open my skull with a wooden bat in a demonstration earlier this year and finally they’ve clumsily tried to frame me with a 1.7kg excess load of cocaine inserted in my luggage, in June this year. That’s how much my life has changed over the last year and a half.

HESO: Is that why you were arrested at Lisbon International Airport on June 11?

Luaty: Yes, for the aforementioned cocaine “issue”. I was framed by my own government in such a pitiful way, that the Portuguese judge set me free in an unprecedented decision. It was such a disgrace for my country, showing that much hatred towards a citizen who just happens to think differently and dares to speak his mind.

HESO: What happens next?

Luaty: The cocaine case will probably be closed for lack of evidence. With me? Really, it’s their call. They have the power to dispose of me physically whenever they please and they’re welcome to try, but I won’t stop. The more pain they try to inflict me, the stronger they make me. Bring it on motherfuckers!

HESO: Does this repressive and violent reaction by the government to people speaking out drive you to create music? Is your music political or will it become so from now on?

Luaty: Not really. I haven’t been exactly on an artistically creative spree for a long time now, probably because this activism thing is very time consuming, there’s always a lot of shit to do like answering interviews (he he he). No, really, I haven’t been putting out a lot of music as of lately, also because I feel my creative span is reduced and very affected by my trials and tribulations and I fear that that would make me somewhat monotonous if you see what I mean. “I got shot 9 times…9 shots didn’t drop me, I took them and smiled” kinda shit. (I’m quoting wack ass 50 cent and 2pac in case you didn’t notice).

We’ve got a blog, a twitter account and additionally we’ve set up a website to monitor the elections and decry all irregularities witnessed by voters at their polling stations and the results, albeit the lack of preparation and amateurism from its protagonists, were absolutely staggering.

HESO: Thanks and good luck.

For anyone interested in hip-hop inspired by and for a true grassroots political movement attempting to alter the often overwhelming flow of history, the Individual against the State, the David versus Goliath story played out in high-definition surround sound, Ikonoklasta is where to begin.

M. finding his way to a spot for creating a suitable new home for a seedling

Extreme Loggers – Planters in British Columbia

“Live an interesting life and you’ll take interesting pictures.”

— Jim O’Connell

M. finding his way to a spot for creating a suitable new home for a seedling

M. finding his way to a spot for creating a suitable new home for a seedling

You know the photographer Arnaud De Grave from such HESO projects as the interview with Christiania documentary photographer Charlotte Østervang as well as his in-depth gastronomic reportage on French Truffles and the simple art of Gnocchi. Of course. The French-born, raised and educated in engineering education De Grave, had, until very recently, lived and worked for many years in Copenhagen, Denmark as Associate Professor at the Technical University of Denmark. As part of his work, he traveled to various countries for seminars and guest lecture spots–Singapore, India, Japan, even the USA. He had co-founded BOP in 2004, all film…as he says, “the whole idea behind my photography is film”, and only began “digicrapping” because his mum wanted to see Japan before he came back. Oh the impatience of the modern generations…!

But De Grave has always been a closet skater-punkrock-DIY kid, even if he didn’t know it himself, so it is difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when something in him clicked, so to speak, and, as he had long been entranced with using old analogue cameras (Olympus Pen F, Hasselblad, etc…), it wasn’t until Japan that he began processing his own black and white film in his bathroom at home. Doing so inevitably leads to the feeling that one should show someone else (and preferably whole groups of people in a gallery-esque setting). More and more heavily his life turned from sedentary academic to one of restless documentary exposure. When, in a sudden fit of typical photographic wanderlust, he abandoned his very sensible and well-paying job at the university in order to pursue a dream of his to be “like the tall trees, you know what I mean” and ramble across continents to propose an esoteric course of study at the University of British Columbia, some of his colleagues may have thought he was daft, going through a mid-life crisis, or just French, who knows. But we at HESO, who met Arnaud at a beer-soaked table in a small pub in Shibuya some five years ago (alongside the interviewer Jon Ellis), never once doubted his decision. In fact we gave him a ride. Here’s what he has been doing:

Extreme Loggers – Planters in British Columbia

Jon Ellis: Tell us a little about the project, what it entailed, and how you are in a position to be doing it.

Arnaud De Grave: I live in Vancouver, British Columbia and am pursuing a M.Sc. in Forestry, so the starting point is a clear interest in trees and forests. Last Christmas a friend of my landlady was house-sitting our home and for one reason or another she was still there when I got back from my trip to Europe, and she lives in a small community on an island up north by Vancouver Island called Alert Bay (on Cormorant Island where she happens to be a former radio journalist for CBC, Radio Canada). One of my intentions was to go live and work/volunteer in a small remote community somewhere lost in B.C. over the summer to learn about the way these people live and to record it photographically. We chatted about it and she invited me to Alert Bay as a starting point and I went (so do not invite me if you do not want me to come, for I will come!) She had me meet a lot of fantastically interesting people there (sailors, furniture makers, retired hand-loggers, First Nations chiefs, you name it they are there) and one of them (Roland) is the owner of a company called Bivouac West doing, amongst other things, reforestation. There was no easy possibility of an “internship” in one of these remote communities, but Roland told me about his job and invited me to join them in one of their reforestation projects in May or June. My job would be to give him visibility in exchange for accommodation and food. Or so he said… Little did I know I’d have to carry boxes of small trees, bags of fertilizer and drive big trucks! It took about 5 months to get in the position and be able to do it, roughly. And it happened by luck, or maybe perseverance, or surely both.

JE: I understand that the show is being sponsored by the Alliance Française cultural centre, how did that happen?

ADG: In trying to hold my end of the deal, i.e. to give visibility to the company, I investigated different possibilities: magazine articles, my own website(s), photo exhibitions… As I have collaborated with French cultural centres in the past (in Denmark) I tried that door and found some ears to listen to my story. I think the fact that I contacted them while creating the project and not when coming back with a “finished product” was appreciated. I explained the project, my motivation and we worked together on a reasonable outcome. They asked for a possible partnership with UBC Forestry and after a discussion with the Dean he agreed to sponsor me a bit and come give a short talk during the opening, so everybody is happy at the end.

JE: Why a photography exhibition, rather than something more academic?

ADG: My M.Sc. thesis is about sustainable forest resource management of ski resorts in the context of climate change and I have been toying with this idea of mine for about 2 or 3 years now. Indeed I quit my job in February 2011 and got accepted as a M.Sc. student at UBC Vancouver in September 2011, so I am currently in my second year of M.Sc. (more or less as I take time off of my studies from time to time for photographic projects such as this one.) As my life is split between many different activities, I like to define myself as a pluri-monomaniac, if that makes any sense. So yes, it was tempting to try and combine the two and push my research into tree planting. However, after some more thinking, I’m sticking to my original plan. Although it would be nice to be able to combine my M.Sc. and photography somehow… If anyone has any idea about how to do that I am all ears.

JE: The photographs suggest very isolated locations, were the logistics as ‘Apocalypse Now’ as they appear to be?

Apocalypse Now logistics

Apocalypse Now logistics

ADG: They were. We took choppers and I have to admit I was tempting to whistle (or rather sing at the top of my lungs) Wagner’s Ritt der Walküren several times. I only shut up out of respect for the other people in the helicopter, and the fact it was super loud in there and also that it was so beautiful that sometimes/often it would make one speechless…Originally the crew (about 14 people) would be going for 3 or 4 weeks on a boat and sleep by the cut blocks. However because of unforeseen circumstances –and as far as I know now it happens all the time– the boat was unavailable so we had to fly with floatplanes every morning, sometimes to be flown to a position where we would be taken to the planting site by helicopter. Sometimes some trucks would be waiting for us with the boxes of seedlings (small trees to be planted) and the logistic would be worked that way. So a big part of the planning consists in barging trees and trucks and quads where they should be, to be used by the team. Weather is not very stable in coastal BC in the spring so one can imagine hair-pulling decisions and problems the boss of the company has to deal with. One day we could not fly. “If you can’t see you can’t fly” would eloquently say one of our pilots… And as the deadlines and margins for error are very slim, it is quite the logistical nightmare. Did I mention grizzly bears?

JE: You’ve picked a very distinctive style for the photography, an almost organically grainy b&w, What is behind the choice?

ADG: It may sound pompous but I guess that’s my style. Really there is no particular reason beyond it is the way I like my pictures and I like the way I can do the whole process myself. It is very important to me to physically perform the complete workflow of photography. All were developed in my bathroom (stainless-steel and Rodinal) and printed in a real darkroom on fibre paper. There is magic in seeing the picture bloom in the developer tray, a sensual aspect in rinsing your print, feeling the gelatinous surface before going out to the light and check contrast, tones, etc.

Do not think that I am a complete luddite, as I have nothing against digital photography for example (when I am not in a state of inebriation that is) but I do prefer the slowness of film.

I could argue that the final atmosphere fits very well with the mood I want to convey and the references in my mind (Eugene Smith’s work on Pittsburg’s steel industry for instance had a huge impact on me when I saw the exhibition in New York City in 2001, both from an aesthetic and love for printed photography point of view) but that would be a posteriori thinking. I do think that it works very well with the photo-journalism type of work I am doing with this project though. About anything can be justified in hindsight with enough rhetoric.

JE: One of the things that comes through very strongly from the pictures is the almost absolute destruction of the forest by the loggers. How did working in that environment leave you feeling?

ADG: That’s a tough one… I knew about logging and clear-cuts, but I have to admit the extent of the “destruction” took me aback. Especially “heli-blocks,” where logging is performed by helicopter, very remote, with no easy access, very steep… so only the most valuable trees are taken but loggers still need to cut a lot to be able to get said big trees and also to be able to have the helicopter operate (build a pad, get fellers down, get trees and fellers out, etc.) The amount of left-over was pretty insane to see. Even if I weren’t a hippie tree hugger–although I do like trees very much–it made me quite angry. I swore a lot that day. I also swore a lot because the terrain was pretty insane to work/walk in.

Unfortunately one gets used to seeing fallen trees. And also the planters, after a while, appreciate the terrain for the ease with which they can move through it and perform, so they are happy to see a cleared area because they know they can plant a lot, as they are paid by the tree.

K. in the heliblock, the aftermath of some logging operation

K. in the heliblock, the aftermath of some logging operation

JE: Does the replanting make a difference or is this the ‘plaster on a gaping wound’ that it would appear to be in the pictures?

ADG: It does make a difference. I would rather stay away from political considerations as this exhibition is primarily about the people working in the field and not a statement for or against governmental attitude towards forest management. However, there would be a lot to say about that, but it has the tendency to push me in “angry young man territory” as you yourself said to me once, albeit on a different, but not too unrelated, matter.

An interesting fact is that the tree species which are replanted are the ones living there originally, and if left to natural regeneration there is no guarantee that the same species would grow back the same as before because of climate change for instance or because some tree species are more prone to take over (called pioneer species) or because some are shade intolerant but grow slower so when the faster one are there it is tough for them to grow even if they were living in that zone before… So replanting definitely helps. The companies are also responsible for these trees until they reach the “free to grow” stage (about 3 or 4 metres high). It is not: we plant and then we get our legal obligations checked and move the hell out of there and destroy some more somewhere else.

JE: The work of the planters looks back-breaking. What kind of people end up doing the work?

ADG: It is indeed a very tough and physical job, I was not by any means doing the same kind of job the planters do (although I tried it for a little while, I did plant about 80 trees), but I was helping the foreman (who was a woman by the way, a tough one) by carrying around boxes of seedlings, bags of fertilizer, etc. Imagine moving a friend of yours to a new house, but instead of boxes of books in the elevator you carry trees, sometimes on logging roads, sometimes directly in clear-cuts. Sometimes we had to patch roads which were supposed to be “quad-able” but were not, or declared so by someone who never used a quad in his life, so we had to rebuild them with logs and stones… Fun times… The planters do long days: from around 8am to 5pm they plant, and there is commuting time as well. Weather can be sunny, hot, rainy, freaking cold. So it is a very physically demanding job. And the bugs! Ho man, did I hate the bugs!

About the people doing it, well, most of them are people who like the lifestyle: seasonal work, hard but in the open space of Nature. Some of them do it because they are happy to work in the forest but doing more environmentally pro-active than cutting trees down. They are also doing this job for the money, for it is well paid.

A lot of people think that tree planting is a student job over the summer. It is, but not in coastal BC. In the interior where it is all flat and where one plants trees in a trench (not to diminish this kind of work which is also very physical, but less technical, but it brings experience.) The company I was working with only hires planters with a lot of experience. Most of them had been planting for about 6 to 8 years, and more.

JE: It sounds as brutal as it looks… take it you won’t be going out to work as a backcountry planter! What’s next for you photographically, and with your forestry work?

ADG: Well, I am actually considering asking Bivouac West to hire me as a full time helper for a month next spring/summer. Definitely not a planter as you can hardly call 80 trees experience haha… But I’d like to see more and live on a boat for some weeks. Besides, I have a proposition to go and work a bit as an assistant for a forester some weeks in December this year. So I guess my adventures in the woods are not finished yet. And I’ll hopefully do some field work for my M.Sc. thesis in the coming year, which should lead to travel and photography opportunities. Chicken and egg sort of thing…

From a photography point of view I always have a good half-dozen projects in progress, some will never see the light, metaphorically speaking. A very long on-going one is (of course) based on old-growth forest and trying to find a way to capture with pictures the complexity and beauty of it all. The main issue is that it is very multi-scale, from gigantic 70 m high Western Red Cedars to small moss and mushrooms embedded in their roots. It might be only an excuse to go muse in the woods though… I’d also like to get back and document a bit of this other jungle which is the urban land. I live very close to a very lively neighbourhood in Vancouver (namely, for those who know, East Hastings Street) and everyday is a new surprise down there. For me photography is about whatever triggers my interest and a way to make my life interesting as well. I often remember Jim O’Connell’s words (whimsical as always): “live an interesting life and you’ll take interesting pictures,” words that I may have a tendency to misinterpret or at least try and reverse.

JE: Thanks! Anything you’d like to add in closing?

ADG: Go out, take pictures!

Arnaud would like to acknowledge: UBC Forestry, Alliance Française de Vancouver, and BivouacWest

Arnaud De Grave’s Photographic Site

Tim & Puma Mimi and the apple

The Stone Collection Of Tim & Puma Mimi

Tim & Puma Mimi and the apple

Tim & Puma Mimi and the apple

As the sparse synthesizer and video games breaks beep to life on the first track of The Stone Collection Of Tim & Puma Mimi we hear a Puma Mimi ask a question, “Acchi, kocchi, acchi, kocchi, dochi ni ikou?” (Here, there, here, there, which way to go?). It is unclear if she’s asking us or herself. And with the range of musical genres represented on the album (hip hop, dance, electronic, J-pop, crossover jazz, fruit), this might be emblematic of the album itself. At its heart, it’s a fun and accessible (even if you don’t speak Japanese) musical metaphor for modern Tokyo living.

Much as the album defies straightforward definition, so too does how Tim and Puma Mimi met (“We met at the Santa Klaus party in the Netherlands in the end of 2003.”), and eventually came to live and make music in Tokyo.

In places it is a throwback album of beautiful voicework and analog instruments, yet its modern synthesizers, canned drumbeats and use of fruit as instrument (what?!) belie the way it was made–not in the studio, but in Puma Mimi’s small 1DK (One Dining Kitchen Apartment) flat in Shinagawa, Tokyo.

HESO: How do you make music? digitally, analoguely, with fresh produce or all of the above?

Tim: All of them, we don’t have rules, how to produce, it just has to bring the song to a cool shape. The cucumber is electronic, the flute acoustic, mostly I use the micro Korg, but sometimes Fender Rhodes or Mini Moog, or even plug-ins, but I don’t like midi.

More than just the multi-instrumentalist genre-mashing, the way the songs are made reflects on the private/personal relationship between life and music, recording and touring, loving and playing. Having met and seen a bright future, both musically and romantically, they soon had to part because of the technicalities of bureaucratic life–visas, work, nationality. But long distance relationshipping didn’t stop them from making music. The Skype concert series soon sprang to life, with Tim touring clubs Europe and skype-casting Mimi singing live from her kitchen in Tokyo. This, plus their growing number of singles, created a following and got them into electro-festivals across Europe. But it wasn’t enough.

HESO: You wrote and recorded your album in Mimi’s tiny Tokyo apartment, but where are you now?

Tim: Now we live in Zurich, bit bigger apartment, but still all instruments in bedroom. It’s in Kreis 4, the melting pot of underground Zurich (yes that exists too in Zurich, beside being a super-expensive and clean old town famed for the Bahnhofstrasse). Sometimes we rent a music-room, but it’s often underground and humid.

Tim & Puma Mimi Live at Womb in Tokyo

Tim & Puma Mimi Live at Womb in Tokyo

HESO: Tim, what is your impression of Japan? Puma Mimi, Switzerland?

Tim: Japan? First I was disappointed, I had a picture of crazy colorful people, but 90% of people in Tokyo wear black suits. But after two weeks you start to understand, why they don’t look into your eyes, that they have different lines to queue for next train. After two months you start to love it, but I’m not sure if I will ever feel at home there.

Mimi: I like Zürich very much because I can get both city and nature life at once. I grew up in the northern part of Japan where I enjoyed nature, but as a teenager, it was boring. No concert places, no exhibitions. Even the last cinema in the town went bankrupt, and turned to be a Karaoke house (yeah! of course we had Karaoke!). Then I went to Tokyo to study when I was 19. Tokyo was so exciting, creative fashion, fast information, music, arts and so on…. I enjoyed it a lot. But sometimes, I couldn’t breathe. I missed nature, fresh air, fresh water, quietness, the sky. Compared to Tokyo, Zürich is very small, but there are many things going on in this “little big city”. Lake water is very clean. And I can get to deep nature in 10 min by train. That’s perfect combination for me. Besides Zürich, I like mountain area in Ticino, old stone houses and sharp mountains. It’s so nice to walk there.

HESO: If your beats and words are inspired by the cramped and crowded Tokyo lifestyle, what happens when you have all of the Alps from which to take inspiration?

Tim: I would love to do calm, maybe even spiritual music, but always when I try it, I think that doesn’t work, audience would fall asleep, or just start talking. I would like to do live music for yoga or something similar.

Mimi:I try to write about something around me. So Alps could be a good inspiration too. But the problem is that the nature is very powerful. So, when I go to mountains, I become wordless. It takes more time to write about the nature than about concrete jungle… at least, for me.

Tim & Puma Mimi on the Phone by David Thayer 2011

Tim & Puma Mimi on the Phone by David Thayer 2011

On the lenitive “Tamago” the album takes a turn from the fun and playfully amateurish upbeat Electro-J-pop to a more serious and contemplative nature. It is not a coincidence that this comes halfway through the Stone Collection. From this point on, especially on “Green Blood Circulation”, even when the music returns to previous form, the songs retain a depth and a progressive movement toward some far-off point that we can’t quite see, but know is out there.

HESO: How do you come up with ideas for songs? Albums? Videos? Live performances? Who does what?

Tim: I produce the songs. Mimi writes texts and melody lines. Musically it’s just trial and error, sometimes it works, sometimes doesn’t. I give the recordings over to Mimi. In a bigger view I would say: The ideas grow in our heads and sometimes we can pick up the fruits. Inspirations are: fleamarkets, walking in cities and mountains, watching concerts, movies, reading books.

Mimi: About lyrics: I try to express my inner feeling by describing daily objects around me. For example, I came up with lines for “Giacometti” when I saw the poster of Giacometti hanging in the room where we were recording. And the text begins with “To talk to Giacometti, I don’t need words….”. Something like that. Melody line: it’s all depends on Tim’s music. When Tim gives me an idea of song, then I listen to it many times and try to jam (hum) with lyrics I already have.

HESO: The album has dropped. What happens next?

Tim: In a week we visit China for 3 weeks, travelling with a bunch of musicians and do live music to silent movies. Later this Year I want to build a do-it yourself-kit of my Fruitilyzer, that people can build their own Fruitilyzer and electrify new fruits and vegetables.

HESO: Can you write a very short song-poem about your favorite food?

Mimi: I wrote this quite long ago, and try to make a song out of it, but Tim never liked my melody lines with these lyrics. So it is still un-published. Tim doesn’t like Tomato Sauce either, by the way.

トマトソース / Tomato sauce
飛び散る飛び散る/ It splashes all over
白いTシャツ / on my white T-shirts
赤いシミ/ and leaves red stains
食べるのやめるか/ Should I stop eating
トマトソース/ Tomato sauce?

いやいやそんな/ Noway, it’s
トマトソース / Tomato sauce!
だってだいすき / I love
トマトソース / Tomato sauce
ファッションは /Fashion has no chance against
食欲に敵わない / appetite

HESO: I love Tomato Sauce. Thanks guys. Check out their site for more fun with fruits and beats.

Interview with Tim & Puma Mimi is part of HESO Magazine’s ongoing (late) Summer Interview Series, where we interview photographers, musicians and artists about their work and what they think about the world of 2012. We may ask them similar questions, but the answers have been anything but the same old canned responses. Check out the entire series here.

© Billy Gomez

Modern Loops Interview with Photographer Billy Gomez

© Billy Gomez

© Billy Gomez

Third-party marketing content, Wikipedia-plagiarized articles, hateful commentary, Fox News–it’s easy to be negative about the internet. It’s also impossible to deny its positive impact. Whole photographic communities have formed due to the largesse of Flickr and Instagram, to name a few. Yet the net that spreads wide also has large holes. Many talented, young artists experimenting with technologies both old and new fall through the cracks due to the sheer numbers of Neue Artistes simultaneously populating the aether. Lucky then I managed to hear about Billy Gomez through a still occasionally Flickr grapevine. Spooling through his photostream one quickly tires of the limitations of the smallish flat screen device on which the women and men and children exist in the small places in between conversations of light and shadow dialogue. Caught between wanting to see more and wishing to seem them as large prints in a gallery setting, I wondered, Who is this mystery man capturing poetic loops of the visible spectrum, who is Billy Gomez? Best to let him answer for himself.

Billy: I’m originally from Los Angeles, although I’ve been in Seoul for the last six years. Came out here to teach. The plan was to do it for a few years and then head back. Six years later…and going back is still nothing more than a plan. I didn’t expect to see and experience what I did. The isolation and anonymity kind of allowed me to re-invent myself creatively. If I wasn’t teaching, I was in the lab experimenting…still am to be honest.

HESO: Talking about “The Plan”…they never do go the way we plan them, do they? When did you first pick up a camera?

Billy: I think I picked one up a long time ago, but I never held it long enough to form a vision, or develop a voice, or think about what I wanted to do or accomplish with it. I would just shoot a few rolls here and there. I was around talented people who were doing amazing work though, Aloysious and Danny Dougherty. Seeing them grow as photographers and artists instilled a degree of what a work ethic would consist of…it was definitely a reference when I came to Korea and began to bury myself in my little creative endeavors.

HESO: Your work is like a cross section from a very distinct portrait artist which crosses traditional boundaries into street photography. How did you get into photography?

Billy: I just started taking pictures of people. Nothing more. This was at the end of 2007. Around the same time I discovered Flickr. So I would go out all day and take pictures…then see what all these other people were doing around the world. Comparing what I had to what was going on in all these other places, kind of gave me a reference for what worked and what didn’t. So strange to become interested in a kind of photography and have access to all these communities and people, that you’ve never been to or met, but sharing mine and seeing theirs, was really instrumental. Flickr definitely had something special for a while there.

HESO: That was exactly like our photo crew in Tokyo. We all met through Flickr. Now we are all lifelong friends. Seeing what “all these other people were doing around the world” let’s us understand and relate better to our own. Does the medium affect what you do? Do you prefer analog to digital photography or vice versa. Or is it not important? Explain.

Billy: I could care less. It’s a tired argument. The only thing that matters is the music. The instrument you use is an afterthought. Being productive is paramount, plain and simple. Shoot a shit-load of whatever medium or format you choose…and be happy. I’ve said this before, but it’s funny how the militant advocates on either side of the argument all have the same thing in common…their work tends to always be less than mediocre.

© Billy Gomez

© Billy Gomez

HESO: Militancy has that affect on people. What technology can you leave behind? Alternatively what can you not do without?

Billy: I make music with a drum machine that’s almost 25 years old. Definitely can’t do without that. Interestingly, I just got an iPhone about a month and a half ago and I think I thought of it more as a phone purchase, as opposed to being a camera purchase. Good lord what a mistake that was…I have been shooting with it a lot as of late and it’s changing the way I work and think entirely. I’ve been playing with a handful of apps as well. I definitely saw the need for an iPad after trying to edit with those apps on the iPhone’s tiny screen. Man, I don’t know, I am incredibly late to the party but I am really enjoying the workflow these two devices afford you. The more I use them, the more I learn, and the more excited I get about the possibilities. Having only used them for the last month and a half, I could definitely live without them… but it would be sure be a shame.

HESO: You get up in the morning, pick up your camera, where are you going?

Billy: To work (laughs). Sad to say, I rarely ever get up with the sole purpose of taking pictures at that time and it’s definitely something I should change. I’m definitely a morning person, but I just end up tinkering with other things at that hour. However, I will say that when I went home to Los Angeles for the first time after having gotten into photography, I had a newfound appreciation for the light there. I was much more inspired to get up and take advantage of it when I was visiting. It’s definitely something I think a lot about too…about going back to L.A. to do a ton of street work. It would be a great challenge, the thought of what I could produce with that kind of light available essentially all year round, excites the hell out of me.

The light is a lot less unforgiving in Korea. During parts of the spring, fall, and summer it can be interesting. But for the most part, air pollution and intense weather patterns keep it so scrambled and inconsistent. Waking up to golden sunlight is not a common thing here, though we’ve actually seen a little of it this past week…conveniently coupled with 100 degree heat and humidity. Most of the pictures I take are while commuting to and from work. I’ll do a walk here and there on the weekend, but I have to say that there’s definitely something different in the way people look and act at that time. During the week, the pinch is on, you know…the weight of the world is in those eyes and on those shoulders. That same emotion just doesn’t seem as frequent on the weekends.

© Billy Gomez

© Billy Gomez

HESO: Some of your photographs seem like stills from a film. Is this intentional? Do you like film? What particular genres? Favorites?

Billy: That’s a very nice compliment. And yes, I think films have had a huge influence on the type of photography I do. I’d be lying if I said otherwise. Watching La Double Vie de Veronique by Krzysztof Kieślowski was the first time I wanted to know the directors name when the film was finished. I looked for everything I could find of his at the video store and library and then I started ordering his films off of ebay because most of them were impossible to get otherwise. Wong Kar-Wai is another director I definitely connected with before I ever started taking pictures. The slow motion, the lighting, the color, it was all pretty goddamn hypnotic. The key component in both of the aforementioned is how they both told a story without anyone saying anything. Go figure.

HESO: The technical portion aside, what do you look for in shooting a photograph of a stranger? What grabs you and shouts at you to, TAKE ME!”?

Billy: Interesting faces, interesting light–the same thing everyone else seeks out, right? And the two either arrive at the same time or I end up waiting for one or the other. Changing the subject abruptly, I really admire people who are able to capture scenes, as opposed to portraits. It’s something I really want to work hard on. These nameless ghosts though, they kind of haunt me…I can go out with the intention of wanting to capture scenes, and then a certain person will just glow in a crowd, and then the scenes go right out the door and I’m doing the same thing I always do. Patience must have something to do with those scenes, I suppose. I’m a work in progress.

HESO: We all are. Who are your favorite photographers?

Billy: To tell you truth, I don’t even know many photographers…and it’s nothing I’m proud of, or anything like that. I think I’ve gotten more inspiration from my family, Aloysious Dougherty and Daniel Dougherty, than I have from any of the so-called masters. But there were a couple of instances where certain work found me. One of them was the work of Sebastião Salgado. Like Kieslowski, it was the first time I saw a picture in a magazine and wanted to know who took it. Not long after seeing that picture, I went to the library and checked out all his books. Taking an interest in him lead me to War Photographer, the documentary on James Nachtwey. That kind of photography is mind boggling to me and I have to say, I think I have more of an appreciation for it than any other form of photography.

HESO: Where are you now and what direction are you moving in?

Billy: I’m in Seoul and in the time I’ve gone through these questions and answered them, it has dawned on me that a change of some sort is imminent. I have had an amazing time in Korea. It has changed my life forever. But seeing more of the world is a must for me. I feel like every year here is a lateral move. To move forward, I think I need to move on. Again, it’s a work in present… and these feelings on the matter are something that have manifested as a result of doing this interview. So I appreciate that, very much. Probably more than you’ll ever know. I have a set on Flickr called ‘The Roots of Imperfection‘ which is a collection of stories that accompany images. If I was a drug dealer that would be what they call a taste.

HESO: Thank you for your time.

Billy: I appreciate anyone who stuck around long enough to read these words.

Billy Gomez

Modern Loops: Interview with Photographer Billy Gomez is part of HESO Magazine’s ongoing Summer Interview Series, where we interview photographers, musicians and artists about their work and what they think about the world of 2012. We may ask them similar questions, but the answers have been anything but the same old canned responses. Check out the entire series here.

Vinous © Julia Skobeleva

Interview with Photographer Julia Skobeleva

Vinous © Julia Skobeleva

Vinous © Julia Skobeleva

HESO: Who are you and where are you from? Give us some background please.

Julia: I was born an only child in an ordinary Soviet family from Kazakhstan. I graduated from the Faculty of Journalism and worked as an editor in glossy magazines for a long time. I had no dream of becoming a professional photographer, I just want to do what I love–genre portraits and nude photography. But my passion led me to shootings for the money. I was invited to different magazines as a photographer and then to advertisement.

HESO: When did you first pick up a camera?

Julia: I was fascinated by photography in university when I was 19 years old. But then I had a small daughter and I have not had time to do something else. But my dream did not die. When my daughter started to walk, I began taking pictures with the old grandfather’s Canon. At that time I worked as an editor in a glossy magazine Cosmopolitan Kazakhstan and had been saving money for my first digital camera. I was able to buy it only at 24.

Fairy Tales of Freedom © Julia Skobeleva

Fairy Tales of Freedom © Julia Skobeleva

HESO: What work interests you as a commercial photographer in Kazakhstan?

Julia: I am rarely interested in commercial photography in Kazakhstan. It is monotonous and the mechanical work. In our country, a photographer is not an artist, just a technical executive of other peoples’ ideas, just lots of smiling people against a white background. But there are exceptions, for example, I love to do food photography. So I often shoot cookbooks and menus for restaurants. I like it, so I put my soul into this process, but everything you can see on my site in sections nude, fashion or portrait – my creative non-commercial projects. Unfortunately, such photoshoots do not happen for money because glossy magazines and fashion are poorly developed in our country.

HESO: Do you prefer analog to digital photography or vice versa. Or is it not important? Explain.

Julia: I love film, especially black and white, and especially when it is nude. It gives an incredible volume, beautiful grain and creates a unique mood. It places emphasis on form and light. On the other hand, in fashion photography I use only a digital camera, because it is practical and allows for post-processing. As Candace Meyer said, “Digital makes it easy to shoot, but you still have to have it down technically to make things really work.”

HESO: Many photographs have the feel of a memory or a dream. Is this purposeful? To what end?

Julia: In fact, I’m just dreaming about the large-format camera Deardoff. I like the floating focus, color and most importantly the incredible depth. I try to copy that style with my other camera. I like taking pictures as if it were a painting. I reflect the truth, but it’s a little deceptive, because all the photographers are liars. We show what we want. I want to create portraits, which will show beauty for many, many years. My model will put her picture in a frame, and then will show it to the grandchildren, as memories of the best years of her beauty. Because the photo was created specifically for this – to give people good memories.

HESO: About your shooting style, do you have a preferred method?

Salty wind © Julia Skobeleva

Salty wind © Julia Skobeleva

Julia: I use my camera only when I have a specific idea, a clear image or just a strong desire to photograph something. Perhaps it is because I am a posed photographer and never fond of reportage. I love natural poses, as if taken out of someone else’s life by accident. Maybe my models are just good actresses:)

HESO: Some of your nudes are not the typical “Beautiful”, which is a good thing. What do you want to portray when you photograph the female body?

Julia: As I said, I want to show the naturalness and truthfulness. We do not think of a straight posture when sitting in a room alone with ourselves, we do not think about the makeup, hair, or do not want to look better than we are. I want my audience to look a little deeper than they usually look at pictures.

HESO: Who are your favorite photographers?

Julia: Paolo Roversi, Sally Mann, Candace Meyer, Ryan Mcginley and Alina Lebedeva.

HESO: You work with charities, notably the Asian Children’s Paralympic games. How did you become involved with this?

Estrangement © Julia Skobeleva

Estrangement © Julia Skobeleva

Julia: The girl from this organization was looking for photographers who will agree to shoot the children for free, because they had no budget. And I agreed.

Also, later I participated in a controversial project, where 12 female-photographers took nude self-portraits for the annual calendar. The money received from the sale of calendars, we were able to make the expensive surgery for a few poor children. But many people condemned this way of charity. They called us licentious and ostentatious persons. It was very sad.

HESO: What is your favorite food? If you could eat with anyone, alive or dead, in any time period in history, in any place, who, when and where?

Julia: I love Asian, Italian and Czech cuisine. I generally like to eat 🙂 and I love to travel. Especially by car. Kazakhstan is a very large and beautiful country, my husband is also a photographer,so we always shoot on our journeys. I always thought that life was better during the hippie period at 60s-70s. This should be great fun to ride in a hippie bus with Beatles, eat some beans or broccoli 🙂 And if seriously, I would like to talk over dinner in the artist Frida, I was very close to her work.

At the moment I am working to get out to other countries. I would be interested in working with foreign magazines or go to the master class of professionals in my work.


This interview is part of HESO Magazine’s ongoing Summer Interview Series, where we interview photographers, musicians and artists about their work and what they think about the world of 2012. We may ask them similar questions, but the answers have been anything but the same old canned responses. Check out the entire series here.

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