HESO Magazine

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

Tag: Street Photography

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.

Daily Life Hums Along in Tokyo

Street Photography Examined

“What happens when you interrogate yourself? What happens when you begin to call into question the tacit assumptions and unarticulated presuppositions and begin then to become a different kind of person?”

–Dr. Cornell West

I have long tried to get at the underlying philosophy of Street Photography. What is it exactly that makes a normal and decent human being (wait, I’m talking about photographers, i.e. not normal, decent, nor probably human) strap on a camera and and carry ten to twenty pounds of lenses, film (or ahem…memory cards) and other essentials around in a bag to take pictures of perfect strangers on the streets of anytown, anycountry, earth?

Because it’s expensive, it’s intrusive, and well, there is something there that bothers me. Is street photography an ethic, a lifestyle, or merely a moment? Is it exploitative to photograph people without explicit permission? What do you do when people say NO! What if means a paycheck? Do it anyway? Or figure out a work-around?

  • Expense

Unless you are a Paparazzi trying to get a Lindsay Lohan nipslip, hack Scarlett Johansson’s phone, or you are on the ground with MSF in Mogadishu, your brand of Street Photography probably doesn’t pay all that well. Sure you may get a lot of attention on Flickr and Facebook and your Google analytics is off the chart for your hardcore, gritty, high contrast portrayal of Seoul, New York or Sydney, but how many jobs have you gotten from it? So, it’s a very expensive hobby and more likely a way to bond with other street photographers in the area. Either way, you’re in the red. And if you shoot digital, doubly so. Why? because digital photography costs more. A lot more. Ask your Macbook.

  • Intrusion

Most photographers worth their salt know that within the public domain anything goes. Almost. In the United States, legally you can take a photo of anything happening anywhere outside. Basically. Unless it happens to be a potential terrorist target. Like a building. Or a bridge. That would make New York–and in the You-Are-Either-With-Us-Or-Against-Us modern age, most modern cities–a photography-free zone. In Japan, shooting with a tripod requires a similar permit as that of a commercial shoot and will be vigorously challenged by any and all senior citizen security guards with no real authority. Police across the globe can be vague about legalities, insulting, and even violent toward photographers who are demonstrating their right to record. And the average citizens you turn your lens on can all too quickly turn very ugly. Why is taking a photograph of people in public illegal in certain countries? Why is it that some people tend to hide or become aggressive when their pictures are taken? Is it the paranoid thought that this could end up making them look bad on the internet somewhere? The primitive fear that it may capture a part of their soul, never to be returned? Or something altogether different? Rather is it a moral question? Or a civil liberties issue? What about Google Earth? Satellites in general?

  • The Kernel of Doubt

Photojournalists help us see the world while reporting the news. War photographers risk their lives in the understanding that they can take a bullet for being in the middle of the action. Artists help us make sense of the chaos that clashes all around us. What is the legacy of the street photographer? What does he or she get from loitering in crowded public spaces in countries with low crime rates reeling off frame after frame of girls holding umbrellas? Chain-smoking touts with Bowie hair? Homeless in parks? What is the impetus for standing around holding a machine to your eye and clicking a button to record a fraction of the present, only to go home, unload the camera in the dark, develop, fix, water bath, hang, dry, cut and sleeve the negatives, to eventually hold them up to the light and print one, two or maybe five images? What process is served? What do we get from recording one particular moment in a sea of infinite times? Is this system an analog memory backup? Or do we merely seek kudos from peers and fans? Is the world so big and flush with memorable scenes that in order to grasp at understanding it we need to try to catalog its chaos?

Or is it capturing a specific scene? For many westerners, the neon lights and bleached blonde kewpie-doll gyaru’s of Shibuya seems to possess some kind of neo-modern allure. What Koichi Iwabuchi, says of “western observers of Japan…shared ontological assumptions about the West and the exotic but inferior Other, Japan. They were fascinated with some exotic parts of Japan, and lamented the loss of ‘authentic’ Japanese tradition in the process of modernisation.” Are we post-racist or is this still relevant?

  • Street Photography Examined

Can you define it? Or define what it isn’t? Is it color? Or black and white? Grain or noise? Sex? Exoticism? And why am I so addicted to it? Why does it make me feel guilty? And similarly so satisfied?

Ultimately if I am not hurting anyone, does it matter?

© 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.

Alan Dejecacion for HESO Magazine

HESO Photo of the Week from Alan Dejecacion

Alan Dejecacion for HESO Magazine

Rihoko at Yoshi's ©2011 Alan Dejecacion

Alan Dejecacion is an editorial and documentary photographer from San Francisco, California. See more of his images here.

The last year or so I’ve really been enjoying working on street portraits. I always carry a camera whenever I step out and have been fortunate enough to meet some really interesting characters; family is always around so I’ve been documenting them also. Basically looking for trouble, the truth, and a fun time. Thanks very much for dropping by.

-Alan

All images ©2011 Alan Dejecacion

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