Pacing Around My Desire: An Interview Of Carmen Winant

Honey Lee Cottrell Papers, #7822. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library

Honey Lee Cottrell Papers, #7822. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library

interview by Abbey Meaker

In her new book titled Notes on Fundamental Joy; seeking the elimination of oppression through the social and political transformation of the patriarchy that otherwise threatens to bury us, Carmen Winant offers a poignant question: Does hope have an aesthetic? If it does, you may find it within the pages of this provocative book.

Designed by Jena Myung and published by Printed Matter Inc., the book is both an artist’s project and an historic collection of found images, photographs whose function was not only to document women-only communities formed in the 1980s across the Pacific Northwest, but also to subvert the pervasive dynamic in photography of man as subject, woman as object. Through these photographs of an almost unfathomable utopia of feminist & lesbian separatists, we can contemplate a world that exists outside of patriarchy. A safe, inclusive, fantastical space in which art is central to community making, connection, experimentation, and purpose. 

Meaker: Can you talk a little bit about the title and how you feel like it was relevant at the time the photos were made and how it’s relevant now? 

Winant: Part of the reason that I gravitated towards this material in the first place is because it held such promise and joy. I’ve known photography to occupy a space that can be more severe or competitive. The women photographers I idolized as a student, people like Francesca Woodman and Diane Arbus, all killed themselves. It wasn’t just that I felt that it was difficult to be a woman in the world. I also understood photography as entangled with that problem, that it was violent and incurred violence onto bodies, and onto the photographers themselves. And when I encountered these images, I felt inside them a whole new kind of promise—something that was bound up in the word joy, as well as world-building in this case of stepping outside of patriarchy altogether, and using photography as a new way to see the world. That felt really powerful. I was starting to do this research during the presidential campaign. It’s not a far reach to understand why I felt I needed to move towards not subverting the patriarchy from the inside, but instead looking at people who had just left it all behind. I understand that now that that impulse came from being confronted with the ugliest parts of our patriarchy. For me, the project is tethered to that moment in historical time.

Meaker: Looking at these images and thinking about these communities in the ‘70s and ‘80s, is it discouraging to know where we are now, and see that it failed in a way? Or did it?

Winant: Yes and no. When I first encountered the images, I had the same binary logic around it. But the longer that I researched, I started to feel that there was more nuance in this question of what it means to succeed and fail. There were so many thousands of women that cycled through these women’s lands, and even if the community ended up dissolving, that consciousness still permeated into those bodies, and that sort of changed the way they lived their lives, how they moved through space, how they related to other people, how they engaged with politics, community, relationships, child rearing, and so forth. This is what coalition building is. It’s messy, it’s difficult, people get pissed off and leave, and it’s not built to last. But that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t succeeded.

Meaker: Totally. When looking through the book, I felt that it was a fiction. It’s so hard for me to imagine existing in such a utopic place, free of the critical eye of white cis men. Man-as-subject, woman-as-object is such a pervasive dynamic in photography. Why do you think that photographs were central to these communities, and do you think it served as a medium of documentation as well as a kind of rebuttal?  

Winant: Definitely. And let me address the first thing you said too, which is the fantasy element of it. So much of my own relationship to this material is really romantic, and I brush off the things that don’t feed my fantasy, like the conflicts that happened, and the wars they lost with the landowners, and the bank, and the disabled women who left because there wasn’t space for them to survive in the country. Not to mention how few non-white women there were, and non-middle class women. It took me some time to come to this, but I realized that this is a part of the project, to follow the discordances. The way I teach feminism is as the prospect of world-building, and the imperative of a feminist is to imagine that a different world is possible. Without that imagination, we have nothing. We have no values, we have no politics, and we have no essential selves if we can’t imagine something outside of the world that we’re living in, or living under. And so, I think it’s really important to think about my own feminist politics as kind of revolving around that promise.

A lot of the different women’s lands built wet darkrooms, although the book in fact revolves around the ovulars, which are these photographic workshops that were offered on one particular women’s land, which was called Rootworks, in Oregon. An ovular is a take-off on seminar, which means the spreading of semen, etymologically. So, they instead called them ovulars, and the women who took them were called the ovulators. It was a new way to see themselves, and each other; to reframe desire, and kinship, and affinity and self, and sight, and insight, but also to stand as evidence. When so many of these women came out as gay, they were kicked out or they were left with nothing. Some of them had their children taken away from them. They had no evidence of their lives, in some sense. So it existed beyond the metaphoric idea of needing to reframe the way we see, and into something quite tangible, about how to make new evidence of our lives in this state of being reborn.

Honey Lee Cottrell, courtesy of the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library

Honey Lee Cottrell, courtesy of the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library

Meaker: Knowing that it was probably finite.  

Winant: It depends. When you read their accounts, some women feel as though it will last forever. And others that are far more skeptical are dipping in and out. So, I think there’s quite a big range. 

Meaker: Did the women teaching the workshops come in as photographers, or did that come from being a part of the community?  

Winant: So far as I know, there were six different organizer midwives that cycled in and out. They all went on to become pretty serious, and I think they were pretty serious already. They still remained on the margin, but they were dedicated photographers. The ovulars ranged from technical workshops to making lesbian erotica, or how to make photographs about love and sex.

Meaker: I love that art making was such a central activity. 

Winant: It really is difficult to live in the country, particularly when you are arriving with no skill about how to irrigate, how to you know plant food in the ground, or how to build structures. The fact that they carved out the space for this kind of production feels really critical.

Honey Lee Cottrell, courtesy of the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library

Honey Lee Cottrell, courtesy of the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library

Meaker: How did you happen upon this work, and when did you know you wanted to do something with it?  

Winant: Years ago, I read an article in the New Yorker by Ariel Levy, and it was about the Van Dykes, who were a separatist community. I just remember feeling so amazed by the prospect of this. My work has been about looking for another world, and trying to imagine a world outside of patriarchy, so to come across this felt revelatory. I started to get deeper into it and I discovered this vast photography archive, and I was amazed. They felt like such important historical documents, and were also incredibly striking photographs. The project is an homage to these communities, as well as a platform to make the photographs exist in a public space together.

Meaker: These women were unknown, and you were naming them and crediting them. So many women artists are subsumed by their male contemporaries, so this was exciting to me. In your last book, My Birth, many of the photos are anonymous.

Winant: Yeah, all of them, in fact. That was really different in this project. Normally, the way that I work is I gather the images that I want, I remove them from their sources, I re-contextualize them, and I call it fair use. That was never going to be an okay way to work here for a couple reasons. It wasn’t possible administratively, but it also wasn’t possible to do in good conscience. These are art objects. We got the copyright for every image, we paid the artist for the image if they were alive, and we got permission to reproduce. To be honest, I’ll probably never work this way again because it was so time-prohibitive. Sometimes I spent days just trying to get a single image.

Meaker: And did you always imagine it as a book?

Winant: No. At first I thought it could be an exhibition. But as I was thinking through possibilities, Printed Matter reached out to ask if I wanted to make a book. I thought that that could be an interesting way for those photographs to come together. I’m delighted it’s in the form that it’s in, in part because in the archive, many of the photographic objects exist in some sort of magazine or pamphlet. It doesn’t exist as a conventional photographic archive, and so a book really made sense.

Meaker: It feels so intimate too. It’s nice to hold it and touch as an object.

Winant: I’m so glad you say that. We spent a lot of time talking about that.

Meaker: What attracted you to such era-specific imagery from the ‘70s? 

Winant: I think there are a couple ways to answer the question, the first being that that era is where so much printed matter lives. There is an enormous glut of books that are published from the late ‘60s through the early ‘80s as a certain personal-is-political kind of feminism comes to bear. Those books are replete with photographs. That doesn’t exist in the same way anymore. But it’s more than that, of course. So much of my interest, conceptually and politically, as a person and an artist, is about working to understand the feminism that begot my feminism, the history that begot my history, and the space between us. I look at the feminism that belonged to my mother’s generation, and it feels, in some ways, so foreclosed. My work has always been about trying to reach backwards and understand what it means to inherit a memory, what it means to reckon with the idea of women’s liberation fifty years later.

Meaker: And how do you think it changed?

Winant: It changed in so many ways. Regarding the name “women’s liberation,” I don’t think that we, for the most part, believe in the idea of liberation anymore. We don’t belong to radical feminism anymore, and we can understand that by looking at these photographs and understanding that they look like a fantasy to us. There are so many different qualities that have shifted, that have made it more progressive, and more inclusive, and at the same time, I mourn the loss of those things that I mentioned.

Meaker: The photographs in the book are of naked women, and their bodies all look similar. The world that is depicted in the book feels inclusive and safe, but the images of the women aren’t. How did that sit with you when you were bringing together these photographs?

Winant: There’s another scholar who’s done some research into the ovulars. His name is Andy Campbell, and he’s a professor at USC. He's said in a talk that I noted, “To leave everything behind can be a privilege.” I think, in some cases, he’s right. There’s one African-American woman who appears over and over in the ovulars. Her name is Lynne Reynolds, she lived in Brooklyn at the time. I’m always so struck by her presence in that place; she stands out as the only nonwhite participant, as far as I can see. It reminds an onlooker that there is an issue of who has the ability to participate in the first place. The ovulars were absolutely incredible for their radical inventiveness, for the creatively, for their dedicated feminism. I admire them from deep down. And they also make me wonder: who has the ability to leave it all behind?

Carol Newhouse, courtesy of the artist

Carol Newhouse, courtesy of the artist

Meaker: To me, your broad practice has recurring themes relating to origins, materiality, the fecund body, and also, a drive to subvert the notion that the pregnant body is the ultimate representation of abstraction. In your book My Birth, the photographs are really aggressive and they demand to be seen. At the same time there is desensitization in the repetition of the images. What are your thoughts on that?

Winant: After I gave birth the first time, I was amazed, horrified, delighted, and terrified at what that experience had been. So much of how I relate to my experience is to try to make it intelligible through photographs, and it became very clear to me very quickly after giving birth that I couldn’t do that. It’s not that there were no photographs of birth, but there were vacuums. I didn’t recognize it anywhere in contemporary art, for instance, with very limited pockets of examples. I think some of the work was intended to fill up that space. But in a larger way, I understood that there was not going to be any photograph that would be able to account for that experience as fully as I wanted it to, for all of its sensate abjection. Part of the repetition was about working to insist on that image over and over, so it could be seen and knowable, and at the same time, doing so with the distinct understanding that it was a failed premise.  

Meaker: And where do you think the new work fits in with that?

Winant: It was an incredibly agitating experience to look at bodies opening up and pouring out. I needed to look at something that felt unabashedly joyful. It was important for me to find images to live with that occupied a different experience, a parallel experience.

Meaker: You pose a question in the book, which is, is there an aesthetic to hope? And I wonder if this project has offered an answer to you.

Winant: At the beginning of this project, I wrote a single note that I put above my studio desk: what does a free body look like? And I think there are a lot of different questions in that question. Do pictures look different when women make them? In that sense, do women have a different photographic aesthetic? Do lesbians? Do feminists? What does joy look like? How do we see it? How do we frame it? I’m really interested in the relationship between politics and aesthetics. These photographs feel so distinct, yet they have such deep echoes of one another that I have to ask, how has this experience actually changed the way that they see?

Meaker: Maybe it’s more a feeling than an aesthetic.

Winant: Definitely. That can be a really difficult thing to account for. As an artist, how do you come to learn and occupy a photographic feeling? 

Meaker: I think maybe it is an innate ability, because not all photographs have that.

Winant: I agree. It is innate to a person, but also to a place and a moment in shared historical time.

FETISH KING: A Conversation Between Rick Castro and Rick Owens


The unedited version of this interview can be found in Autre’s Spring 2019 Print Issue. Preorder here.

Rick Castro is a legend in the queer underground scene of 1980s and 1990s Los Angeles. It was a time when Santa Monica Boulevard was rich with male hustlers, shirtless in the California sun, and the nightclubs were liminal landscapes of desire and liberation. To those who know him, he is "The Fetish King." Alongside artists like Ron Athey, Catherine Opie, Sheree Rose and Bob Flanagan, Vaginal Davis, Kembra Pfahler, and Bruce LaBruce, Castro utilizes queer identity and the physicality of the body to express themes of marginalization and oppression. A one-time fashion stylist for the likes of Bette Midler, David Bowie, Herb Ritts, and Joel-Peter Witkin—the latter of which helped him buy his first camera—Castro’s fantasies, fetishes, and fascination with the demi-monde manifested into imagery involving extreme leather bondage and rope play. From his factory in Italy, fashion and furniture designer, Rick Owens chats with Rick Castro over the phone. They discuss fetish as an idée fixe, their former love life, the subcultures of Los Angeles and Castro’s upcoming retrospective, Fetish King: Seminal Photographs 1986–2019, curated by Rubén Esparza, opening at Tom House in April.

CASTRO: Hi, Rick! I haven’t talked to you on the phone since the ‘80s.

OWENS: (laughs) Yeah, but I’ve seen you in person since then, don’t make it sound so tragic. So, let’s talk about when we first met. We met because you had seen the nipple ring I lent to you for a shoot?

CASTRO: I didn’t know who made it at the time, so I asked the storeowner if she had any more, and she gave me your number. So, I gave you a call the following day. I used those on the saxophone player for Tina Turner.

OWENS: I remember! It was an amazing picture. That might have been my very first credit!

CASTRO: It was your first credit! Those were the days, Rick Owens. I remember like it was yesterday…

OWENS: How do you do your contemporary B&D imagery? I feel silly saying B&D, is that what I call it?

Castro: Just call it fetish. I always like that term, fetish.

Owens: Fetish.


Castro: You know Rick Owens: our connection has always been fetish, whether we understood it or not.

Owens: I agree with you, we both have a love of fetish. But I always thought the leather bar aesthetic was about ritual, and about men who were oppressed and brutalized for being gay, taking control and going up against their oppressor. They were creating that cycle under their own terms. The new generation is more liberated. It doesn’t have that darkness anymore. Because men don't have as much oppression as they used to. This is just my interpretation, which could be all wrong. There was real triumph in becoming the master after being submissive for so long. In that small arena, in those dark rooms, you became the master… Are there more questions you want me to ask?

Castro: I’m more comfortable asking questions than answering questions...

Owens: Oh, god, you always have to be a top.

Castro: (laughs)

Owens: Although, you were kind of a bottom...

Castro: (laughs) I don’t see it in those terms...

Owens: Oh, okay. (laughs)

Castro: (laughs) To me, your aesthetic is very much like the dark side of Los Angeles.

Owens: Yeah, I agree.

Castro: Well, we romanticized it, for sure, and the idea of it being so esoteric. There was that whole cult side of Los Angeles. There were more cults in Los Angeles during the silent era, even to this day. But in Los Angeles, you can do anything. I've always thought in my mind that I can do whatever the fuck I want, even when I was a young kid. I used to just rebel for any reason.

Owens: I think we both were interested in the whole mythology of the movies, and the whole corruption behind it.

Castro: Well, we would definitely take the way we were seeing it. I remember when you had your studio on Las Palmas, and when I came to visit you, you had Veronika Voss on, and that had been on for a week, right? You just watched it over, and over, and over, like a backdrop.

Owens: Yeah.

Castro: And then, you would switch to Death in Venice and you would have that on for another few weeks. That's fetish my dear, that's fetish. (laughs)

Owens: (laughs) Well, I’m glad everything is coming full circle. Congratulations on everything.

Rick Castro’s retrospective, Fetish King, opens on April 6, with a reception that runs from 6pm to 8pm, and runs until April 27 by appointment. Click here to learn more. Preorder Autre’s Spring 2019 issue to read the unedited version of this interview.


Traces In the Snow: An Interview with Photographer Isabelle Wenzel

German-based artist Isabelle Wenzel creates colorful sets on which to enact bodily performances, the evidence of which appear only as fixed photographs. These final images depict women’s bodies fragmented and abstracted like mannequines whose limbs have not yet been pieced together. Wenzel’s figures appear inanimate, like sculptures on a plinth, but convey a sense of action, like a dancer on the cusp of movement. This oscilation between animate and inamate invokes the uncanny, pulling the viewer into a space that is both visceral and psychological. In the following interview, Wenzel talks about her process, philosophies and next projects.

Abbey Meaker: There appears to be strong performative elements in your photographs; is this intentional, and if so, can you explain the importance of performance in your process/final works? 

Isabelle Wenzel: Actually I do have a performance background. Since the age of 6 I had intense acrobatic training. I discovered photography as a medium quite late at the age of 21. I like the idea of having a performance without an audience and just showing the material evidence of this event. So my everyday routine comes still very close to performance. While photographing I’m not really looking much into the camera, I try to shape a form with my body and use photography as a technical devise only. With photography I see myself able to create an illusionary room that at the same time witnesses an action that has happened in the past. I like that photography has this indexical character. Photographs are like traces in the snow where you know that these traces belong to someone in particular. I like that photography points back in time.

One could say I’m performing an act of trial and error. Even though that my outcome is a two dimensional image I’m personally more interested in the processes behind. You have to imagine me pressing the button of the camera, running in position, having some seconds time till it clicks. Then I quickly check the outcome on the screen and repeat the action till I get to a satisfying outcome. Certainly I could use a remote release but I like this pressure of time. It pushes my creativity.

AM: The figures in your images have a sculptural quality, and although they are often wearing skirts, tights, and high heels, the qualities we associate with sexualized images of women are basically concealed. These women are fragmented, uncanny in their inanimate-like poses. Can you speak to these themes? 

IW: On one hand I'm very concerned about the signs I'm using, on the other hand I do think as an artist you do not have to be politically correct all the time and it's also not my function to explain everything. I do create my images out of an inner logic and there is no right or wrong in a rational way. You could say that I catalyze things I see in my surrounding, especially things I do not understand; gender is one of these things. And yes; sometimes I do feel a discomfort about that, too.

"Most of the time I don’t know how to start, so I stop thinking about it and just get started. I work a lot with improvisation. I also often look at my own work and wonder how I can push my ideas further. It’s really difficult to explain where my ideas are coming from but mainly it’s about not getting stuck."

AM: Are there specific theories or philosophies that inform your work? 

IW: I don’t know. Maybe there are theories matching with my way of thinking. But this is nothing of primary importance to me. I’m busy with visual language and don’t think it’s possible to translate this entirely into spoken words. I do think I’m acting like a catalyzer of my surrounding. Also there is not only one truth, I do believe that there are several ways of how to interpret my work. Even for myself meanings are changing depending on how I look at it. Let’s say I do believe in a non-logical world or in a world, which is not always explainable with logic. What is true cannot always be seen, and what we see is not always true.

AM: Are there artists whose work have been influential to your art practice? How do their concepts relate to or differ from those you employ? 

IW: I appreciate a lot to meet other artists at their studio and vice versa. To talk about work process and the personal art praxis is as important as exchanging ideas and how to encounter difficulties. And certainly other works of art inspires me, too. It’s not important that they do have necessary something to do with my own work. For me the best works are those which succeed in making me reflect about myself and at the same time I’m not really able to understand the work or the intention behind it. If I see a work that triggers this feeling in me I get a strong desire to create something new. Most of the time I don’t know how to start, so I stop thinking about it and just get started. I work a lot with improvisation. I also often look at my own work and wonder how I can push my ideas further. It’s really difficult to explain where my ideas are coming from but mainly it’s about not getting stuck. Because movement is progress. If I’m stuck with my ideas I find a strategy how to trigger my creativity. For example with my current work I decided after five years of only working in the studio to leave it and to face landscape and public.

AM: What is next for you -- are you working on anything new that you'd like to discuss? 

IW: I’m currently working on a body of work that investigates the representation of my own movements. Before I often intended to capture the perfect moment in order to shape my body like a sculpture, now I intent to look at the intervals of a certain movement. It’s on one hand an investigation on movement in general and on the other how this fascination constitutes my work. And again I use the ‘photographic’ eye as an imagination machine where I double, triple myself mechanical without sticking to a chronological order.  The outcomes are instantaneous proofs of my actions.

You can catch Isabelle Wenzel giving lessons on how to create the ideal posture for portraits at Villa Zebra in the Netherlands. Her next projects include participation in the Platform Platvorm exhibition, which will be on view from June 6 until June 28, 2015 at BART INVITES Bloemgracht 2 Amsterdam. In the fall, you can see her new series, 'Transformations,' at the Unseen Photo Fair in Amsterdam. text and interview by Abbey Meaker. FOLLOW AUTRE ON INSTAGRAM TO STAY UP TO DATE: @AUTREMAGAZINE

The Substance of Ideas: An Interview with Photographer Roger Ballen

Roger Ballen captures an almost unimaginable world and is a legend in the world of photography. For the last thirty years, Ballen has extensively photographed the fascinating and sometimes violent existence of people living in small villages, or ‘dorps,’ which are found in clusters throughout rural South Africa. With a doctorate in geology, the photographer oscillates between a poet and an anthropologist, exploring a deeper, stranger, and darker side of the human condition. Upon leaving New York in the early 1970s, Ballen expatriated himself to South Africa. To date, he has exhibited his photographs internationally and some of his images have become iconic in the photographic canon. Back in March, Phaidon released the second edition of his seminal book "Outland," which brings together nearly thirty years of the photographer’s work. An exhibition of Ballen’s current series entitled “Asylum of the Birds” is now on view at Galerie Karstan Greve in Cologne, Germany. The new series is pushing even further into the metaphorical from the more literal portrait work of the photographer’s early career. In the late 1990s you can see a clear shift beginning to emerge. In the following interview, Ballen discusses the strange world he captures with his camera, the importance of substance in ideas, and his new photographic series. 

Autre: So, I guess my first question – to dive right in – is when did you pick up a camera and decide to venture into the subject matter you have been exploring for roughly twenty years? 

Roger Ballen: I got interested in photography as an adolescent. My first attempt to try to express myself with a camera came in 1968. When I graduated from high school, my family gave me a Nikon camera. I remember taking that camera and going out like a bullet out of a gun, trying to find a way to make pictures. I was trying to emulate some of the Magnum people who influenced me, created a basic foundation for my work—Kertész wasn’t a part of Magnum, but Cartier-Bresson, Elliott Erwit. It’s been a gradual, step-by-step process. I guess I’ve been doing pictures now for fifty years. It’s one step leading to the next step. But sometimes the steps are bigger and some are smaller. The crucial time probably came in about ’96, ’97 when I was doing the Outland book. I started to see myself as an artist as much as a photographer, expressing my aesthetic rather than necessarily expressing the aesthetic of the subject matter itself.

OK: Speaking of big steps, what prompted your move to South Africa?

RB: In 1973, my mother died, and I was quite restless. I liked traveling.  But life in ’73 isn’t what it is now. I’d been in a plane a few times in my life, so people did travel in the same way, but you lived a much more sedentary existence. So I was going to go away for three months and I ended up going for five years. I hitchhiked from Cairo to Cape Town in ’74. I got here, I found it interesting, I met my future wife, and a few other things. Then, I ended up doing a trip from Istanbul to New Guinea by land. Then, I went back to the United States in ’77 to do a Ph. D. in the geological field at the Colorado School of Mines. I graduated there in ’81, and then I came back here. I found the country interesting, and my wife was from here. From the point of view of geology, the thing in which I had a profession, it was a great place to work.

OK: Discovering these areas where you shoot, were they difficult to stumble upon?

RB: From 1982-84 I worked exclusively in the countryside here. It wasn’t easy—the people in the towns here weren’t very well populated. You drove around trying to find subjects and peoples and places. Then, you’d have to get out of the car and talk to somebody. The key moment, and one of the most important moments in my career, came during the early ‘80s. It had a lot to do with these places not being very well-frequented by other people, and being haunting and cloudless. I used to drive around—I was in these places doing geology and photography at the same time. It was getting pretty boring sitting in the car with such a bright sun. You can probably find it in parts of California in the summertime. I then decided to knock on people’s doors, and I started to go inside. That was metaphorically and physically a big step. I found the motifs. I started using a flash. I found the subject matters. I started using a square format then. So this was the big step that happened in ’83, ’84 that created the foundation for the later work in so many ways.

OK: I’ve been a major fan of your work for a long time. Before I did this magazine, I studied photography. I remember growing up and looking at your books.

RB: That’s terrific. It’s always good to hear this. I’m on the bottom of the planet, here. One of the reasons I feel I’ve created a unique aesthetic is that I never really got that involved in the art world. I know the history of photography super well, art too. But it was really just a matter of myself relating to myself. I didn’t go to exhibitions. I was basically isolated.

OK: It reminds me a bit of William Eggleston. He wasn’t part of the art world. He wasn’t part of this world that was so ready to accept his work. He was from the South. So it seems when you’re too insular in that world, it’s difficult to develop a voice.

RB: It’s gotten more and more difficult, when there are trillions of pictures taken. I had a foot in two worlds. I had the pre-Internet world that I grew up in, the film world, and I developed that. I still use the same camera from 1982. I’m still using film—the same camera, the same format, everything. I go back to when I was younger—I travelled the world. Now, I go back to the same nail on the wall and try to knock it in deeper. People don’t have any patience. They want instantaneous results. The photograph itself is an instantaneous process—it’s not like chiseling away at a marble rock to make a sculpture. People don’t have a concentration.

OK: I think, eventually, it’s going to become a situation where there’s a direct delineation between everyone being a photographer and real photography. I think there’s going to be more of delineation between those two things. It’s going to be less saturated.

RB: Unfortunately, the problem is who judges. A lot of people in this business grew up in the newer generation and they tend to try to find new angles and edges that are basically technological, that are focused on just the idea rather than the substance of the idea. The substance of the idea, to me, is crucial to good art. You don’t hear about that too much. You don’t hear about metaphor, depth, indescribably parts of the psyche. It’s gimmick of the gimmick. That’s the problem—how we judge this stuff. How does something good in this situation, in this imagery, rise to the surface? It’s a real battle. I wouldn’t want to suggest to a friend of mine or my children to go into this battle without another profession.

OK: It’s a really interesting battle. And speaking of metaphor, I want to talk about how your work, in the beginning, was very literal, very portrait-oriented. In the ‘90s, it became much more poetic and metaphorical. What prompted that shift?

RB: It’s very hard to say. Maybe it was confidence. Maybe it was a step forward—one picture would build on the next picture would build on the next picture. I started to find my aim. It wasn’t that I saw some pictures and said, “I want to be like that.” It was really a step-by-step process. You can see that in the Outland book. If you look at the early Outland work in ’95, ’96, there’s less of a link to the plot of that work. It’s a lot more documentary and portraiture. And then beginning in ’97, there seems to be a “fear of the absurd” taking place. That’s where that break started to happen. I don’t know what lead to that break. I started to ask different questions. The central question was, is chaos more prominent in the human condition? I was asking a philosophical question, to myself in some way. Also, I guess if I had to say who influenced me—people always get it wrong. They think people like Diane Arbus or somebody like this. But it was actually Beckett. Beckett in the Outland period had the most influence in terms of what I was trying to achieve. I was trying to understand something absurd, trying to probe into the human condition, not necessarily probe into the social and political condition of poor whites in South Africa. 

OK: There’s a direct difference between what Arbus is doing and what you’re doing. It seems like there’s more of a vision; it’s less exploitative. What do you say to people that say your work is similar?

RB: If there is any link to Arbus at all, it stopped in ’97. And then beginning in early 2002, 2003, there’s zero. This word exploitative is pathetic. It’s actually pathetic. It shows an inability to understand anything about photography. What does anybody know about being the subjects? They could have gotten on their hands and knees and begged me to take their picture. They could have paid me to take their picture. What does anybody know about these subjects? You’re looking at a visual statement. You’re not watching a TV program on somebody talking about their life. It’s an instantaneous moment. Nobody else could have taken pictures like me. It’s transformative. You’re looking at a two-dimensional object on a piece of paper, and it’s giving you some insight into your own psyche, maybe some sort of insight into the deeper issues of human experience. Bringing up the word exploitative… I’ve always told people who ask me this question that the people who say are actually the most affected. Psychologically, in a deeper way, the pictures break through their repressions, and they come at me with a projection or some sort of defensive mechanism to blame me for the crack in their psyche.

OK: I love that. You’re creating a document that’s really important. Edward Curtis, that 30-year document of Native Americans—we wouldn’t have that if it wasn’t for someone setting up their camera and spending that time to explore that subject matter. 

RB: I agree. People basically drop their pants when they talk like that. I think you know what I mean. They see, on the front of the newspaper, somebody dead on the street and the mother lying over the dead person crying—on TV, CNN, or in the newspaper. Is that great? What are you talking about? It’s hopeless. The pictures I take get into their head—that’s the difference. They’re blanked out about it. Just like going into the supermarket—four hundred dead chickens sitting there, nobody blinks an eye. But someone sees my Asylum of the Birds movie, that’s horrible. Look at the chickens’ heads being chopped off. This is what we live in. We could go on and on about predictions. It’s not even worth talking about.

OK: Speaking of your new series, “Asylum of the Birds.” I want to talk about that exhibition. What can we expect from those photographs? What can we experience with those photographs? 

RB: With Asylum of the Birds, it’s a much more abstract way of seeing the world. They’re layered, multi-dimensional photographs. They have opposite meanings. There’s the relationship with the birds, which have metaphoric symbols—it has basically the archetypal metaphoric symbol to it. And then there are a lot of drawings, which are hard to put a finger on what each drawing means, how each drawing relates to another drawing, how the drawings relate to the animals and the objects in the pictures. They’re very hard photographs to put words to. They have multiple metaphors. They’re very visual in nature. They’re hard to condense into any one way of deciphering. For myself, I wouldn’t want to say this or that. I commonly say that the best pictures don’t have words. If I do have words, the picture is not a good picture. I’m quite sure about that. People want to put a meaning of something into a package. If they can’t put it into a package, they get insecure.

OK: A lot of people are afraid of their own psyche. It’s really difficult for people to step outside of that. 

RB: Very difficult.

OK: And maybe the world would be a better place if people did.

RB: I say that the only way we’ll have an improvement in this world—this goes back to what I learned at Berkeley 40 years ago—people have to break their own repression, come to terms with their own interior, and become more integrated in their identity. Important art helps people do this in some way. But I don’t think art is the seer of the problem. It’s such a worldwide epidemic problem, and perhaps always has been. We can’t say that the chances for peace are any greater now than they were one hundred years ago. We live in a dangerous world, basically. 

OK: Is there anything else you’re working on now? 

RB: I’m working on two projects right now. One is a project that I refer to as “Apparitions.” Have you seen the Asylum of the Birds book. Look at the last couple of pages, you’ll see some of those photos. They’re two-dimensional photographs. They look like drawings, but they’re taken with black and white photography.

 OK: I love the Die Antwoord music video, by the way. I love that they were able to bring your work to a younger audience. Do you think was successful?

RB: It’s hard to believe, we got like 65 million hits. It’s incredible. I can’t believe it sometimes. It really got in people’s heads. I think it really worked well because most music videos are mono-dimensional in meaning. I think this had a multiple-level meaning that was accessible to people. There’s something deeper in it, but also something humorous in it. And the music fit the visual. It just came together. Some things just work out that way and sometimes they don’t. 

OK: It’s not the heyday for music videos.

RB: It’s terrible; it’s like photographs.

OK: It’s disposable. It’s consumable, and then that’s it. 

RB: That’s what I’m saying. People’s attention span is much different than it used to be. I don’t know. At age 65, I stopped guessing about the future. I don’t know one day from the next. I just take it as it comes and do my best and focus on what I’m doing. I can do my best to produce interesting art. The work has to have its own life. One doesn’t know what’s effective in all sorts of ways. I’m really satisfied that I’ve followed this career all those years. It’s quite fulfilling to see the work evolving over time. It’s like a diary.

OK: It’s a very rare, unique, and beautiful body of work. I really appreciate it. 

RB: Thank you. I really appreciate your time and interest. Be well.

Roger Ballen "Asylum of the Birds" will be on view at Galerie Karsten Greve Köln until August 29, 2015. Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper


Haters Gonna Hate: A Short Interview With Sandy Kim

Sandy Kim is a rambunctious wild child and her camera may as well be a Molotov cocktail. With a they-love-to-hate-us-because-they-ain’t-us attitude, Kim shoots her friends and lovers with a semen-soaked, blood-stained abandon. Indeed, her work is a neon-hued punk diary of her life that is at turns exhibitionistic, voyeuristic and always hedonistic. Kim is not alone in her ilk that includes a brood of gritty and provocative documentarians, like Nan Goldin or Ryan McGinley. However, Kim’s work belongs to a different age – a desensitized, digitized age of youth-wave marauders; a progeny not high on Reagan-era mountains of cocaine, but on Obama’s 5-Hour Energy and Ritalin-induced angst. Tonight, Evergold Gallery in San Francisco is presenting How’s The Weather Down There? – Kim’s third solo show with the gallery. The exhibition will include large-scale photographs that scream even louder her declaration of sexual freedom and youthful independence. Autre was lucky enough to catch up with Kim to ask her a few quick questions.

AUTRE: How did you discover the artistic side of yourself?

SANDY KIM: Ever since I was child I was always drawing constantly, my parents were always busy working at their restaurant so I would sit in a booth and draw the time away.

AUTRE: Who were some of your earliest artistic or photographic influences?  

KIM: William Eggleston and Dash Snow.

AUTRE: Can you remember the first thing you ever photographed? 

KIM: I think the first photograph I ever took was of a building as an assignment in my first black and white photo class in high school. I played with the angles and composition to make an abstract image that was hard to tell whether it was a building on a close up object. 

AUTRE: Your work features a lot of bodily fluids…blood, semen, etc…. what was the craziest response that you have ever gotten to your work? 

KIM: Just check out all the anonymous comments left on my "Wait" music video for DIIV. People be passionately hating, but other than the anonymous comment leavers, my friends or likeminded people don't seem to be phased by my work.  

Sandy Kim, Untitled, 2015. Digital archival photograph. 30x45 in. Edition of 2. Courtesy of the artist and Ever Gold Gallery

AUTRE: You are featured in a lot of big publications and photographers, like Ryan McGinley recognize your work – did you expect this big of a response? 

KIM: No…because when I first started taking pictures it was strictly for myself so I wasn't concerned with what other people thought.  

AUTRE: Do you think before you shoot…is there ever a consistent thought process when you look through the viewfinder…or do you just shoot away? 

KIM: Well, yes I always think before I shoot, but it's seldom about what I'm about to shoot [laughs]. 99% of the time I just shoot away, but there must be a thought process, even if it's a subconscious one, because my photos always have a certain style that's easy to recognize 

AUTRE: As a photographer…can you describe the ideal moment…the ideal time to have your camera on hand? 

KIM: Whenever I happen to forget my camera something unreal happens

AUTRE: What’s your greatest fear as a photographer? 

KIM: Running out of film at a crucial moment in time or during a shoot. Sometimes I'll just pretend to keep shooting.

AUTRE: Is there anyone that you dream of shooting…alive or dead? 

KIM: Rihanna  

AUTRE: What can we expect at your new show…How’s The Weather Down There…at Ever Gold gallery? 

KIM: A trip into my world    

Sandy Kim's solo exhibition 'How’s The Weather Down There' opens tonight and runs until April 18th, 2015 at Ever Gold Gallery, 441 O'Farrell St, San Francisco. See a preview of the show in the slideshow below. Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper

Wayward Cognitions: An Interview With Ed Templeton

Mangled, bloodied and raw – Ed Templeton’s photography is a candid document of the halcyon days of youth and rebellion. Anarchy in the U.S.A. reigns supreme with open wounds, smoking youths and suburbia turned upside down, with all the coins shaken loose. There are also private moments captured in Templeton’s photography – of his wife Deanna and his contradictorily quiet life in the laid back hamlet of Huntington Beach, California. As a pro skater, Templeton has been given the unique opportunity to travel the world – luckily he has captured everything along the way. In his new monograph of photography, entitled Wayward Cognitions, Templeton curates images from his archive spanning nearly twenty years. Templeton not only shoots on film, but he also prints his own photography in his home darkroom – an anomalous practice lost to the ages. In the following interview, Templeton talks about Wayward Cognitions, the dichotomy between the skate world and art world, and why he is sticking to film.

AUTRE: Can you remember when you first picked up a camera and started documenting your life?

ED TEMPLETON: It was 1994, I had been shooting photos as a tourist like anyone might, but I wasn’t taking it seriously. I had some sort of epiphany where realized I needed to document my life and the lives of people around me. I had already been a pro skater for 4 years getting to travel the world and be paid to skateboard, I thought, "who gets to do that?" I figured there was something there, a story that needed to be told, and I had already wasted 4 years! After that I was very strict about having a camera at all times and ready to shoot whatever happened. Soon after the initial idea to document the subculture of skating I started shooting way more than skateboarders. Skateboarding took me all over the world, it gave be a travel bug and a desire to shoot photos of the people and places I visited that was a wider view than just the people I was around.

AUTRE: There is such a stark dichotomy between the skate world and the art world where most of your art is collected and exhibited – what feels more like home to you?

TEMPLETON: I will always feel more comfortable around skaters I guess. That is how I grew up, and that is the world I have been a real part of. The art world is so much bigger, I'm just one little blip on a ocean sized screen. I think art and skating are very closely entwined, but it's true, speaking in monetary terms, there is a big gulf between art collectors and skaters. That can be weird at times, but in a good way. Nothing makes me happier than to be at an art opening filled with fancy art people in suits and nice dresses and then to see mixed in the crowd young people in hooodies carrying skateboards. Art is for everyone.

AUTRE: Did you ever imagine that your photography would be so widely noticed and appreciated?

TEMPLETON: Not at first. I was starting to collect photo books, and I was out shooting and documenting subcultures and places and could care less. I started shooting seriously in 1994, I first exhibited some photos along with my paintings in 1998. So I didn't feel confident at first. But as time went on, I would be shooting and collecting books of great photographers and holding my work up to theirs to see if I was developing and growing. At some point I started feeling very confident that I had done some good work, work worthy of being noticed. I had started showing photography in exhibitions to the point where it was way more about photos than painting. So I can't lie and say I didn't hope my photos would be noticed by a wider audience, but you have to just plug away and make good work, and participate in the world you want to be a part of. I was able to make a book, Golden Age of Neglect that I feel was a sort of calling card for me. Ever since then all I think about is making books. I just love photo books and want to make them and collect them and be part of that world. 

photograph by Deanna Templeton

photograph by Deanna Templeton

AUTRE: Do you think that being a professional skateboarder allowed you more freedom and opportunities to take photographs?

TEMPLETON: It certainly got me around the world. I think seeing new places and cultures and environments helps to humanize you and gives you a bigger sample of what the world is really like. That helps develop your eye. Of course skating itself develops your eye too, in different ways, but ways that can be applied to shooting photos, like looking ahead, and being ready for obstacles. I use that when walking and shooting for sure, always looking way ahead to see whats coming at you, and being prepared to shoot when it comes near. My style of photography has come purely from doing other things in life. I never travelled somewhere just to take photos. All of my travel has been for skating or art shows, and I shoot wherever I happen to be going. Pro skating gives you freedom from having any set hours to work, and surrounds you with interesting people, so yes!

AUTRE: Who are some photographers that you look up to you?

TEMPLETON: Jim Goldberg, Garry Winogrand, Hank Wessel, Robert Frank, Tom Wood, Anders Petersen, Mark Cohen, Cartier-Bresson, Bruce Davidson, Alex Webb, Tobin Yelland, Larry Clark and Nan Goldin, the usual suspects I suppose. I like photographers who approach it like art, meaning outside of traditional photographic ways of presenting it, using collage, ephemera, writing, paint. I think David Hockney was great when he was doing photography, Peter Beard, Boris Mikhailov, Jim Goldberg, even Robert Frank, they all have presented photography from the position of an artist, not just a photographer.

AUTRE: You shoot on film and you develop your own photographs in your own darkroom – you shoot a lot of images, do you ever think about going digital and why is film so important in your work?

TEMPLETON: I like the way film looks, and I can afford it. Those are the major reasons. I'm not anti-digital, but I'm gonna shoot film and print traditionally as long as I can afford to and as long as they are making film. There's a hand done quality to a fiber print that is missing from digital forms. And I think going that extra mile in shooting film and having to focus and expose each shot old school style, and then making your own prints by hand pays off in the authenticity and feel it gives when the viewer sees it ultimately. This is just photo-nerd stuff, because I know that 99% of people do not give a shit how it was made. It's just for that 1% that will geek out on it, like I do when I see the master photographers work in person.

AUTRE: Your new book Wayward Cognitions is almost like a retrospective of sorts – what made you decide to go in that direction versus a more thematic direction like some of your previous monographs?

TEMPLETON: Most of my books have had a pretty specific theme, Teenage Smokers and Kissers are self explanatory, The Seconds Pass was all photos from a car, Deformer was all photos relating to or from suburbia, Litmus Test was all photos from Russia. So I wanted to just make a good ol' photo book. No theme, just photos. But It's not a retrospective because I chose all photos not printed in a book before. It's not an overview of work I made in the past, it's a story woven from my archive. When you shoot like me you amass a lot of photos. To me it's a shame that only a tiny portion of the photos you think are worthy might ever be seen. This type of book is a way to choose from that pool, with no limit on time or place or theme, and sequence the images in a way, very subtly, that a story, however vague, comes through. The name Wayard Cognitions is a more eloquent way if saying "Stray Thoughts" and that is what these photos are. Photos that do not fit in any theme or future project. Photos that have strayed from ever being seen, until now.

AUTRE: What’s next?

TEMPLETON: Onward to more books! I have plans to finally make my big book about my time documenting skate culture, a book on Catalina Island, a book with Deanna Templeton about the town we live in, Huntington Beach. Right now I'm working on a painting only show in April 2015 at Roberts and Tilton gallery. And I will be releasing a new zine and exhibiting some past zines at the LA Art Book Fair in January.

Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Autre. You can pick up a copy of Wayward Cognitions HERE. You can also catch Ed Templeton at his book signing at Moca Grand Ave on December 18 – 250 South Grand Ave, Los Angeles. 

5 Questions for Jena Malone on the Eve of Her First Solo Show

Actress and musician Jena Malone is set to present her first solo photography exhibition titled, The Holy Other, at MAMA art gallery in downtown Los Angeles, running November 21st through 28th. Proceeds will benefit Girl Determined, a charity which works with young Burmese women to educate and empower them through societal shifts in their country. Malone’s debut solo series features 39 images she captured while traveling through Myanmar, Burma this past summer. She was deeply moved by the way of life and the vibrant culture she experienced. As she took photos throughout her trip, the artist was inspired by the many young women who were finding their voice against the new backdrop of democracy in their government. In the following interview, Jena talks about Myanmar and why photography is important to her.

AUTRE:Can you explain your series The Holy Other?

JENA MALONE:The Holy Other is a series of photographs I took while traveling to Myanmar this year. I was drawn there because it is a country on the brink of great change, from its government to its way of life. I wanted to see Myanmar before the modern world rushed in. It was actually a life changing experience for me.

AUTRE: Why is photography important?

JENA MALONE: Its important to me because it helps me see the world in new ways and it is an absolute time capsule for everything I might have forgotten.

AUTRE: Who are some of your photography icons?

JENA MALONE: Mary Ellen Mark , Nan Golden , Boris Mikhailov, Sebastiao Salgado.

AUTRE: What do you think about when you look through the viewfinder?

JENA MALONE:My mind goes blissfully blank actually.

AUTRE: What do you want people to feel when they look at your photographs....

JENA MALONE: I want them to feel whatever they want! Ahha! I just want the images to evoke stories, small intimate stories that touch on giant fundamental truths.

Interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. You can check out the opening reception for Jena Malone'ssolo show – The Holy Other – tonight at MAMA gallery (1242 Palmetto Street, Los Angeles). The show will run until November 28. 

An Interview with Tasya Van Ree at the Chateau Marmont

Tasya van Ree steps out from her signature monochrome portraits and presents A State of Mind & the Affairs of its Games a hued-visual narrative, serving as an explication of the modern human mind. For one balmy Los Angeles evening, a salon was held in the penthouse of Chateau Marmont giving collectors, friends and fellow artists a desirable environment to appreciate her newest body of work. Twenty-one photographs in total, printed on metal, with images of dolls, toy trucks, Cracker Jack boxes, and other depictions of childhood entertainment. Titles of pieces include: The Glorified Self, To The Point of Being, and Sparks When Struck. The depth and attention to detail in the collection of photographs is grounded in a intellectually vivid perception that has underlined Tasya's photography throughout her career. Tasya graciously made some time to answer a few questions.

Autre: What inspired the narrative behind this exhibition?

Tasya van Ree: I wanted to visually translate society's function on the human psyche.

Autre: What was your childhood like?

Tasya: I was a wild and curious child with a lot of freedom. I experimented with everything that I could get into and everything that I could get my hands on. It's not much different from my adulthood.

Autre:Were your parents artists in any sense, did you have mentors early on, that had an artistic nature about them?

Tasya: They are artists in the fact that they have great imaginations, and they've always been a great inspiration to me. They both chose careers outside of the arts, but to have grown up with both parents showing you how to tap into your imagination was all I needed to know exactly what direction I wanted to pursue in life.

Autre:What is currently inspiring you?

Tasya: The intelligence of the human body.

Autre:Does music and/or literature play a role in your creative process?

Tasya: There is always a creative conversation between art, literature and music. They are all moving pieces to a bigger form of consciousness. I can't help but be inspired by all of these parts when trying to interpret my own vision.

Autre: Does Los Angeles play a role in your work?

Tasya: I think Los Angeles has a high frequency of creative energy and I've found myself swimming through its channels.

Interview, text and photos by Douglas Neill. You can see more of Tasya Van Ree's art here

Languid Angels: The Photography of Matt Fry

Matt Fry has been taking pictures for only a few years, but his photographs already have a stunning amount of depth and poetic introspection. Like angels trapped languidly in celluloid, Fry's subjects are idols of film's beautiful imperfection – overexposed, underexposed, light flares, polaroid tears and all. Fry, who is based in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, has perhaps found his calling with photography and, like an analog junkie holding on to a fading, beautiful dream, spends all his money on film.  However, it might soon all be worth it. With fashion brands knocking on his door, Fry is a photographer on the rise.  Pas Un Autre caught up with Fry for a very interesting tete-a-tete about his inspirations, aspirations and how he got into the photography racket in the first place. Read interview and see more photos after the jump. 

PAS UN AUTRE: You said you have been shooting for only a couple of years – what brought you to photography?

MATT FRY: I started shooting in late 2009. I had a couple of tumblrs where I posted photography, and it was hard to find the style that I really liked. I decided, rather than just looking at photos, I wanted to create them, how I wanted them. I didn't have the money for a good digital, and I was picky, so I researched the best camera/lens combo that I could get for the least amount of money. So I went out and bought a Yashica Electro 35 and started shooting. Shortly after, my friend Melanie was kind enough to pose for me. Turned out people really liked what I did. I haven't stopped shooting since.

AUTRE: Can you remember the first image you ever took?

FRY: I can't remember the specific image, but I do remember borrowing my mom's Canon AE-1 when I was 10. My brother and I had just had just learned how to jump our brand new dirt bike. We were so excited with our little jump; I think we were getting maybe about 7 inches off the ground. After a few jumps, I ran inside and grabbed my mom's camera. She loaded a roll for me and I went out and snapped a few shots of my brother hitting the "big" jump.

AUTRE: What goes through your mind when you look through the view finder?

FRY: That's a good question. Sometimes I think about my shots; whether I want to frame them higher or lower, whether the light is hitting just right, whether I should bracket or not. Then I check my meter, and slowly set the focus, and wait till I see something I like. But every now and then, you just hit that point where everything is perfect. I can't really describe it. Everything just works and I start snapping away, shot after shot. Nothing needs to be said because there's this connection and somehow we both just know. I hit the end of the roll, and race for another camera that might have film. Then scramble to rip open the next box.. Times like that, I barely remember what I did once I'm done.

AUTRE: Who are some of your biggest inspirations or influences?

FRY: I don't really have a big influence since I never really studied photography. I guess my biggest influence would be the cinema. I used to act, edit, and I directed a short film that I still haven't finished post on. Because of directing and editing, I would watch films that I liked, and I would save screen shots of my favorite scenes. I would study how it was lit, the colors, the cuts, the wardrobe and the framing. I guess I would say my biggest influence is cinematographer Conrad Hall. I love how Conrad would light and frame a shot and the brilliance behind the psychology that completely told a story without a word being said.

AUTRE: You shoot all natural light and film - is there an aversion to digital and studio lighting?

FRY: I think a lot of that comes from the cinema as well. I really liked how Conrad would light by blowing out a window. Every shot he took was logical. You always new the source of the light, and it would be natural and gorgeous. Now I can't afford to light like that, so I use the sun. I would however like to get some strobes to start working with, because I don't like having to rely on a window. I think good lights would really set me free with my shoots.

As for digital, I want to like it. It would make my life much easier and keep more money in my wallet. Unfortunately every time I pick one up, it's not what I want. There is just something about using film. It's real and has a life of it's own. To me, it's like holding a book or using an ipad. They are both nice and serve their purpose, but you can't compare the two. It comes down to what you like and what your priorities are. I just can't bring myself to shoot digital. Hopefully one day I will find something I like with digital because every penny I have goes to film.

AUTRE: Whats next?

FRY: Seems like fashion is the next step. I've been working with Laura Sfez, the owner and designer of L'ecole des Femmes. She loves what I do and she let's me do what I want and use the models that I like. I remarked to her the other day about how every one of the models I have used for her line have been 5'2" or under. I love the freedom to not have to go with what is standard. I think my dream would be for fashion to be done with women of all types and sizes of women. There are so many beautiful girls out there with such character, why go with what everyone else uses.

Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre. Visit Matt Fry's website to view more of his photography.


originally published in 2011

What is there to say about photographer Ren Hang? His images spill into an obscene wonderland where basic questions become irrelevant and a twisted sense climbs over your flesh like worms on rotted meat. You’re glad they’re just photographs – like looking at the world face first against a closed window on the thousandth floor of some skyscraper. Based in Beijing, Hang is a new breed of 21st century Chinese artists riding the wave of modernization and cultural reawakening in China. But thats not saying we’re not lucky to experience Hang’s work – China is still vastly censorial and harsh against any material it deems slightly immoral. Hang’s work plays with fire, albeit delicately and at times tongue in cheek and never does it seem to shock for the sheer purpose to shock. Hang’s work is evidence of a deeply creative soul who bends erotic concepts like impermeable alloy into immaculate imagery rife with crude and mysterious spirituality. Hang’s subjects are dancers in a dangerous dance of lust and desire. In the following interview, Hang talks about shooting his lovers and friends and Chinese censorship. 

AUTRE: What goes through your mind as you look through the view finder?

REN HANG: My eyes see only what is right in front of me. 

AUTRE: You are based in Beijing – do you get any resistance to your work because of the nature of the content? Can you give any specific examples of how or when they tried to censor your work?

HANG: A lot of difficulties, you know, nudity is not published in China. An exhibition was canceled, someone spat at my work, cameras getting confiscated by the police, and almost going to jail. Although there are so many difficulties, I still like the Chinese.I like to shoot the face of the Chinese people, the body of the Chinese people, and close to me, easier for them to trust me. When I take pictures, I will forget all the difficulties.

AUTRE: Who are some of the subjects in your photographs?

HANG: My lovers… friends.

AUTRE: Whats next?

HANG: I’m printing two of my new books, completed in September, called a Damp – the other is called Mom I Hate Myself, But I Cannot Tell You.

You can visit Ren Hang’s tumblr and flickr pages to see more. Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. 

Brigette In Bloom: An Interview with Brigette Bloom


With her trusty sidekick Leo (her beloved dog), Bridgette Bloom is a child of the wilderness. With a feral spirit and the abandon of a forest sprite, Bloom follows in the great tradition of American wanderers – documenting with her camera all along the way. Bloom's photographs are like a beautiful dream in someone else's afterlife – a cinematic elysium that explodes in cloudbursts of life altering reminders to never waste even a single moment. 


PAS UN AUTRE: When did you first discover photography?

BRIGETTE BLOOM: I've loved pictures my whole life. sometimes i'd find strangers old family photos on the street when i'd walk home from school and was so fascinated by the things other people took pictures of. I love the idea of photography; how you can hold a moment in your hand, it's like time traveling!

AUTRE: Can you remember the first image you ever took?

BLOOM: The first photo i took was probably of a slug, or my eye or something, but the first one I can remember is when I was very little, I lined up all my trolls on the table and took a polaroid of them, I loved it so much. I took it with me to school in my backpack and would look at it throughout the day. Another early one is one I took of my old hamster, cotton ball, right after she bit my brother on the arm.


AUTRE: You seem like a pretty fervent traveler - where are you now?

BLOOM:  I moved to Portland a few months ago from Alaska, but now that spring is here I feel the need to get up and leave again. I always like to be on the move, passing through, getting my feet dirty. I've had so many beautiful, growing experiences through traveling, I see myself doing it forever.

AUTRE: Who is Leo?

BLOOM: My heart, my gentle but very strong willed dog.


AUTRE: What are some of your biggest influences or inspirations?

BLOOM: I'm deeply inspired by animals. Everything about them is so mysterious and honest, I feel like an animal myself. But really, I am inspired by almost anything- looking into a strangers eyes, drinking fog, listening to the coyotes howl as I fall asleep, silence, intuition, eating good food, finding dog hair stuck to my shirt, courage, the seed of a peach, dripping honey, smile lines, blood, dreamers, cracked lips, whats natural and wild, how the body heals itself, raw feelings, the heart of the sun, self love, feeling connected to everything around you, i'm just in love with life.

AUTRE: Whats next?

BLOOM: I feel that I haven't even touched the surface of my photography yet, there is so much more to be created! Right now i'm just enjoying each day and we'll see what happens when it comes....

Follow Brigette Bloom's journey on her tumblr. Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre. 


Light as Air: An Interview with Gregory Aune

Gregory Aune is a photographer and collagist based in New York whose images are both dreamy and classical. There is also a unique confidence in Aune's vision throughout his ouvra making his photographs seem both effortless and light as air.  I caught up with Aune to ask him a few questions about his technique and inspiration behind his work. 

PAS UN AUTRE: When did you first know you wanted to become a photographer?

GREGORY AUNE: I grew up in a small desert town in southern California. I was always drawing as a kid and actually wanted to be a illustrator when I grew up. So I always had a love for the visual arts I tried all aspects but the one I couldn't shake was photography, It was just something I fell in love with and just made the choice to grow within that, and will be growing until I die.

AUTRE: Can you remember the first image you ever took?

AUNE: I wish, I do however have my first roll of film that I developed myself. Its a collection of out of focus flowers.

AUTRE: What goes through your mind when you look through the viewfinder?

AUNE: Trying to place myself within the picture not trying to be a voyeur or hide behind the camera. I rather feel Im there with the subject, not just within the frame but the world that it lives in.

AUTRE: Who are some of your biggest inspirations or influences?

AUNE: There is quite a lot ranging from music, film, art, dance, close friends, lovers, broken hearts, nature and of course photography. It can be from the simplest things to the most damaging of things. I couldn't really pin point one person. I guess with in a commercial aspect I would say people like Paolo Roversi, Sarah Moon, Deborah Turberville purely because there artistry was translated and used in a commercial world...

AUTRE: What is your ideal subject to photograph?

AUNE: I have my list of people through out time that I would have loved to photograph but I always enjoy a nice roam in a forest or along the coast.

AUTRE: You are also a collagist – can you describe the aesthetic and inspiration behind some of your collages?

AUNE: I enjoy collage a great deal. With a lot of contemporary collagist not saying all but there all compiled on the computer which it doesn't feel right to me. I enjoy the hands on approach and rather cut things out with scissors and paste with glue. I guess my aesthetic would be loosely based on the principles of photography that your capturing a moment. I enjoy extremely surreal collagist or others that use shapes and textures to mold into each other, but with my own work I just want to add a little more to everyday situations. For example I did a whole series of birds fly over structures or landscapes, theirs not much to it but the idea of what it would be like to travel the way they do and see the things they see. As far as inspiration it comes from everywhere could be a broken heart or based on a drawing I saw and my interpretation of it...Inspiration comes from everywhere.

AUTRE: Analog or digital?

AUNE: The great question. I learned on film, was kind of the last generation of students to completely learn on film so it will always be a part of me. Also with anything it’s the hands on feeling, its romantic and exciting. Digital however, is great in its own right…the turn around in a work environment is quick but I feel lacks that excitement, also at times everything is realized in post. I like both for different reasons and Ill hold on to film as long as I can but wont be fighting digital either.

AUTRE: Whats next?

AUNE: I just plan to keep creating and keep moving forward. Growth within myself and my work.

See more of Gregory Aune's photography on his website. Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre

Joie de Vivre: An Interview With Photographer Josh Farria

Josh Farria's photograph is a candid diary of his life in San Francisco. His images include a plethora of beautiful women smoking weed, hanging out in laundry mats, eating cupcakes on the toilet, and teasing the camera. There is a certain amount of joie de vivre in Farria's subjects as they interact with their surroundings that range from urban landscapes to intimate interiors. I got a chance to ask Farriah a few questions about his photography, art, and inspirations. Read interview after the jump.

PAS UN AUTRE: Why did you want to become a photographer?

JOSH FARRIA: Im not sure.. I never had any plans on taking photos at all. It wasn't until I moved San Francisco at about 23. I just really fell in love with the medium, I had a few friends that were taking photos and I decided to try it. As time progressed I wanted to learn more about it.. Especially by me being a film shooter, it takes patience and lots of trial and error. Before I started taking photos I would draw portraits. Looking back at my drawings, now I can see why I was so interested in learning photography. It makes lot's of sense.

AUTRE: Can you remember the first photograph you ever took?

FARRIA: Fuck.. I wish.

AUTRE: Who are some of the subjects in your photographs?

FARRIA: Most of the girls in the photographs are my friends. Some are models, and some are not. I like the balance of both.

AUTRE: What is your favorite thing to photograph?

FARRIA: Women and moments.

AUTRE: Who are some of your major inspirations?

FARRIA: As of right now I would have to say Hawthorne Headhunters, Charmaine Olivia, Metronomy, and Darlene Farria my moms.

AUTRE: What goes through your mind when you look through the viewfinder?

FARRIA: A million things! Usually im thinking about how many exposures I have left. That's a probably a boring answer but it's true.

AUTRE: Whats next?

FARRIA: My first book, im aiming to release it before the end of 2012.

Follow Josh Farria on his tumblr diary. Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre. 

Man on Fire: An Interview with Brian Duffy

The end of the 1950s saw a drastic change in fashion photography—a kinetic, freewheeling, rule-breaking “documentary” style pioneered by three unlikely East London working-class “bad boys”—David Bailey, Terence Donovan and Brian Duffy. Perhaps the most technically sophisticated of the three, the inventive and wildly acerbic Duffy initially picked up photography “as an easy way to make money” after seeing a few contact sheets in the office of a fashion magazine he was working for as a freelance illustrator. It turned out that his instincts were correct, for him at least—Duffy soon found himself at the forefront of a rebellious, groundbreaking new photographic sensibility that would document and reinvent the image of 1960s London.  Duffy, Bailey and Donovan, who quickly became notorious throughout London press as “The Terrible Trio” or “The Black Trinity” (the latter nickname bestowed upon them by photographer Norman Parkinson) ushered in the visual spirit of the “Swinging Sixties,” meanwhile completely changing the image of the fashion photographer established by the predominantly upper-class “gentleman” photographers of the 1950s like Parkinson and Cecil Beaton. As Duffy himself once said, “Before 1960, a fashion photographer was tall, thin and camp. But we three are different: short, fat and heterosexual.” The three even inspired Michelangelo Antonioni’s first entirely English-language film, the cult hit Blow-Up, about a jaded young fashion photographer working in mod London. Irreverent, short-tempered and wholly unafraid to take risks, Brian Duffy embodied the playful dynamism and vibrancy that would come to characterize the 1960s, replacing the static, untouchable ambiance of 1950s imagery.

Throughout his incredibly successful career as one of Britain’s reigning photographers, Duffy created revolutionary spreads for Vogue, Elle, Glamour, Esquire, Queen, The Observer, The Times and The Daily Telegraph. He generated some of the most iconic images of the 1960s and 70s—from the album cover of David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane to some of the most renowned images of celebrities like Jean Shrimpton. Grace Coddington, Jane Birkin, Michael Caine, William S. Burroughs, Debbie Harry and others. Within the realm of advertising, the prolific Duffy lent his unique vision to two Pirelli calendars and shot award-winning campaigns for both Benson & Hedges and Smirnoff.

In 1979, Duffy grew tired of the business and decided to give up photography, going out in a characteristic “blaze of glory” as he spontaneously set fire to most of his negatives in the back garden of his London studio. Though a great deal of his images were lost, his son, Chris Duffy, has spent the past five years archiving those that remain—and this arduous process (which remains ongoing!) has culminated thus far in both the publication of a book of Duffy’s images and the openings of several retrospectives around the world. These exhibits showcase, for the first time ever, the oeuvre of Britain’s own enfant terrible: a visionary who created his own unique visual language, changing the face of commercial and fashion photography for good. I was lucky enough to sit down with Chris during the opening of the first-ever stateside Duffy retrospective at Clic Gallery in SoHo for a brief chat about his father’s legendary life, work and the infamous negative-burning incident…

ANNABEL GRAHAM: Your father captured and helped create the image of the “Swinging Sixties.” What about his particular method, style and personality do you think most set him apart from other photographers of the day?

CHRIS DUFFY: Ultimately… and it’s changed today, but I think photographers of the sixties had a lot of power. Clients came to them because they had a particular look and way of doing things. I mean, if you think of Helmut Newton pictures, no one else did that kind of picture, a Guy Bourdain could only be done by Gilles, and that was because photographers did have immense power, they could say how or what they wanted to do, which I don’t think really exists today. Most pictures that I look at, I mean I see hundreds of names all the time, but I couldn’t tell you one photographer from another. It all looks exactly the same. I think in part that has to do with technology, because the digital medium now has changed the game plan. I mean, in this period, in the sixties, all these pictures you look at are a fraction of time on a piece of film. The digital medium, with your recorder there, which is also a camera… if I take a picture of you, first of all, where does it exist? You can’t see it, taste it, smell it, touch it… so, I take a picture of you now, you email it to someone, they change the color of your hair on PhotoShop, they email it to someone else, and they put a background in, and then it comes back to me, where does it exist? There’s no way of knowing what the picture is, because you’ve extended the envelope of believability by digitally compositing elements. Now, traditional mechanical photography, the dynamic it deals with is a metaphysical condition, it’s about a slice of time, a moment in time. And a great picture is not a moment before that or a moment after that, it is that moment… and so it’s a very different, I think you need to differentiate between traditional-style photography and the new digital medium. So, in a roundabout way, in answer to your question about what made Duffy different, ultimately, it was a reflection of his personality. Every photographer infused and had different techniques to get people to react in certain ways or they had affections for certain styles, certain looks with cameras and lenses and techniques… it’s just a reflection of his personality.

GRAHAM: Which was?

DUFFY: Which was, well, he was a natural anarchist… he pushed himself very hard and always tried something new. I think that’s always risky, in a way, it’s much easier to be safe and keep producing the same kind of image, and people like that and you get paid for doing it, but he always wanted to kind of push it as far as he could go. He had a short fuse, he didn’t suffer fools lightly, and he was an incredible intellect; his depth of knowledge on so many subjects, from jazz to food to art to furniture to poetry… So photography was just one part of his makeup, really, I mean it was the medium that he expressed himself in.

GRAHAM: I read that he originally just picked up photography as an easy way to make money.

DUFFY: Well, yeah, originally, he started out, he went to St. Martin’s [School of Art], and he wanted to be a painter. And then what he realized in his class was that there were so many brilliant geniuses, so he went into the dressmaking department. So he had an innate understanding of fashion. Then he started illustrating and got freelance gigs for magazines like Harper’s, and it was when he was in the office of one of the magazines that he saw a set of contact sheets, and he said, “Oh, these all look the same!” and the fashion editor said, “No, no, if you look carefully they’re all different!” And then he realized at that point that that was probably much easier than sitting down drawing things. So he took up photography.

GRAHAM: And he happened to be good at it!

DUFFY: And he happened to be good at it. Well I think actually he would be good at anything he put his mind to.

GRAHAM: Yeah. It seems he was good at a lot of different things.

DUFFY: He was incredibly talented. He then went into film, into commercials, and then when he jumped out of that he’d always had a love of furniture and he was very good with his hands, at making things, he had an amazing workshop at the back of his studio, and he went into furniture restoration. I think by ’79, after working from the late fifties, he saw the writing on the wall, or what was going to happen with photography, and its demise.

GRAHAM: That was actually one of my next questions. What do you think sparked his ultimate disenchantment with the world of fashion and photography, and the burning of most of his negatives in 1979?

DUFFY: Well, I think that after being in the business that long, he felt that he wanted to go out while he was still at the top, and not just water down, you know, become a pale imitation of what he’d done before. I think he’d just had enough.

GRAHAM: He went out with a bang.

DUFFY: He did. I mean, you know, he actually burned a lot of his… well, we’re not really sure how much he burned, but there are big gaps in the archive where you look through and for example you get Job #900 and the next job will be #1008 or something, you know, there’s a big chunk missing. He just started arbitrarily burning things in the back garden on the bum fire to get rid of them. Luckily, he got stopped by the local council… we’ve got a lot of stuff, but I still keep finding things. There are archives around the world that have got pictures that I’m still uncovering. I mean, he was working every day for 25, 30 years. I worked for him from ’73 to ’79 and we just worked all the time, just continually. Nonstop.

GRAHAM: What was the experience of working for him like?

DUFFY: Well, you couldn’t have had a better apprenticeship or grounding. He was the ultimate craftsman. It was demanding, but in the end, a privileged position to be in… to fly around the world and work with a top photographer and meet incredible people and learn so much, really.

GRAHAM: This is the first-ever U.S. exhibition of Duffy’s work, right?

DUFFY: That’s correct. We had a small David Bowie exhibit last year, but this is the first solo retrospective.

GRAHAM: Now that you’ve been archiving his work since 2007, are there plans for more exhibitions in the U.S. and worldwide?

DUFFY: Well, we just got approached by a gallery in San Francisco, it’s the Modern Book Gallery, I think? So we’ll see how it goes. This year we’ve had… Gosh, I think this is about our eighth exhibition already this year. We started out at the Alinari National Photo Museum in Florence, and that’s been a major success, they extended it twice… We are in Monash Art Gallery in Melbourne, we just had the original Aladdin Sane dye transfer at the Victoria & Albert in London, we’ve got this show, we’ve got one in LA, and then we’ve got plans for Spain and Germany at the end of the year. We’ve got another UK exhibition at the Montpelier Gallery in Cheltenham at the end of the year, so it’s pretty full.

GRAHAM: Will those exhibitions show these same photographs?

DUFFY: Well, in the end, it’s up to the gallery, what they think works. For me, all of the pictures work in whatever way you want to put them together

GRAHAM: Do you have a favorite of your father’s photographs?

DUFFY: Well, there are so many pictures that I like… but one of my favorites is this portrait of William Burroughs over there, taken in 1960, with the soft machine and the typewriter, which actually William Burroughs offered to my dad for 15 francs… which he said he bought, but I haven’t found it yet. If I do, that will be an amazing feat… But he photographed him again in 1974 in London, and the portrait was Burroughs holding that picture, and it was shot for Rolling Stone, but he cut Burroughs’ head off. It’s just his body holding the picture of himself taken in 1960. It’s in the book. That’s one of my favorite pictures, because it’s just so anarchic. To take a portrait of someone, and cut their head off… I mean, if I told you I was going to take a portrait of you and cut your head off, you’d say I was mad.

Text by Annabel Graham for Pas Un Autre

Duffy: A Retrospective of Photographs by Brian Duffyis on view until June 3, 2012 at Clic Gallery, 255 Centre Street, New York.

Strange Interiors: An Interview with Katrina Spectre

Twenty year old Katrina Spectre, from Germany, is one of those rare photographers who can capture life as if a dream. Under the moniker of Citlalicue, who is the Aztec goddess who created the stars, Spectre captures a child like world full of impenetrable psychedelic visions replete with stuffed bears, masks and strange interiors. See more photos and read the following interview after the jump.

PAS UN AUTRE: How long have you been taking photographs and what inspired you to start?

KATRINA SPECTRE: I've been taking photographs for about 5 years, but during the last few months its been very intensive. My hometown with its dream places inspired me [to start taking photographs].

AUTRE: Can you remember the first image you ever took?

SPECTRE: I remember a photoshoot at about age 14. I went to the woods with a very big plush bear by my side.

AUTRE: Your photographs have a very distinct would you describe your particular style?

SPECTRE: Full of dreams and emotions. In every picture should reside a little fantastic world.

AUTRE: Are there any artists, not only photographers, who have inspired you?

SPECTRE: I love Cocorosie and Lord Dunsany. Films like the Secret garden or Princess Mononoke. There is a lot that inspires me subconsciously.

AUTRE: Your photography name is Citlalicue - what or who is Citlalicue?

SPECTRE: Citlalicue is the goddess of the milky way, Creator of the stars, regent of the thirteenth hour of the day. I am one of her thousands lost children, who are waifs in this world.

See more of Katrina Spectre photography on her website. Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre. 

Sex, Drugs, & Techno: An Interview with Camilla Storgaard

Danish born, Berlin based photographer Camilla Storgaard is a documentarian of her own life. Painted by desire and longing, her photographs chant the elegy of abandon and uninhibited in beautiful, seismic bursts of human expression. Erotic, but not blatant, her photographs are never sexual or exploitative, but examine sexuality using aesthetic meaningful contradictions. I had happened to come across her photography and was curious to learn more. 

PAS UN AUTRE: What inspired you to start taking photographs?

CAMILLA STORGAARD: I don't know if I can say that any specific thing inspired me to start photographing. I think like all artist I always had a need to express myself and my feelings and experimented with many medias as painting, poetry and music in my teenage years. But photography was the media that gave me butterflies in my stomach, so I continued in that direction.

AUTRE: Can you remember the first image you ever took?

STORGAARD: I don't remember the first image I took because I was really young when I started shooting cheap disposable cameras. But I remember the first time I took a picture and realized it looked better on my camera than in real life. It was on a vacation with my family in Chicago when I was 16 years old. I just got my first digital camera that year and felt so free to be able to shoot wildly hanging out of the window of the car while driving into the city. That day I took a photo at the Willis Tower from the ground. The sun was sharp and I could hardly see the screen on my camera but when I covered it with my hand I saw how amazing the light was working with the glass-covered building I got this amazing feeling in my stomach that I never wanna let go off.

AUTRE: How do you set up a shot? What are some of the thought processes?

STORGAARD: After moving to Berlin I only shoot models. It started when I for the first time had the courage to ask a friend of mine if I could do some nude photos of her and she said yes. After that nudity became a main part of my work. I almost only shoot myself, my friends or people I meet through my friends at parties or other random places. If I have a friend or see a face I find interesting I just ask them. I always have an idea of an expression and the props I wanna use to get this expression out. I welcome the models to be freestyle but also model them a lot on the shoots, which I usually do in my attic. Using nudity in my work makes it really important to me to get the right expression. I wanna show sex, beauty and desire without creating anything that comes close to pornography. So I always have a main idea but the final expression comes from both parts. But when this is said my style also slowly changes all the time and I have lately started to put more responsibility on the models. To let them inspire me with their personalities, looks and own props and to have the shoots in their own homes.

AUTRE: How does living in Berlin influence your work?

STORGAARD: Living in Berlin has everything to do with my work today. My whole style is balanced around the tense sexual energy this city possess. Moving here I had so many inputs all at once I needed to process them in some way. Berlin is a wonderful little wasteland of sex, drugs and techno and to follow the contours of my friends slightly messy existences has become the biggest influence in my work. Also when I moved here I started working as the assistant of the Danish/Icelandic artist "Olafur Eliasson". Being surrounded by art every day was something completely new to me and made me notice all the little details.

AUTRE: Major inspirations?

STORGAARD: My major inspiration is the body itself and the way it expresses itself.

AUTRE: Whats next?

STORGAARD:  I never know whats next and I like that. When I get a chance, I jump it and it takes me new places. But I do consider to start studying soon. I put all my energy and love in my photography but in the world we live in today it's sometimes necessary to have a degree or diploma to get the good paid jobs. And I will probably learn a lot of new things about photography a well.

See more of Camilla Storgaard's photography at her website. Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre.

Ciao LA: An Interview with Brandy Eve Allen

Brandy Eve Allen's Ciao LA is an amazing, intense photographic diary of her life during a self imposed expatriation in Italy. At the age of 21, tired of her life Los Angeles, Allen got on a plane bound for Torino, Italy (a place she'd never been before) and created a life for herself - photographing and documenting all along the way. At one point, as she describes in the below interview, Allen was is Paris and got a chance to photograph the poster for legendary director Bernardo Bertolucci's 2003 film The Dreamers starring Michael Pitt.  When she was 27 Allen moved back to LA and pieced everything together to create Ciao LA which she describes as “a memoir of a young girl on a journey through language, love, culture, art and the ways it fucks with the heart.” Allen's photographs in Ciao LA are raw and wrought with paroxysms of emotional ardor that are touching reminders of both life's beauty and fragility. Right now Allen is trying to get Ciao LA published and is having a solo show in Torino, Italy - she is also "trying to get the fuck out of LA again."

PAS UN AUTRE: You shot the poster for the great Italian director Berolucci's Dreamers - can you talk a little bit about that?

BRANDY EVE ALLEN: I'm was living in Italy and at 22 years old traveled to Paris and walked into the world of The Dreamers to photograph the actors for the poster. They were shooting the film at the time so I was fortunate to be on set and see how Bernardo Bertolucci creates an atmosphere. It fed me with inspiration and each actor brought their own essence for me to capture uninhibited. They're vulnerability made it that much easier for me to work with. Before beginning to photograph Michael Pitt, I felt like I needed to earn his trust and was up to the task. In doing so, I borrowed his guitar and started playing a little Pixies song I knew, from there he gave himself freely. Bernardo is so hyper aware of the youth around him and he engages you with only a glance. He did just that as I was sitting down, rolling a cigarette, he looks at me with an expression as if he knows, like I'm rolling a joint or something, but not this time, it was just tobacco. I remember laying on the bed to show each actor how to position they're bodies until we had this beautiful overlapping of figures and this ended up being the shot they chose for the poster. There was another photograph that they almost used that was my favorite which was taken really spontaneously when we were just hanging out between shots. (I attached that photo to this email)

AUTRE: You were in Italy for quite sometime and the moved back to LA - those experiences were a big influence for your new book - can you talk a little about Ciao LA?

ALLEN: CIAO L.A. is a photographic memoir of the three years I spent living in Italy and how it affected me both as a young woman and as an artist. I came to live in Italy after spending some years in LA, a city that I've always battled with, in search of something that would remind me of why I'm here on this earth. The beauty, the culture, the incredible people I came to know and love... and hate, how each of those experiences and the shit going on in my mind gave me so much to put down on paper and in a photograph. Even in a foreign country I could only get away for so long and then I ended up right back with myself. It not only was an honest account of my relationships during that time but also a dialogue about making art and trying to put it out there, the rejection, the recognition, the moments of pure satisfaction from creating something true and failing to do so. The coming of age challenges faced by young women in their late teens and twenties is relatively unexplored territory in modern literature, and I'm hoping to help fill that void with CIAO LA.

AUTRE: What specifically brought you to photography? Can you remember the first image you ever took? Major inspirations?

ALLEN: I've always been creative whether it was with music, painting, dance, video but it wasn't until I was 18 that I started to take photography seriously. I remember the exact time it really went down, my friend and muse, Samantha asked me to take some shots of her for a portfolio and I borrowed my friend's nikon and we took a couple rolls. I brought the film to Michel Karmen, a master printer and friend of mine who worked at A&I to develop the film. Once seeing the images, he encouraged me to continue and began letting me borrow books of great photographers to learn and be inspired by. Photographers such as Francesca Woodman, Sally Mann, Nan Goldin and Keith Carter. I felt like shooting what I knew best was a natural place to begin and turned the camera inside. I didn't want to show what things looked like, I wanted to show what they felt like. Just like the experiences are deep for me which each image, so is the process, so I use film. I need to use my hands and really get dirty with it, I like chemicals, I like playing with light and science. Photography is really intuitive for me.

AUTRE: Whats next?

ALLEN: Getting the fuck out of LA again....But seriously – I'm hoping to get CIAO LA published and about to have a solo show in Venice, Italy of my recent infrared series that I've been working on for the past couple years. Inspiration is never short and I'm continuing to finish and begin different photo projects that I'm really excited about. I'll be photographing at the end of the month to finish this one series called SONG OF SONGS, where I photograph nude women in different positions and then draw in what they're wearing and the different scenarios around them with pencil. A sample from that series was just featured in a show at Kana Manglapus Gallery in Venice, CA. But most importantly, what's next is me just trying to stay focused on what matters and not let my head get caught up in the bullshit.

See more from CIAO LA and check out more photography on Brandy Eve Allen's website. Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre. 

Life On Film: An Interview with Iva Cukic

It would be easy to mistake Iva Cukic's photography for film-stills.  Between posed subject portraiture that contains a strange, seductive quality and landscapes that sometimes stretch on verdantly into snowcapped mountains and meadows populated by flocks of sheep, you'll realize that Cukic's photography is actually a film about her life.   Cukic, who is based in Belgrade, Serbia, is also an architect and designer, and fell into photography almost serendipitously. Pas Un Autre caught up with Cukic to ask her a few questions about her photography and inspirations. 

PAS UN AUTRE: How has Belgrade inspired your work?

IVA CUKIC: Belgrade is special city. It has some unique energy. I love its cityscape, people I meet or already know, things I do, etc. But it’s not only Belgrade that inspires me. It can be any ambient or any person anywhere.

AUTRE: How would you describe the images you take?

CUKIC: Ordinary things that make my everyday life. My friends, my family, time we spend together or places I visit; I love to catch those moments. It is a kind of my visual diary. What brought you to photography? Photography was always magical to me. I remember few years ago, when my uncle forgot his Canon A-1 camera at my place, I took it and went outside to make some photos. I was playing with the settings, and even though I got most of the photos overexposed, I was so thrilled! That was how everything began.

AUTRE: Can you remember the first image you ever took?

CUKIC: Yes, me with a phantom mask. It was the first photo I took with analog camera. Yet not the first ever in my entire life, that one I cannot remember.

AUTRE: What are some some of your thoughts as you look through the viewfinder?

CUKIC: I’m looking for an intimate moment; either I’m taking photos of people, or just of some indoor or outdoor space. When I want to take a photo I wait for a while so I could capture the instant when everything gets spontaneous and more natural. For instance, when you ask someone to take a photo of him, usually he/she makes a pose, but if you wait enough you can catch more natural expression.

AUTRE: Major inspirations?

CUKIC: Few days ago I watched movie Le Havre directed by Aki Kaurismäki and I’m still under the impression of its esthetics. Besides that, I would point out Michel Gondry, Stanley Kubrick, Nan Goldin, Lee Friedlander, Lukasz Wierzbowski.

AUTRE: Whats next?

CUKIC: Titled photos. That’s what I’m working on right now. Something like movie frames.

See more of Iva Cukic's photographs on her flickr. Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre. 

Good Times: The Photography of Ben Pobjoy

You  could say that the photographer Henri Cartier Bresson was a punk, because he didn't give a fuck.  The punk ethos is all about not giving a fuck. Its not all about breaking the law per se, and its not all about not giving a fuck, but its the notion of changing the order of things. Its about upholding the sanctity of the holy shades of grey. Henri Cartier Bresson was a punk, because he saw the world in a passionately different way. His photographs are vibrant, stark, and violent depictions of his time told from a voice of artistic and spiritual dissension. If you look up the word punk in the dictionary you'll find a number of definitions: prostitute, novice, beginner, young man, petty gangster, hoodlum, ruffian and so on. A punk is a soul on the edge – on the precipice of an infinite, metaphysical abyss. Ben Pobjoy could be any of those things or none of those things, but the ethos of punk is very much alive in his photography. Pobjoy, a photographer from Montreal, is a fervent documentarian of the human experience and his images are an attestation to his seemingly intense curiosity.  From his portfolio of photographic essays, a zine, called The Tourist, the current issue of which featuring over 40 pages of exclusive photographs of Justin Bieber, and a digital adaptation, called The War of Spoils, of a journal kept from his raucous days in a band which includes polaroids of drug induced debauchery, destroyed hotel rooms, and lots of nudity – it is plainly clear that Pobjoy is practicing dissent on the same precipice.  His photographs tell the common story of our downfall, our vulnerability, our vice, and our eventual hope with the piercing and blinding vision of some kind of silver lining. But most of all – like all prophecies of the great punks before us – Pobjoy's photographs are a telling reminder of the true circumference of the iceberg that will destroy us all. Read interview and see more photos after the jump.

Can you remember the first image you ever took?  Truthfully, I can't remember the first image I ever took- only because I grew up in a home where my Father practiced photography as a hobby so there were always 35mm SLRs sitting around the house. While I don't remember the first image I ever took, I do fondly remember being real young- like being 5 years old- and going on walks in a local marsh with my Father and him occasionally passing his camera to me to let me fire off a few frames. Despite being real young, I was fascinated- that with a camera- you could venture off into the world and document it however you wanted to.

Your style seems much more photo-documentary than tableau vivant or studio, what do you think led you to to a more candid type of photography? When my Father was in his early 20s he was a paratrooper in Great Britain's Royal Air Force. He served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles and carried a SLR without permission. When he was patrolling- and he wasn't under attack- he would photograph the patrols, his peers, arms dumps, arrests and beyond. While he never boasted about the images he shot (he was actually very private about them), they were in an envelope in our home, and I'd look through them every now and then when I was a kid. I liked that that they were filmic, had a narrative and that I could ask him about the people, places and things within the images. While I was too young to grasp what I was looking at, I was obviously looking at documentary photography and it made a deep impression on me. Combined with my Father's subscriptions to National Geographic and Life, I just grew up loosing myself in documentary photography and photo essays. I just loved how transportive they were in that they could take me to worlds beyond my immediate world.

A few years later, my Mum worked as a set stylist in a production house where they created 'sets' for magazine shoots. Every now and then she'd bring me along and I'd observe the whole process of sets being styled, lighting systems being set up and models being directed then photographed. I remember thinking how orchestrated it was, and basically well, how phoney it was. It was such a departure from documentary photography which was so much more off-the-cuff and natural.

Hilariously, I started doing 'hand modeling' at the production house where I would be photographed holding game pieces for board game packaging. I remember being like 9 years old and having to hold a chess piece above a board for like 30 minutes and my arm started to tire and the photographer kept barking at me to keep my hand raised and steady. It was so unenjoyable and artificial that that sort of 'production-heavy' photography made such a poor impression on me- something I've never been able to get over.

Who are some of your biggest inspirations or influences? When I was a young teen, I got into punk and loved zines like HeartattaCk and Maximumrocknroll because they documented the scene I was a part of. The energy inherent within the live music photography intrigued me so I really liked the work of Glen E. Friedman, Gordon Ball and Ryan Russell. However, it didn't really satisfy my appreciation for visual storytelling as most of the images were- despite being fabulous- just these 'one off' live images or portraits, and I didn't have much of a personal interest in shooting music photography. I then started to get into the work of documentary photographers like Robert Frank, Martin Parr, James Nachtwey and all the Magnum photographers. Thereafter, my appreciation widened to encompass fine art photographers like Nan Goldin, Larry Clark and others who utilized reality as the basis within their works.

However, my appreciation these days has widened to encompass many fashion photographers since I was gifted with a medium format camera last year, and began to experiment with studio photography (just to expand my skills). Because of this, I started to look at the work of Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, David Bailey and others of that ilk in a whole different light. In one way or another, I've cherry picked something from all of the above. Basically, I aspire to shoot documentary photographs that hopefully possess a degree of style that is commonly associated with fashion photography. I just like honest images that are stylized, and by that I mean possess a 'look' that people would can associate with the photographer that shot them.

You are just about to release the second issue of your zine called The Tourist which features exclusive photos of Justin Bieber. It isn't so much about Justin Beiber as it is a treatise on fandom and child fame, right? Can you tell me how The Tourist zine came about and shed a little more light on the current issue? By day, I'm a Creative Director at a creative services company I co-founded with my best friend Shawn Butchart who is also a Creative Director. We have a sister office in New York City that is run by Jamie-James Medina who is himself a Creative Director, Photographer and a Director. Medina is a photographer for The Observer in the UK and often- typically over late night dinners after working on projects together- we'd discuss photography. He'd often speak about the state of photography, and specifically how long form photo essays were increasingly being given less real-estate in print publications due to the rise of the internet and the fall of print publications. Unfortunately, photo essays mostly now exist as slide shows online and it's just such a terrible, cluttered format and experience (i.e. you're trying to look at an essay and it's surrounded by blinking ad banners or intrusive ad vokens). So, Medina was the real impetus behind launching the Tourist as a collaborative interoffice publishing project where we'd essentially put one photographer on the road with one musical act and have the work contextualized by an intro by a cultural luminary. While we could've released each issue as a coffee table book- as the content is of that quality- we opted to release it in a zine format so it would be affordable to everyone and just really unique overall.

The Teen Issue - which features images of Justin Bieber on tour taken by Alex Sturrock - is a really different look at Bieber. Sturrock's images are very frank - capturing things as they are. That's not to say that the images are unflattering- because they definitely aren't- it's just that they show how intense Bieber's touring life is, and how fanatic his fans are. While the issue revolves around Bieber- to me- it's more about the relationship between child stardom and the general public's intense mania of, and fascination with, celebrity.

War of the Spoils is a really interesting site. What was the impetus behind it? Last year I turned 30 and randomly revisited all these journals I maintained in my teenage years where I'd shoot a polaroid, write an anecdote and glue it into a book. Between August 1998 and January 2007 I ended up creating 9 volumes of the journals that housed over 2000 polaroids. For years I ignored them- they were just so stupid in terms of the images and the anecdotes- and I was kind of embarrassed by them. However, looking at them as an adult I realized that the journals are unique documentation of youth and all the insanity and chaos that goes with it. I decided to start a blog called War of Spoils and post a polaroid along with its corresponding anecdote each day- mainly as a way to share the old photos with friends that I grew up with (but who are now strewn all over the world). However, the reaction has been really crazy- people beyond my small group of friends have gotten a real kick out of War of Spoils and publications are really interested in writing about the blog. In a universal way, I guess we all do stupid stuff as kids and people seem to really relate to the content.

You seem to be using the internet to your fullest artistic advantage in order to get your work out there.  What are some of your thoughts on art, more specifically photography, in the digital age?  I think the internet can be a fantastic platform for sharing work and accessing an audience that you could never reach with an editorial in a regional publication or with an art exhibition that takes place in a specific city during a defined time frame. The internet is basically this living, breathing repository of content that is accessible 24/7 wherever an internet connection exists anywhere in the world, and I find that really fascinating. If you're a photographer, why wouldn't you take advantage of it? I just think that the internet is an incredibly powerful tool for enlarging your audience, and this audience- at least in my experience- is loyal and takes interest in my other projects so it increases my value to publishers and curators so it's basically a win-win situation for everyone. I get to make more work, my audience gets to see more of my work and publishers and curators get to make increased money off of my work, and the internet is basically the 'driver' of this entire content 'food chain' scenario.

What's next? I'm currently at work on both The Apostate and Father, Son and the Holy Ghost which are two, multi-year spanning documentary photo essays. However- and this if the first time I've mentioned it publicly- but I'm also working on a new, currently untitled exhibition slated for 2013 that is a collaboration with artist and sign painterDave Arnold. Working under the alias Black Lung, Arnold and I are collaborating on a new body of work where I'm shooting high end, B&W medium format portraits of men and women in states of undress and Arnold is painting over the 35" x 35" prints. The 'process concept' is that I typically approach photography in a really raw, unplanned way whereas Arnold approaches his painting in a very planned, orderly way. For this collaborative project, we're both using our traditional tools (I'm working with a camera and Arnold is working with paint) but we're swapping approaches- as in I'm shooting fine, well-lit fashion influenced portraits and Arnold will be painting on them with mixed media in a very raw way. It's in its early phase right now but the initial works are pretty outrageous in that they're this highly visual bombardment. Dave Arnold and I are really excited about the new body of work, and we cannot wait to share it with the world as it's vastly different yet totally connected to the work we've previously made.

Visit Ben Pobjoy's portfolio, stay up to date with War of the Spoils, and stay tuned The Tourist zine.


Les Testaments Trahis: An Interview with Gian Cruz

Gian Cruz is an up and coming photographer from Manila, Philippines who is also studying art theory and criticism at university.  With hints of Daido Moriyama, Cruz's photography are a quotidian, photographic diary  of his life. Razor sharp grainy black & white images capture his subject often with their heads, arms, legs, face cut out from the photograph entirely.  Gian Cruz is definitely a photographer to keep an eye on.  See interview after the jump. 

PAS UN AUTRE: What brought you to photography?

GIAN CRUZ: There are a lot of things that brought me to photography, but the two major motivations would be my fascination with cinema and the inherent paradox with taking photographs which I got from reading [Milan] Kundera. Being a cinéphile led me towards this desire to render my quotidien into cinematic images or to fashion photos that I take as if they are from some film or collectively as if they are film stills. My aesthetic was much inspired by the films I’ve loved from childhood which were Wong-Kar Wai films and a lot of films from the Nouvelle Vague cinéastes.

As for the paradox that charmed me with photography, it’s something lifted from the pages of Milan Kundera’s Les Testaments Trahis that has gone to a state of hyperawareness each time I take photographs. He said something about remembrance as to not being the opposite of forgetting but rather a form of it. Ever since, I have read that, it hasn’t failed to escape my mind. As memory is often seen through images, I find photography as a means of forgetting or forging elsewheres. For instance, you could be having a difficult time in your life yet on the surface these photos look like images of utmost sophistication and as these images further themselves into reproducibility, it turns things into something else. In a lot of the things that I do, I often like to see it in this love/hate relationship, or in this ironic manner because I believe it’s something that makes your images richer perhaps with meaning or some other unspoken aspect that your spectator could fathom from them.

AUTRE: Can you remember the first image you ever took?

CRUZ: I can vaguely remember the first image I ever took. When I started taking photos, I wasn’t really too big on the quality of my images but things started to change when I started to find my photographs as a crucial means of self-expression and of exploring my identity. Probably, maturity and the things I exposed myself to over the years- films, books, etc. paved way to take photography more seriously.

AUTRE: How does living in the Philippines inspire your work?

CRUZ: Living in the Philippines present itself as some form of paradox. I often come up with this love/hate discourse about my country. Quite specifically, it’s more about Manila, the city I live in. At times, my images could be some declaration of love for Manila and the things I love about it. On other occasions, it is this profound accumulation of anguish of being in it and this difficulty of living in a city wherein you feel you’re always underrated because the things you love do not fall into the aesthetic canon of the public here. And in this sort of love/hate relationship, I find it enriching my creative process. I think if it was all about loving something, it would turn out to be a dead-end because there wouldn’t be a sense of self-reflexivity working its way. Irony is crucial these days or perhaps humourising yourself finds itself more entertaining.

AUTRE: Who are some of your biggest influences?

CRUZ: Well, in the domain of photography my biggest influences include Nan Goldin, Jeurgen Teller, Robert Doisneau, Richard Avedon, Peter Lindbergh, Helmut Newton, Evelyn Jane Atwood, Sally Mann, Inez & Vinoodh, Robert Mapplethorpe, Karim Sadli, Sofia Sanchez et Mauro Mongiello, to name a few. And quite recently, I’ve also developed a deep admiration for the photography of Sunny Suits because of the palpable intimacy resting on her images.

Photographic references aren’t necessarily an impulse for taking photographs chez moi. Other domains like art, music, dance, literature, and cinema often inspire me as well. A few names I find indispensable and always inspiring me would be: Eric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol, Georges Bataille, Patti Smith, Bertrand Bonello, Serge Gainsbourg, Paul Eluard, Wislawa Szymborska, Alain Resnais, Johannes Brahms, Wong Kar Wai, Jean-Luc Godard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Dries Van Noten, Melvil Poupaud, Jean-Pierre Melville, Yves Saint Laurent, Jacques Demy, Maria Callas, Grégoire Chamayou, Nicolas Bourriaud, Pina Bausch, Mehdi Belhaj-Kacem, Elizabeth Peyton, Michel Maffesoli, Jean Baudrillard, Susan Sontag, Merce Cunningham, Joris-Karl Huysmans, Marguerite Yourcenar, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, J.M. Coetzee, Marguerite Duras, Marcel Proust, Walter Benjamin, Alain Badiou.

AUTRE: What do you think about when you look through the viewfinder?

I often am intuitive when I take photos. I can easily get lost in the moment and get into this frenzy of taking one image after another. At times, it could also be this subject gesturing you towards these particular angles I’d find aesthetically pleasing. There’s really no singular thought that comes into my mind each time I look through the viewfinder, it is dependent on my mood, the subject, what’s currently going on.

You can follow Gian Cruz's blog here.  Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre. 

AUTRE: Who are some of your favorite subjects to photograph?

CRUZ: My friends are often my favourite subjects to photograph. I like taking images of people I am in close terms with because you’d have a way of fashioning how the images would turn out to be that speaks of your relationship with them. That in itself already says a lot of things or would have the potential of taking your photos to some profound elsewhere. It’s like taking pride of being able to see things the way only you would. Often times, my bestfriend Mark Arvin ends up in front my lens and he humorously declares himself as my official muse. Other than my friends, I like taking photos of objects that create narratives of something in lieu of the person. I’m quite the romantic often taking interest in something like a photo of my belongings like the books I’m reading (I seem to even find them more charming when they’ve gained creases or the usual wearing out because I bring them along with me a lot) or the albums I’m listening to, a well worn article of clothing and many other possible objects as being able to tell more about yourself yet not giving everything away in a photograph.

AUTRE: Whats next?

CRUZ: By now, I ought to finish my postgraduate thesis on how death is being represented in contemporary Philippine art, as I am currently an Art Theory and Criticism major at the University of the Philippines-Diliman. Other than that, I ought to pursue photography or fine arts overseas. Perhaps if opportunities come into place an institution in Paris, New York or London or elsewhere would do me good. I like the idea of moving to a new city, which would enable me to grow as an artist. Moreover, there is also this growing concern to find platforms on which to exhibit my photographs, as I’d like to share them to a bigger audience. And if there is some more time, I’d probably be painting self-portraits although a bigger dream project would be to extend my photography into a full-blown film since cinema has always been something I’m passionate about.