Women Crush Wednesday: Kumi Oguro
Born in Japan and currently living and working in Antwerp, Belgium, Kumi Oguro started her journey of photography in London in 1996. She has been the subject of numerous international solo and group exhibitions. Oguro has received the FotoFilmic’16 Award, 4th Place ADOX Equipment Prize Winner & Honorable Mention Shortlist, Sony World Photography Awards, Professional Competition, category "Staged" Finalist, and the 2016 Photobook Melbourne Photo Award. Her first book NOISE was published by Le Caillou Bleu (Brussels) in 2008. Oguro invites you into her mysterious world through her photographs. I am struck by the mood of these works at the very first glance, which is conveyed through the gestures of the subjects. After that I tend to zoom in on color and light, which make up their own secret language. See more of Oguro’s work here.
By Jing Zhao
Can you tell us what is your work about?
Using female models, I create a world just next to our reality. The images might look like they tell a story, but there is no narrative, no logic. In that way, they are close to our dreams, or at least mine. The combination of opposed elements, such as the fragile and the destructive, the eerie and the absurd, the tragic and the playful, is a very important part of my creation.
Often times dreams are not logical and consistent. The attempt to visualize abstract feelings and recreate the atmosphere must be quite challenging. How do you accomplish this? Do you use a particular object to symbolize a certain emotion through the series?
Although I already talked about dreams, I see my images not so much as a recreation of dreams. I only pick up the illogical character and very occasionally, some details out of a dream. Once I decide to make a new work, I choose a model, a location, clothes and if necessary some objects. While I pay attention not to tell an explicit story, in my head, I start visualizing the model in different poses and how I place her in a certain place.
The process might take long, but it eventually ends up in a weird outcome. As for objects, they don't normally symbolize anything. I use them purely for visual effect. I like the abundance of certain objects to give dynamism in my image.
Dreams are personal; they somehow reflect what’s deep inside. But most of your subjects are anonymous in your work, which I believe makes them more universal. So would you say this is an exploration of revealing your inner self or do you expect the viewers to relate themselves to the photographs?
Both actually. Compared to when I started working this way, I take/feel more distance from my work. It's now less of "a self-portrait using someone else”. At the same time, my creation is a result of all I ever took in and digested, including my dreams. Because of the images that don't give any answers, the viewers often interpret them in their own way. I like it when my photographs grab their heart, even if the reaction is that of "negative" – confusion, fear or aversion.
What keeps you shooting film?
First of all, I simply love the look of photos made with film. Not too sharp compared to digital images. Besides, not being able to see the result on the spot, gives me a certain level of tension. This is necessary for my concentration. I press the button when I'm certain that the image is "ready”. After so many years, I'm still thrilled to look at just developed films. I cannot give this up.
You are also experimenting with video and installation work. Can you talk about your experience with that?
In that period, I was busy thinking about the link between photography and moving images. I had been often attracted by video works that are strongly "photographic". With minimum movement, they can be described as a succession of still images. I made a video work inspired by my own photographic work (portraits made with pinhole camera) and an installation using slides. I truly enjoyed them, but after all I'm more intrigued by making still images with the element of time, duration and movement.
1. How would you describe your creative process in one word?
2. If you could teach one, one-hour class on anything, what would it be?
Teaching is not really my thing but still, it would be fun to make (analogue) photos with kids younger than 10.
3. What was the last book you read or film you saw that inspired you?
"The Hotel New Hampshire" by John Irving. One of my all-time favourites after so many readings.
4. What is the most played song in your music library?
Nothing particular, but quite often the ones from 90's.
5. How do you take your coffee?