Arek Rataj reached out to me with an insightful interview project called “You can shoot. Can you talk?” My interview with Arek will be released in APF Magazine in the future. Arek kindly allowed me to share the responses here. The photos in this interview are curated by Cindy Nguyen aka HAPTIC.
1. What is your first childhood memory?
Sitting at my plastic blue table in my home, at age 2, in the zone, and drawing on a piece of paper.
2. Are you still learning who you are?
3. Who are you when no one is looking at you?
The same person.
4. What got you involved in photography in the first place?
When I was 18, my mom bought me a point and shoot Canon powershot SD 600 digital camera. I loved it. This is when LCD screens and being able to instantly review your pictures was still a novelty. It helped augment my (forgetful) memory. Also photography was a creative outlet.
5. Ansel Adams once said: You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved. Could you tell us about your favorite photographs, books, music and people who are closest to you?
Biggest inspirations are Josef Koudelka and Richard Avedon. Favorite books are EXILES by Koudelka, Gypsies by Koudelka, and In the American West by Avedon. Favorite music: YEEZUS by Kanye West, and almost everything by Kanye West. Innovator who inspires me the most is Steve Jobs. Philosophy: Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Diogenes, Epictetus, Nassim Taleb, Nietzsche.
And of course, for all my art, Cindy is my biggest inspiration, muse, partner, and the artist who pushes me forward.
6. There’s a thin line between invading people’s privacy and taking their photographs. Why do ethics matter?
My ethics is the SILVER RULE: “Don’t do unto others as you don’t want others to do unto you.” I am comfortable being photographed, therefore I feel no discomfort photographing others.
7. Bruce Gilden claims that photography is a voyeuristic medium. Does it resonate with you?
I disagree. I see photography as a medium that allows me to become MORE ENGAGED and intimate with fellow human beings.
8. Have you ever acted rude in front of people you have tried to photograph?
I’m always aggressive and pushy, but in a nice way. I’m a pretty charming motherfucker in real life, and I always smile :)
9. Have you ever been following your subject that the person could eventually think you’re a stalker or a pervert?
Yes. But I don’t care what others will think of me as. Because I’m not a stalker or pervert.
10. Gloria Steinem once said: The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off. Are you getting nervous when someone goes deeper and scrutinizes your work?
Never. I don’t take my photography too seriously. I’m less interested in photography and art, more interested in philosophy. To me, Photography is just Visual philosophy.
11. What if you take images for a couple of years and don’t get a positive audience reaction? Would you be still taking them?
I wouldn’t mind. To me, I only want to make photos which excite me. I’ve gone through dry spells, where all my pictures bore me… which is artistic death to me.
It’s been nice, ever since I deleted my Instagram, I have had a second wind in photography. I am more excited … like a big kid all over again. I am shooting now more than ever.
12. Do you often get jealous of someone’s achievements?
Yes. I always get jealous when I see someone win an award, get a big exhibition, book deal, or when I wish I could make picture like them.
13. If you could wake up tomorrow in the body of another artist, who would you choose and why?
Myself when I was two years old, before I got my artistic passion beaten out of me by teachers, authority figures, etc.
14. What artist made the most impact on you and why?
Probably Kanye West, because he never stops innovating, he stays true to himself, and he just makes very good music, which empowers me, gets me in the zone, and encourages me to make more art myself.
15. If you could have personally witnessed a perfect street scene at the right decisive moment, what would you want to have seen?
Black background with some geometric curves, diagonals, and lines. Black and white picture, and I shoot it with a flash. Includes an edgy face (preferably someone with a face tattoo), looking like he’s about to punch me.
16. If you could witness and photograph any historical moment of the past, present – or future – what would it be?
Now is the best time for me, because seeing everyone become slaves to their devices and phones. I want to make more technological critique pictures.
Either that, or shooting pictures when AI (artificial intelligence) takes over. Or shooting pictures at a space colony, maybe on Mars.
Hands. New Orleans. I wish I were confident like him.
17. What’s on your photography bucket list this year?
Figure out a way to make digital color pictures which look aesthetically pleasing to me. To simplify my workflow, and spend less time on a laptop picking my favorite photos, and more time shooting.
18. What do you like to do outside of photography?
Read philosophy, write essays, blog posts, and poetry. Chin ups, deadlifts, and lots of walking. Relaxing three hour dinners with Cindy and friends and family. Practicing gratitude, teaching, and striving to become more fearless and playful as an artist.
19. Blind and live forever or be able to see and die in a couple of years?
Blind and live to be 100 years old. I would start making music, maybe become a rapper or hip hop producer or artist. Or do more poetry.
I wouldn’t want to live forever, that would be hell.
20. What do you want your tombstone to say?
“Here lies ERIC KIM, who empowered humanity to take control of their own lives, conquer fear, practice love and gratitude, and to make art that uplifted their souls and the souls of others. He was a loving husband, father, and friend.”
Eric Kim’s Experiments in Visual Aesthetics
See more at HAPTICPRESS.COM
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- The City of Angels (2016)
- SUITS (ongoing)
- Only in America (ongoing)
- walking meditation