Archive for February, 2011
It has been some time since my trip to Appalachia, but I have always appreciated how it showed me an unseen glimpse of American life. An interview with Paul Hagey of Streetwater, an exploratory crew of photojournalists who travel to exotic locations to capture amazing images, helped me revisit Appalachia and reflect on my interaction with a particular warm family. This pair of father and daughter taught me to never judge a book by its cover. Looking at the photograph again after some time, I can’t help but feel a little pride as an artist and a photographer. Because I tried to do them justice through my lens – and the entire experience taught me a little bit more about the world, the U.S. and more importantly, myself.
Read the full interview at Streetwater. The full text is also included below.
Streetwater interview with me on Jan. 28, 2011 What were the circumstances of that photograph?
I had done a lot of traveling and I felt like I had examined a myriad of countries and cultures, but I hadn’t really explored the U.S. What intrigued me about Appalachia is it feels so different, but at the same time, it’s in our country. I wanted to document an unseen glimpse of American life, and specifically, the struggle and hardship of the Appalachians. I was fortunate enough to receive a Julia Dean scholarship, which gave me the opportunity to explore this part of the United States through photography.
How’d you meet the father and daughter?When I got to Appalachia, I rented a beat-up Subaru and started exploring without much of a plan. The house was so eclectic and unique that I told myself, ‘I have to go in there and meet these people.’ So I got out of my car, walked up to the front porch and knocked on the door. I’m so grateful that the father and his daughter trusted me enough to let me into the house and photograph them. When I was leaving, the daughter told me, “I want you to have my stuffed animal.” It wasn’t like she had a lot, so I was really thankful for the gesture. The house itself was a physical display of their hardship.
Any cool aspects of the scene or experience?What really interested me about Appalachia were the opportunities for capturing the fullness of each character. There has been intense media obsession over Appalachia and the people here were not always portrayed in a positive light. So it was particularly challenging to get them to warm up and trust me to do them justice. Naturally, as they have been depicted as outcasts or as different from mainstream America, they were a little skeptical. However, we got to talking and I found that they were just genuine, normal folks who are trying to get by with everyday life — struggles, problems, happiness, boredom — just like the rest of us. And they were so nice and warm to me when they saw I was genuinely interested! As an artist, I learned how important intention was because you can’t really get anything authentic if your subject doesn’t trust you. You have to be culturally sensitive and try to break down those trust barriers.
Anything else you care to add…Don’t judge a book by its cover! Most of the shots I’ve loved and treasured have started with an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach, like before I walked up to the door of the Appalachian house. It was uncomfortable. When you are in the vicinity of the house, you can be totally overwhelmed by the crowdedness of the place. There were farm animals everywhere, dogs, ‘Beware’ ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs, and plus, the imposing natural surroundings — all of a sudden, you are smothered under a heap of things. Yet, when I sat down and talked to these people, I started to relax as they were so kind and warm even though I’m an outsider; the daughter even gave me her only stuffed toy. Keep pushing your limits and get out of your comfort zone. It definitely broadened my point of view and as an artist, that’s how I improve and keep learning about the world.
Oh. My. God.
I don’t usually blush like a teenage girl. However, when you’ve been selected by a prestigious international brand to be in a short film alongside icons such as David Lynch, I think you are allowed to feel a little light-headed.
As part of its soon-to-be-released Exhibition Canvas Satin, Epson asked me to talk about my wedding photography and my relationship with its high-quality, premium canvas. The only wedding photographer worldwide to be featured, I was so honored at the recognition of my art and of Catherine Hall Studios.
And yes, I’m beyond thrilled at being showcased with famous artists and photographers, such as Lynch – epic director of Mulholland Drive and The Elephant Man – Greg Gorman, Art Wolfe and Vincent Versace. This is a great milestone for me as a photographer as well as for my San Francisco studio. I am lost for words.
Epson invited us to share our personal experiences with its signature-worthy papers, and everyone had nothing but wonderful praises for the brand that has consistently been a leader in the digital printing world.
Lynch: “The feel of this paper is incredible and the image that pops off is kind of a dream.”
Wolfe: “The overall quality and surface makes many of my prints feel more like paintings.”
In the film, I talked specifically about the Exhibition Canvas Satin, which is built on a polyester and cotton blend that is specially coated to produce vibrant colors as well as rich, deep blacks and tonal gradations. Easily stretched and coated to help achieve the best combination of image quality and archival display life, the heavy 21-mm canvases helped me produce finishing prints that captured the nuances of colors and gradations. This is so important for rendering the full character of my subject.
Epson will release the film very soon! I’m curious to see what you think about me all dolled up ;) Thanks, Dano Steinhardt of Epson for arranging this, and videographer Marc Vanocur and my hair/make-up stylist Armando Sarabia for making me look so good!
You might like to read a related post here.
Women of the 40s – with their picture-perfect luscious curls, blood red lips, porcelain complexion – always represented to me the dawning of the strong, independent female. Despite their stark silhouettes, these women embodied the feminine, bringing the sexy to boxy, shoulder-padded jackets and knee-length skirts. They also inspired iconic starlets, such as Bettie Page or Dita Von Teese.
Inspired by high-society women during World War II, I recently completed a passion project with a talented Bay Area crew who volunteered services on hair, make-up, wardrobe, styling and art direction. Thanks to the collective effort, we recreated a series of images reminiscent of the 40s. I promise to post the images soon and I’m excited for you to tell me what you think!
Read the rest of this entry »