Q & A with Yu-Chen
FK: How did you get into photography?
I am a visual person since I was a little kid. Movies, photography, painting, shadows, and lights..these things always attract my attention. Before getting seriously involved in photography, I took photos for the sake of documentation, as a personal diary. And I started to get seriously about photography would be the time when I came to New York from Taiwan. I found many things that big cities share in common, but with different city landscape, people and mentality. I felt isolated and welcomed at the same time . The emotion get deeper and deeper with the length of my stay in the States. This kind of psychological contradiction is what I am interested in and I started to shoot intensively in the street, spent tons of time developing my own films and make prints in the darkroom. That’s how I get started and still has passions for
FK: you were born in Tawan, does your background have any impact on your work?
Definitely. It’s a country small in dimension but rich in culture, it makes me learn how to observe and appreciate small little things happening around me. And people in Taiwan are very friendly and always wear smiles, this has positive influence on how I build relationships with others, and always show my sincereness and wear smile when talking to other people. And I am the only child of my family, so there’s a lot of time I was alone by myself and I had to come up with something to entertain myself. I think it’s a good training for my creativity and imagination.
FK: Describe a typical day in your life and describe an unusual day in your life.
If I am on assignment, working in the office 10-6 will be a typical day for me. I wake up at 9 in the morning, get myself ready and rush out to my apt without having the breakfast. I usually take a short lunch break to go out to breath the fresh air. I normally carry my iPhone (sometimes with my camera) with me so I won’t miss any decisive moment in the street and things around me.
Unusual day will be travel to somewhere unknown or caught great shots in the street.
FK: do you only shoot film and why?
I shoot 90% in film for my personal projects. I think working pace, image texture and the whole creative process is the main reason I love shooting in film. I shoot in 35mm and it only has thirty- six frames in a roll and only have one chance to capture the moment. so I makes me to take every single shot seriously.
I mainly shoot in black and white, and I appreciate the rich color spectrum of the black, grey and white, and also the gritty, grainy texture seen in film photography. Even some people say digital images can do the same effects as the black and white film photography, but I think some subtle details that film photography carries is not replaceable.
I also enjoy spending time in the darkroom. For me I think the whole creative process for a single image starts from taking photos, then develop the film, and ends in making a print. What kind of film development chemical to use, how long to develop, should I push the stop? What kind of paper to print? These are all the decisions I need to make and I enjoyed it. Darkroom is a very zen space, pretty dark, quite and you are all alone, for me, it’s like doing meditation
FK: Tell us more about Timeless Nostalgia, Cuba. What was your experience shooting in Cuba?
I went to Cuba, Havana in the summer of 2005. Cuba is a place I’ve always want to visit, it reminds me of my childhood. The humid weather,sunshine, brick architect and friendly people. This trip really makes me to think a lot, think about life, about love and how you relate to people and be related . And my experience of shooting in Cuba was really great. It was pretty mentally challenged since you see contradictions everywhere but luckily people are really nice there so it was not too difficult to shoot in the street. This trip was really an adventure, it ended up totally different from what I’d planned. I spent few days warm up myself a little bit by going out to scroll streets and took photos of whatever interests me. After that the adventure starts, I got to know some locals in an event and they showed me around the local places and invited me to their house. I got to know what kind of life and living condition the locals live through these opportunities. It was rough to see how life could be so diverged in one city and it is something to see to believe, hard to imagine. But they always wears smile and think positive, that’s something I do admire and to learn from
FK: are there any photographers who have influenced your work?
I would say I like Robert Frank, Andre Kertesz, Elliott Ewritt, Richard Avedon. But I think film, literature and travel have greater influence on my work.
FK: if you could have a conversation with your camera, what kind of words will you use?
I would say body language, it’s very subtle, sensitive and moody.
FK: your most favorite shot and what is the story behind it
Honestly every image is like a baby of mine, so there’s no answer for that. But if you ask me what’s my recent favorite shot I would say “Invisible” and “A Man Walks In”. I like the light, shadow and how the black, grey, white color spectrum shown on that image, it gives a sense of moody and mysterious feel. As to A Man Walks In, it’s symbolic, which is my favorite visual language.
FK: Talk about your current project.
I continue working on my long term New York street photography series “Inside Out”, and get ready for my show in the coming April at Art Park Museum in Taiwan.
Interview by Francesca Andre for FKN