Interview from Visual Curiosity
Visual Curiosity (VC) – How did you start up with photography and what finally made you decide to pursue this medium as a career? Looks like you’ve known what you would be doing straight from the get-go, very lucky of you.
Karen Asher (KA) – As a teenager I discovered Diane Arbus and Nan Goldin and was totally awe struck. I’ve always loved the idea of photography but didn’t get things sorted out until I went through the Fine Arts program at university. To tell you the truth it was a bit of a bumpy ride, as I was initially making these cool, vacant, stylized shots that I wasn’t very passionate about. In 2007 I came back to photography after a six-year absence and had a much stronger vision about the work I wanted to create. I think once you have faith in yourself and commit to your art practice, it just becomes a part of your daily life.
VC – Your work seems very personal/intimate, a reflection of your experiences. With that in mind what draws you to your subjects and what are you trying to convey with their portrait?
KA – I’m definitely drawn to larger than life characters, strong personalities, and unique off-kilter traits, but I look for the quiet in-between moments and subtleties to counterbalance the madness. There’s no doubt that I’m totally fascinated with people and just so curious by pretty much everyone around me. Essentially I’m trying to capture an everyday moment in an intriguing way. Through photography, even the most mundane moments can become surreal and otherworldly. It’s like magic!
VC – How would you describe your style, work or approach and how has it evolved? Which direction do you see your work going?
KA – I combine street photography with non-traditional portraiture. I split my time between wandering the streets aimlessly looking for intriguing subjects to capture and setting up planned photo shoots. I like the awkward tension of quickly photographing strangers I come across, but there is also tension that manifests when I spend hours upon hours shooting somebody I know. I’ll continue working in both manners, maybe experimenting more with different lighting techniques and print sizes. I’d like to go really really big.
VC – Based on your CV you’ve been quite the busy photographer, and you’ve been acknowledged by your peers and fellow artists. What’s in store for you next? (Future projects, exhibitions, travels etc)
KA – First off, it’s really fantastic to have the support of your peers. It definitely motivates me to keep trucking along. Right now I’m just taking a lot of photos to add to my body of work. One of these days I’d love to go off to do a residency or travel to work on a site-specific project. Upcoming events include a solo show at Truck in Calgary, a group show to coincide with the Gimli Film Festival, and a feature in a book to be published in Beijing.
VC – I love film, pressing the shutter and winding the film. Nothing beats it…so for you Karen film or digital?
KA – Oh dear…ok, while I absolutely adore film, and have spent the past many years utterly devoted to my Mamiya C330 medium format analog camera, I have been finding it more and more difficult to access the necessary supplies. Out of frustration, I recently purchased my first fancy digital SLR and, to my surprise, it does have some benefits. I think film is associated with being more organic, but in all honesty, lugging around my heavy old-school camera and worrying about all the film, processing and costs is sometimes a drag. Currently, my main goal is to shoot more, so being able to shoot to my hearts content with digital is somewhat freeing. The trick for me is to have a discerning eye and treat the digital camera like it’s film, behind the lens and in front of the computer. I like my photography raw, without a lot of bells and whistles, so I try to keep all shooting and editing as pure and simple as possible. But to back pedal slightly (I feel like I’ve insulted my first born), film will always be my true love, and I intend to continue working with both processes.
VC – Thanks Karen you rock and stay warm out there in Winnipeg, I know its not easy!!
– Mark A. Cadiz