BRIAN KANAGAKI | INTERVIEW WITH THE NYC-BASED PHOTOGRAPHER
Recently exhibiting with the IPF in London, Brian Kanagaki’s photographic eye sees the typical in alternative ways. Born in Northern California, the 29-year old New York-based photographer has a clear aesthetic, a style that can only refine over time. Studying printmaking at The San Francisco Art Institute, his lens is drawn to patterned beauty, whilst also introducing the viewer to unconventional blurs and angles.
Publishing his work with Perryman Press, his latest book titled ‘Golden Persimmons’ is perfect bound and printed in the US.
About the book, Kanagaki states, “The images are meant to be calming, but they also have an unsettling quality to them. I like the idea that the more you think of something, the more you start to notice that thing. Like ornamental plants, one day you notice one in someone’s yard and think how nice it is, and then you start seeing them everywhere, even in places you have been a hundred times. While thinking about this idea, it’s nice to imagine that you can dictate how you see the world around you by simply thinking about things that you want to see – you can somehow manifest them.”
Here, his observations are captured by a romantic lens, at times through an unsettling feeling via voyeuristic-like views brought together with Kanagaki’s eye for individual patterns. Champ editor Monique Kawecki finds out more from the photographer himself.
How would you describe your work in your own words?
I think that my work is really quiet. I mostly shoot still-lifes or architectural compositions. I tend to focus on photographing one thing, this leads me to showing the finished work in the book form. To me its the best way to create a narrative and tell a story, especially because I don’t normally photography people/faces.
Tell us more about your exhibiting body of work at the IPF LDN.
Its taken me a long time to work on this particular body of work and there has always been something slightly off about it. I worked on this project for over 3 years and over that period of time I was in 8 different countries. The way that I approached each image was very clinical and quiet, I tried to approach every image as a still life or a set that I was documenting. In doing so there is a pretty strong separation between photographer and image. I didn’t want to have any people or signifier of time or place. I wanted the lighting to be really consistent for every image, almost like every photo was taken in the same spot on the same day. It was a fun challenge to get those conditions when shooting in different countries. Control was a big part of creating these images, which is hard when they are all stumbled upon scenes. Its a weird way to approach something so intimate as a photograph but I needed to have a set of rules when creating these images.
Which cameras do you use currently for your work?
For the longest time I only had 1 camera, it was one that I borrowed from my parents when I was taking a photo class in High School. They had bought a Canon AE-1 when I was born and I think it’s kinda cool that it is the camera that I learned on and still use. I have a bunch of lens for is it and it feels really comfortable to me so its still my favorite camera to use. It wasn’t until I started traveling more that I started buying and selling cameras while trying to find a more compact 35mm camera that I liked. I still haven’t found it. I also have a Contax G2 that I use now but it’s a little too auto for my style of shooting.
Which cameras in particular were used for this body of work?
I used 4 different cameras when shooting for this project. Like I said, I mostly shoot with the Canon but since a lot of the photos were taken when traveling I used a couple point and shoot cameras. I used an Olympus XA-2 (which I lost while traveling), a Contax T2, and also Contax G2. A good chunk of the book was originally shot on the XA and T2 but I wasn’t happy with the softness of the images so I went back and reshot the ones that I could with the Canon.
Are there any image-makers or photographers you particularly admire?
I am really into portraiture, mostly because I can’t take a portrait to save my life. My Friend Ben Grieme is one of my favorite photographers, his portraits are really pure and honest. Same with Annemarieke Van Drimmelen, Camille Vivier, and Zoe Ghertner. I love all their work, they are able to bring out a type of honesty that you need to be more present in the photo making to be able to capture.
Where is your favourite place in the world for new ideas?
I am very lucky to be able to travel as much as I have. I think that by putting yourself in new environments you are more able to stay excited and not lose the drive to explore your surroundings. So much of my work is really simple and mundane and might be lost in a moment so its important to be able to slow down to catch those little moments. I think as long as you slow down to appreciate the world around you you will always be able to find new ideas and stay inspired. Although some of my favorite photos that I shot for the book were taken on the street that I lived on in San Francisco, so its not to say that you can’t stay inspired in your own world that you live in every day. The street photographer Boogie said that all the photos are already out there waiting to be taken, you just have to find them.