QCP is taking books of sixteen Australian photo-media artists to PhotoBook Independent (1 – 3 May 2015). This series of focus interviews gives an insight into the selected artists.
How did you get into photography?
It was a slow process through my teenage years. I was originally into bird watching and after a while getting close through the binocular, the step to start to take some photos of them wasn’t far away. My dad also had an old BW dark room kit that we eventually set up in the Sauna back home. Perfect darkrooms. A few years later the photography part of my life had taken over and I started pursuing to learn from magazines and what not.
How did you arrive at the decision to create a photo book, and how is working with a book different from working on an exhibition?
My first monograph was published in 1992 – Vid Sidan Av (On The Side) and I started that project, photographing drug addicts, with an exhibition and hopefully a book in mind. During these years I got to know a lot of American photography and books like Richard Avedon’s American West I fell head over heels in love with. Of course it was about the work, but it was very much about the object of the book as well, to be able to operate it and view images the way you wanted to explore them. Every project I have been working on since, I have a book in mind for at the end of its life. So far I have published 4 monographs – CITIZEN being the 3rd. As well as numerous survey books with other photographers included.
For all books – exhibition has also been attached to the final launch of them. For me the book comes first, exhibition secondary. A place to give the book life to a wider audience.
The material you are working with is the same regardless. I don’t take different images depending join the medium. However the thought process how you sequence and what to include or not in the book or the show are separate journeys. They can end up quite different experiences, even though you are using the same material at the start.
Tell us a bit about your book featured at PhotoBook Independent.
CITIZEN – Portraits 1997-2012
The book evolved without the book in mind at the outset. In 1996 I arrived in Australia with portraits from a round the world trip with motorcycle, also a book – Chasing Summer. I had been fortunate to work for 2 plus years developing a series of portraits from 40 countries and a process had evolved. So once I started talking portraits in my new country Australia, I resumed from where I had last stopped. This led to work with magazines and as always personal; portrait work.
At one stage I started to look back through my work form the last 10 years and realized, regardless of who i had photographed at the time – A Film Director, Prime Minister, My own children, Prostitutes, Tribal people in PNG, Sex offenders……they all had been photographed and treated with the same parameters. The one set in place during the motorbike trip. The connection between them was obvious and clear and I started thinking about a book. It took another 5 years to complete.
Around 2008-2009, I realized my portrait work for magazine started to come to an end. That was mainly due to the advent of digital. For me, having shot work with the same camera and film for 20 years and then be told to switch didn’t go down well. I strongly felt that it all had shifted from me being hired for what that I liked about my work, it was now down to speed and convenience and they didn’t really care that my work changed in look. Well, I did, and I stopped taking the work.
This is what I wrote in the book about the work:
From the outset, the congregation of citizens, here on the page, was never meant to end up together. They are from a broad subject of people i came across over the course of the last 15 years. There is no greater plan, no narrative, nor a place or topic, connecting them. many encounters were random, others were due to having received a commission.
In CITIZEN you will meet a former Prime minister, a prostitute, my wife, a nun, tribal dancers, famous actors, a now dead friend, child sex offenders and more. Their title is given as a way to catalogue and label and due to the circumstances we met or the reason for which i was commissioned to photograph. it certainly doesn’t sum up who and what that person is.
For more information about Ingvar Kenne, please visit his website.
Banner image: CITIZEN cover