Zantz Han

«To truly appreciate light is to observe it intentionally everyday»

Light: a single word draped with a plethora of definitions. It may be about the metaphysical virtues and beliefs that crouch into the human traditions, an object that wounds into the fixtures of homes, or for Zantz Han, an essence in photography. The Singapore-based photographer employs light to charge his images with character and underscore the colors that accentuate his mood, the subject, and their overarching philosophy. As he confesses his reverence for moving versus still images, Han recalls his voyage towards capturing portraits and how color, expressions, and the vision of self immortalize his every shot.

Let us go back to your roots in photography. Before pursuing this medium as your primary means of communication to the world, what influences and incidents triggered this penchant to photography? Was it rooted in your upbringing, or did you discover it during your studies?

I studied animation during my college years, and I was specifically interested in 3D lighting and rendering, but I chanced upon photography during a sub-module course provided by the school and decided to pursue photography as a career later on.

You desire to evoke the senses of your audience when they rifle through your portfolio. What are the senses that you envision to be provoked? How would your images tap into your audience’s emotions and reflections? Why is there a desire to carry this out?

In the sea of content and moving images, still images have less of an impact now. I hope to evoke a good feeling or any sort of feeling to the audience so that they can have a second look at the picture. I wanted the picture to have a lingering effect on that instead of just being another still content – a sensation or nuance of something they can take away from looking at the images.


As your concluding statement on describing your photography, you have mentioned the union of art with commerce. In what ways do you marry art and commerce through photography? Also, how do you define art and commerce? Are they separate or combined entities?

My idea lies in creating a business through art and being able to sustain a living through the art that I create. Here, art converges with commerce.

In some of the still images you captured, you induced the stark shade of red/orange in the shots. How do colors influence your photography? What role do your emotions play in your photography? Also, do you relate to the emotions your subjects exude during a shoot?

I think color plays a big part in my photography because it evokes a sense of emotion that brings the picture to life. Growing up, my taste in colour treatment and lighting started to evolve because of the experiences I encountered, and I try to translate them into the pictures via the mood, tone, emotions, and color.

The overview page on my portfolio or website is a collection of recent works that I produced by channeling my inner frustrations into pictures; the darkness and stark reds are strong emotions that I want to portray having experienced them all by myself. The emotions in the pictures are essential in bringing out the story behind it and to evoke a feeling within the audience.

Going through your Overview page, I notice how portraits infiltrate this section. How do you perceive portraits? Are they a reflection of who you are as an artist? What other styles of photographs have you explored?

I think portraits are an easy go-to and the simplest form of human photography. I like to explore still life and documentary photography too.

Your style crosses the boundaries of ethereal and surreal pop, dreamy and hazy vibes, and solemn looks. Do you define your approach in photography, or do you go for a more free-flowing manner? How do you transition from one mood to another? Is it an easy move to do?

I approach photography through my mood and feeling, and express them through the crafting of light, expressions, and colors. The transition depends on the chemistry between the subject and myself, and how expressive the subject can be.

I have also noticed the play of light in your photographs. In some images, the light seems to be subdued, while vibrant in others. How essential is light in your photography? Do you plan its use, or is it more spontaneous? Then, does light – in its figurative, metaphorical, or obvious term – mean anything in your life? How do you incorporate these beliefs in your art?

Light, something that is very sensitive to the eyes and camera, is one of the essence in photography. To truly appreciate light is to observe it intentionally everyday. I like to take my time in constituting my light and modifying its quality to my taste to match the mood and tone I am envisioning.

Light, in its simplest form, provides energy to all life forms. It is essential in creating imagery because it brings the picture to life. It gives it a soul; without it, everything will be pitch black.

Random International

«Don’t think about doing something too long; do it, and think with your hands while doing it»

Have you ever stood in the rain and not gotten wet? If you ever visit Rain Room created by Random International, a collaborative studio founded by Hannes Koch and Florian Ortkrass, then this is something you can experience for yourself. Rain Room is an interactive art work that uses motion sensors to allow visitors to walk through an artificial downpour without getting wet and is the work that thrust the art collective into the public eye in 2005. Since then Random International has continued to create work that invites the viewer to actively participate and questions “aspects of identity and autonomy in the post-digital age.” The collaboratives studio’s aim to “explore the human condition in an increasingly mechanised world through emotional yet physically intense experiences,” and they “aim to prototype possible behavioural environments by experimenting with different notions of consciousness, perception, and instinct.” NR Magazine joins Random International in conversation.

Rain Room is perhaps your most well-known work, but which of your other works was the most exciting to work on? 

Audience (2008) was certainly a game-changer for us; it integrated several research directions that had been previously isolated: it looks at our emotional reaction to simulated life forms, it recognises body-in-space, and it starts to animate a more architectural sphere.

On the other end of the spectrum, we are enjoying working on Body / Light (2021), which is bringing an augmented and time-based elements into an immersive form of engagement.

Lastly, we’re in the pre-production stage/creation phase for a number of new bodies of work; while the pandemic has certainly been a huge challenge, it did allow space for deepening our experimentation with ideas, processes and technologies.

Are there any new technologies are you particularly interested in incorporating into your art practice?

Any technology that supports us in expressing ourselves in a language that everybody can understand is of interest to us…so we don’t really have any preferences. There are however various (diverse) areas of science that we’re paying a lot of attention to, such as different areas of decision making research, developments in machine learning, some obscure branches of behavioural science, cognitive neuroscience (focus on distributed forms of cognition), Kinaesthetic learning et al.

What do you think it is about interactive and immersive art that makes it so universally popular? Do you think peoples’ shortening attention spans due to the influx of information they receive each day from their phones will necessitate even more engaging works in the future? 

There’s an analogue, physical component to engaging with a sculpture in a space that cannot (yet) be met by screen-based forms of engagement. Maybe humans are still designed to feel safe in a real, physical space where the known rules apply or at least most of them. So that’s why we continue to seek out and share real, physical experiences.

You have stated you are interested in examining our ‘automated future’, how do you think technology, particularly AI, will influence your lives in the future, specifically in the art world? 

It looks like we’re increasingly surrounding ourselves with machines and processes that are designed to ‘read’ us, draw their own conclusions and then respond to us accordingly. All – as with most advancements in the past – to make our lives easier (predictive text actually suggested ‘easier’ after I typed ‘lives’ just now!) and safer.

The issue is that we’re not entirely compatible with those kinds of transactions; we are not wired to fully grasp the consequences of our actions and thus one could see us getting into all sorts of trouble, existential & comical alike. Questions re the transfer of agency (i.e. can an algorithm be an artist?), distributed creation processes and algorithmically curated experiences are probably some of the topics that we’ll see flaring up some more soon in the art world. Not to speak of entire macroeconomic ecosystems that are emerging (NFT’s) and likely here to stay.

Has the pandemic affected you and your approach to your art practice and if so how?

Yes. While we were already working very zoom based and in several countries/time zones already, we took the time to refocus our practice on some core themes and allowed ourselves the luxury to dive deeper into some of the topics that previously often dried up once a show was up or a commissioned work opened. Going for depth rather than breadth is something that was incredibly energising and something that we definitely continue to cherish and honour now that the pace is picking up again.

What do you want people to take away from your work?

A different perspective on the world and their own place in it.

In contrast to your use of technology, a lot of your work seems to be influenced by forms and phenomenons found in nature. Is this the case and if so why?

We’re obsessed with the ingenuity of our human species and the bandwidth of our perception, just how far and how deep it goes. So at the core of most of our work is the human form, the human condition and our emotional reaction to an increasingly automated and dematerialised world. Nature and natural phenomena connect us: to ourselves, to others and to the world around us. So they make brilliant material for art making!

How do you approach working collaboratively and what are some of the pros and cons of working as a collective?

We can’t not work collaboratively, it’s as simple as that. As a studio, we are a machine that is at its best when we generate knowledge and meaning in the creation process. Flo and I and the group that works with us do have a thing for communication; the complexity of the work dictates that we look at it from a lot of different angles. And our team, through brilliance and diversity, enables the studio to take on large, international projects in an efficient manner.

What advice do you have for young creatives who are interested in working with art and technology?

Don’t think about doing something too long; do it, and think with your hands while doing it.

Technology is a tool, not the aim.

Are you working on any projects at the moment and what plans do you have for the future?

We were commissioned by the BMW Arts Group to develop our work No One Is An Island in partnership with Studio Wayne McGregor and a score by chihei hatakeyama. Due to the pandemic, we had the opportunity to do an intimate rehearsal in London in October last year, and are planning to bring performances of that work to Frieze London in October 2021. We’re also working on several; different exhibitions and group shows to present a new body of work on Swarm Algorithms later this year, and we’ve celebrated three years since opening our Rain Room at the Sharjah Art Foundation this year. With Pace Gallery’s new spin-off Superblue, we’re working on several exciting outings so do stay tuned!

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Dhillon Shukla

«I need to know the mood of a space before I can start to imagine who occupies it»

In the yellowy November gloom, a young Londoner tries to scrape together enough money to take his crush on a date. Money Up, named after the schoolyard game, is a film that captures the “spirit, grit, and resilience of young Londoners in a lighthearted and poetic tone.”  The film has been garnering attention for Dhillon Shukla, whose previous works range from photographing young Sri Lankans who have adopted Californian surfer culture to collaborating with music artists such as Jessie Ware, Disclosure and Gorillaz. NR Magazine joined Shukla in conversation.

As both a filmmaker and a photographer how do you think your previous experience with photography projects informs your filmmaking process.

I think it’s changed over time. When I started taking pictures I was a teenager, I used to walk around and shoot locations I thought would be interesting to set a film in. I had this massive archive and I used to look through it and try to imagine a story. Then a couple of years later I started to work with musicians who were quite established, a lot of them had really creative personalities and sometimes our visions wouldn’t aline so I had to learn how to navigate that. After a few of those experiences, it began to feel natural to work with talent and for sure that’s fed into directing and working with actors.

You have stated that you predominantly worked with music and documentary. Do you find that you include those elements in your fictional works and if so how?

I take a lot of influence from music when starting a film, for me, it’s one of the best ways to find an emotion or feeling and put yourself in the headspace of a character. Then recently I completed a documentary which was shot over 4 year period and in a really observational style when I started it I only planned to shoot for 3 months, I had quite a rigid idea of what it would be but then there were a lot of surprises and the story told me it wanted to be something else. I had to listen to that. Looking back that was probably one of the best projects I could have done as it taught me to really think about an edit while shooting, I was always reacting to a moment and simultaneously trying to capture it whilst thinking of questions to ask and how I would build that into an edit. Creatively I became a lot sharper and able to generate ideas a lot quicker than I used to which helps with fiction work and to not be too attached to the script as it’s always evolving.

What was the most exciting filmmaking project you worked on?

I’d probably say Run Outs – the short film I’m making with the BFI at the moment. Like Money Up, it’s set in London but it’s darker, more ambitious and also quite impressionistic. I’m excited by how it’s developing, it feels quite fresh and more in line with the direction I want to go in.

You stated that you wanted to show the lighter side of London in your film Money Up. Do you find that people tend to have a negative stereotyped view of London and do you think your film works to change those perspectives?

I just felt that a lot of youth-orientated stories in London revolved around drugs and violence and while that’s obviously a reality for some people they’re also a lot of peoples experience that doesn’t reflect that. The intention of the film was to reframe that for sure and also show multicultural London kids in an innocent way.

You mentioned you are working on a script for a large scale work set in the future. Can you tell me more about this project?

Not really at the moment, just that it’s finished and the plan is to make it my first feature film.

What filmmakers and directors do you draw inspiration from and how do you apply that inspiration to your work?

I think when I’m writing I’m more inspired by music or locations. I need to know the mood of a space before I can start to imagine who occupies it. That’s where most ideas come from for me. They’re not many films I would say are perfect but the ones below are and I find it hard to not think about them from time to time.

Chungking Express

A Prophet

The Tree of Life

Barry Lyndon

Apocalypse Now

You shot Money Up on a small budget. What was the process you had to go through to see the film to fruition?

I wrote the script for an open call for the BBC and got selected. My exec producer connected me with an amazing casting director. They’d worked with people like Nicholas Winding Refn, Lars Von Trier and Gaspar Noe but they’d also cast all the seasons of Top Boy which made me feel they’d be perfect for the film. They were great and found all the actors in about 3 or 4 weeks. We shot in November during a lockdown so it complicated things a bit, we weren’t able to rehearse or even meet each other before we shot it. Then for all of the post-production, we had to work via Zoom as well. It was quite a different way to work but I think in the end everyone who was in it and worked on it was pretty happy with the result.

How do you think Covid will affect the indie film scene in the future?

I’m not sure but it’s been a shame all the film festivals have moved online because they’re really important for indie filmmakers to connect with people and continue to keep making work so I hope they’ll come back soon.

What advice do you have for young creatives looking to work with film and documentaries? 

Start by making something independently where you can have creative control. It’ll allow you to develop your style and attract the right collaborators for you.

What are your plans for the future?

As I mentioned before I’ve recently completed a 40-minute documentary called The Prodigy which follows 23-year-old Muay Thai world champion Greg Wootton and his 9-year-old prodigy Jimmy Clarke, they both fight out of the KO Gym in Bethnal Green which has produced over 25 world champions. It’s about two young Londoners’ pursuit for greatness in the sport which leads them to find a deeper meaning in their lives. It’s been quite an epic project so I’m really excited about releasing that later this year and also completing Run Outs. Then beyond that, I’ve got another short I’m going to make before doing my feature film.




Tobi Shinobi

«Shoot what you love and love what you shoot»

Self-taught and award-winning photographer Tobi Shinobi has worked in many major cities around the world. He is known for his distinctive images of architecture and symmetry for which he gained recognition on social media. Born in East London, Shinobi worked as a litigator before his hobby of snapping pictures on his camera phone became his full-time job. Now, when he’s not jetting off around the world and working on commissions for companies like Apple, Audi and Coach, he haunts the streets of Chicago, capturing the city with his unique style of street photography. NR Magazine joined the photographer in conversation.

What is it that makes a good photograph stand out from the rest, particularly with the over-saturation of photography that we see on social media every day? 

I really appreciate great composition, something that catches you almost immediately. Though the photo doesn’t need to be technically perfect to be great, it helps if the photographer takes the time to nail the focus and avoid distracting features which can detract from the ‘illusion’ that the picture aims to create. When I take a picture I’m trying to get you to see what I see and bring you into my world, distractions destroy the seamless transition from someone’s reality to my surreality. With that being said, a good photo can be portraiture, street, architecture, or a great shot of an event: it doesn’t matter – a good photo just catches you.

Does your approach to your photography change depending on which city you are working in and if so how?

My approach doesn’t change particularly unless I have to be particularly mindful of my surroundings. Some places that I have been aren’t the most visitor-friendly tourist spots, so sometimes I have to be aware. With that being said the usual respect and appreciation for the locals and their customs and some good old fashioned street smarts has kept me in good graces. There are many times when I capture street photography and locals don’t necessarily appreciate their photo being taken and I respect that entirely.

What was the most exciting project you worked on and why?

Honestly, I don’t have a single project that I can point to that has been the most exciting one. I have been blessed with a lot of cool experiences, I guess I can say working with Sony last year, I was in front of the camera for a shoot for the launch of their long-awaited A7s3. It was a secret so I couldn’t tell anyone and one or two of my shots actually made it into the final video. I was also featured in front of the camera for Lightroom, as one of their ambassadors, showcasing my architectural photography around Chicago. Both great experiences during a challenging year.

You were a lawyer before you became a freelance photographer. Does your background in law ever influence your photography work and if so how? 

Up until very recently, the vast majority of my work has focused on balance and perspectives. In a literal sense, this has presented itself as a heavy focus on symmetry and geometry. My fascination with these themes forms the basis for my first solo photography book Equilibrium. The metaphor of balance in my work shows up in a number of ways. One example is one is that there have been occasions when it would seem that my work appeared to be too “urban” to be mainstream and too mainstream to be “urban”. To bring it back to the question, the theme of perspectives comes from my legal background where I learned to always consider the other side’s ‘arguments’. I had to consider other people’s points of view, so as to be armed with the best argument. Similarly, symmetry can be seen as me trying to get my visual message across, in as straightforward a way as possible. 

«These themes have also been a subtle nod to me seeking to address the imbalances I come across in life. Namely my own personal challenge of feeling that I don’t quite fit in, no matter where I am.»

With photo-sharing apps like Instagram getting your photography out there has become easier and easier. However, do you think there are negative sides to apps like these and if so what? 

Apps like Instagram have great upsides, it’s important for me to say as much, given how much it has changed my life for the better but there are also some challenges that come with it. The mental strain that comes from the pressure to always produce quality work is a lot. The algorithm rewards consistency. Artists aren’t factories that can just churn out work. We need time to live life, learn, laugh, loathe and then live some more. Consistency is only sustainable for so long. I hope app and platform developers start to realize the strain that they are putting on artists and act accordingly.

Are there any photographers and artists that you draw inspiration from or are particularly interested in? 

One of my favourites in recent years is Carlos Serrao, he is a photographer’s photographer and I am a big fan. I have also been blessed to be able to make a friend and mentor out of the legend that is Sandro Miller. A great human being and an awesome source of inspiration. I take inspiration from all over really. It could be music, religion, sport, film, comics, anime, art you name it. I just consume and then feel that creative spark to create my own and then share. I also take inspiration from the people around me which is why I think it is of the utmost importance to make sure that you surround yourself with positive, creative and inspirational people. I came across a quote the other day that said ‘show me your friends and I will show you your future,’ and I think there is some truth to this notion that the people you surround yourself with will have a profound effect on your outcomes.

You use drones for a lot of your shots. Do you find that the tightening restrictions around drone use, particularly in cities have hindered your work? 

To be honest yes it has slowed things down but I understand why the authorities have had to take some of the steps that they have taken. Some people have little regard for others and have endangered some folk so the authorities were bound to clamp down on it.

What are some of the best spots in London for street photography? 

I’d have to say that Shoreditch and Soho are the best spots in London for the best street photography. You can get some cool stuff in the Square mile too. An 85mm or a 50mm and you can capture some gold at the right time of day.

What advice would you give to young creatives who are interested in photography? 

Keep shooting. Shoot what you love and love what you shoot. Spend more money on travel than you do on equipment. Chase the dream, not the competition. And by this I mean it is easy to just do what everyone else is doing in terms of your style and there is an element to which we learn from imitating others but at some point, you will need to discover and nurture your own style and not rely too heavily on the influences of all those if you want to stand out.

Are you working on any projects at the moment and what plans do you have for the future? 

I’m always thinking about some project or another. I am going to keep on being the best Tobi that I can be. Continuing to evolve, marinating in my creative process. Really trying to sit on it and not force or rush it. That’s going to include video, music in some form, maybe collaborating with musicians. I have agency experience and I have the freelance experience. I do dig down and bury into the artist route or the employed route? I work in the Creative Lab at TikTok as a Creative Strategist, teaching big brands how to make. better TikToks. I want to collaborate with cool people around the world and enjoy all the opportunities that come with that. With everything opening back up I am in the process of planning what the next chapter looks like.


Images · Tobi Shinobi

Dinu Li

«Sometimes the not knowing can be the work itself»

Have you ever looked at an old photo of a family member and wondered at the moment captured in the image? Did you flip through stuffed albums and make up stories in your head about the pictures you saw there? If so, you might have something in common with multimedia artist Dinu Li. Born in Hong Kong, his family emigrated to the UK in the early ‘70s. Li draws inspiration from archival material, incorporating history, memory, and invention in his work whilst emphasising appropriation and reconfiguration. Examples of his work range from a fictional documentary inspired by his cousin’s experiences in a Cultural Revolution labour camp, ‘portraits’ of the bedrooms and possessions of illegal immigrants working in London’s Chinese restaurant trade, and a re-tracing of his mother’s life travels from China to Hong Kong and then England. “In his practice, Li examines the manifestation of culture in the everyday, finding new meaning to the familiar, making visible the seemingly invisible” and his work “is often characterised by problematising the document as part of the modus operandi.”

You have spoken about how you were drawn to the photograph of your cousin holding what looks to be a radio but is instead a painted brick. Is this camouflaged reality something that inspired you to incorporate an element of fiction into your archival works?

I’ve had this old photograph of my cousin since I was a kid, showing him as a young man in a labour camp. It is interesting how easily we are fooled into believing photographs as a representation of truth when in fact, it is so unreliable. For so long I was convinced he was listening to a radio, until decades later, when he told me it was a brick painted to look like a radio. The aerial was simply a bamboo shoot, stuck on the side and the brick was painted with nobs and buttons. Even more surprising was when I asked if he heard anything from the make-believe radio and he said he heard the love theme from the film Doctor Zhivago.

You spoke of uncertainties of memory when working with your mother on The Mother of all Journeys. Do you find it frustrating that certain personal histories are lost due to lack of documentation or the fallacy of memory?

It is not so much about it being frustrating, rather it is perhaps inevitable that we humans will get our own histories mixed up by confusion and inaccuracies or imbue our own past with figments of our own imagination. There are also the complexities of someone telling you their past, and for you to retell it back to them, as they had long-forgotten aspects of their life journeys. So, there are lots of opportunities to slip up and our abilities to recount something precisely may well be unreliable.

Do you think that activism in art can be a way to inform positive social change? And do you feel that in recent years, particularly in western media, that activist art has become a social trend that is more performative than helpful? 

As always, art influences real life and vice-versa. Life is full of dualities constantly rubbing against each other. For example, how the global is connected to the local, and how the private is related to the public. There is also one’s personal life interconnected by politics. Whether we embrace politics or not is not the point. The point is that politics comes to us whether we like it or not. I recently went to see the Artes Mundi prize in Cardiff and all the works shortlisted were fully loaded by political points of view, often quite upfront. One of the exhibiting artists Meiro Koizumi made a video work about the legacy of the Second Sino-Japanese War. I found him very brave in using art to confront a very difficult and often taboo subject for many Japanese people. He had collaborated with a group of young Japanese people and got them to recite passages from a diary written by an ex-army officer about what he had witnessed during the massacre of thousands of Chinese people at the hands of the invading forces.

«There was something extremely compelling about these young people, not only reading out loud something they’d rather not think about but doing so in the high streets of urban Japan, where passers can’t avoid overhearing atrocities from a dark moment in their history.»

The work was confrontational, but it needed to be.

I think the toppling of the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol was a positive thing. There was a lot of media coverage at the time, as the pulling down coincided with several similar dismantling. Obviously, there is always the danger that some people are more pro-active when there is media attention, as they may join in for a bit of fun, or simply interested in standing in front of a camera. But that does not mean the original impetus should be curtailed by people exploiting the situation for self-gain. The whole point of Colston’s statue being dumped into the sea is the absurdity of the statue in the first instance as well as the rude awakening of what he represented. So, the more noise the better.

You have stated you are working on something autobiographical, «delving into your youth when you were immersed in black culture». Can you tell me more about this project? And what is your opinion on artists and creatives making work about cultures outside of their own. 

In my case, I feel it appropriate to make this work. It feels urgent and necessary, even if it’s just for my own benefit. I went to a school in inner-city Manchester that was quite diverse and was immediately drawn to a group of Jamaican youths. We hung out and went to blues parties together in Hulme and Moss Side, and very quickly I became a massive fan of dub. I loved the echo, the reverb and the repetition of a vibe, emphasised and heightened by the sound systems.

The genesis that led me to develop my new work was a recent rediscovery of a song on YouTube that I had heard as a young child growing up in Hong Kong where I was born. The song is called Always Together sung by Stephen Cheng who flew to Jamaica in the mid 1960s to record the song. The first time I heard it as a six-year-old, I took it for granted it must have been yet another traditional Chinese folk song. On hearing it again all these years later, I now realise it is in fact an early day rocksteady tune, which became a cult classic that helped shape the sound of reggae years later.

Thinking back to the triggers that allowed those Jamaican youths and me to instantly form a connection, I would say had a lot to do with cultural phenomenon’s that we valued. For example, what Bruce Lee stood for both in his movies and perhaps more significantly in his off-screen life. Besides him kicking ass, there was something about his dress sense, the way he walked, his mannerism that somehow brought people together. And of course, many artists find inspiration from other cultures. When we think about break dancing and body-popping, we see a mish-mash of inspiration from moves the dancers would have witnessed in a kung fu movie by a cartoon character. The 1990’s hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan is another example of artists finding inspiration from cultures outside their own.

In addition to being involved in Afro-Caribbean culture in your youth, you were also involved in your school’s Anti-Nazi League. You said that » I think mainstream society at the time was not ready to see a Chinese punk rocker walking around in the suburbs of Yorkshire.» How do you think alternative scene culture has influenced your artwork? 

It goes hand-in-hand. My life is my work and my work reflect my life. I am as interested in pop culture as I am in embracing sub-cultures. In my artwork, I avoid easy classification. I resist clear demarcations and I would not box myself in. I don’t want to make work that is easy to interpret. I like to subvert, to delineate, to contest the status quo. I am not interested in things easily understood.

«I prefer complexities, making works that are multi-layered and generous to being interpreted in many ways. I am looking for possibilities.»

What is the most interesting history/story you have come across during your work? 

I was dropped off once inside a dense bamboo forest in southern China, roughly the size of England, and stayed there making a film for a month. It felt as if I was the only human being there for about ten days before an old guy walked by. He stood there momentarily watching me filming the forest and then said bamboo made China before he disappeared. He is not wrong when you consider what one can make out of bamboo. For example, hats, chairs, ladders, chopsticks, tables, raincoats, shoes, window blinds, houses, baskets, toothbrushes and so on.

You have spoken about experiencing racism as a young boy when you first moved to the UK. Is this something that you have explored, or would consider exploring in the future, in your work, especially considering the recent rise in hate crimes against Asian people? 

I’m thinking a lot about the soil beneath our feet as we walk the earth. I have a vivid memory of being seven years old, having moved from Hong Kong to Sheffield and being pinned against a brick wall outside my house by two boys who lived a few doors away.

«After they had dished out their beatings, they finished off by scooping handfuls of soil before stuffing it in my pants and shouting get back to where I came from.»

From a conceptual point of view, there is something really interesting about some sort of walking performance, retracing one’s journey backwards, to one’s former home. It is no longer there to be found, yet quite ubiquitous is a trail of soil connecting the start of the backward walk to somewhere without an endpoint.

A lot of your work revolves around your family and their personal experiences. What are their reactions when they see your final artworks and how do they feel about being involved in your work?

I think the reaction varies depending on the project and who it’s about, or who it’s not about. It can be a very intense experience for whoever I am focusing on. We all have pasts we rather leave behind. And so, it can sometimes feel uncomfortable when I ask too many questions about a particular moment in time that someone does not want to revisit.

I have collaborated with my mum more than once. The first time on a monograph that involved many trips down her memory lane. I think my dad was a bit jealous the project was not about him, even though he features fleetingly in the project. In the end, the work was about my mum.

«I wanted to give her a voice so that the work acted as some sort of redress for herself and countless women of my mother’s generation, who mostly spent their lives serving the interest of their husbands.»

That project premiered at the Victoria and Albert Museum as a slide projection installation inside the Raphael cartoon court. It is a massive room, so the projection had to be huge to avoid being lost in the space. Naturally, the museum draws massive visitor numbers, which my mother and I was not prepared for. So on the opening, it was quite daunting having so many people filling the room, staring at the slide show, then staring at my mum. I don’t think she felt comfortable being famous for five minutes.

What advice would you give to young creatives who are interested in archival works and exploring their own culture? 

Be open-minded about what is on the surface and what one might discover beneath by digging deeper. Be equally open-minded that whatever is revealed, whether from a photograph or one’s own culture could well be staged, manufactured or mediated. Also, be mindful one may never find all the facts or all the truths behind something. And bear in mind having all the facts and truths does not mean one will make interesting work.

«It can be useful learning when to stop one’s investigation or research. Sometimes the not knowing can be the work itself.»

What projects are you working on at the moment and what plans do you have for the future? 

I have just completed a new video piece, again in collaboration with my mum, called The Ghost Orchid Gesture. The film unfolds in several typical English landscaped gardens during spring at the cusp of blossoming exuberance. My mum plays the sole protagonist, a masked old woman whose movements embody different creatures and plants. I was interested in using ancient wisdom, folklore and shamanist dancing rituals to explore the epoch of the Anthropocene we are currently living through, where our actions are causing the near extinction of a rare plant species called the ghost orchid. The orchid is not seen in the film, except for the movement of its life cycle as represented by the old woman’s hand gestures, as she mimics the manner in which it may twist and turn against the breeze.



Images · Dinu Li

Kensuke Koike

«Single Image Processing»

Born in Japan and now based in Venice, Kensuke Koike works with a surrealist playfulness to challenge the possibility of creating images. In deconstructing and re-forming vintage and archival photographs into carefully distorted pieces, Koike breathes a new life into found photography. There is a sculptural quality to Koike’s work, and his reconfigured photographs and postcards have a humorous, yet perplexing energy instilled in them. 

Koike’s practice focusses on the possibility of reinvention within an image and involves using analogue collage techniques and working solely with the existing elements of an image. The result is an impressive body of work with unique and contemporary visual narratives that the artist has defined as ‘single image processing’. In using found objects and reviving vintage photographs in this way, Koike creates a dynamic way of working, with each piece exposing different facets of the culture and truth of image making.

Koike seeks to create meaning from an existing object, and his use of found images in combination with the handmade formation of each piece feels incredibly nostalgic and gives a surrealist twist to a vintage era. Koike is more than a just a collage artist – he is as much a videographer, a sculptor, and a puzzle maker – and the videos he makes and shares digitally show his interest in contemporary creative methods. Koike also includes performative elements in his work. It is in this variation of his practice that and understanding of both the humour and reverence with which Koike creates his vision can be found.



Discover more here
Kensuke Koike’s work can be found here

The Photographers’ Gallery in London presents ‘Re-composed’ until 27th June, where a unique selection of Koike’s work is available to purchase.

Logan Rice

«It has to feel right, otherwise it’ll drive me crazy»

Logan Rice is a photographer, filmmaker and cinematographer based in Los Angeles, California. The young artist has established himself in the creative industry as one to watch, with an impressive body of work that includes cinematic and light-hearted collaborations with high profile clients, alongside more impassioned and personal projects.

Growing up filming skateboarding, it is only natural that the artist would make the move to Los Angeles, where his inspiration from day-to-day culture, music and fashion has now come to inform his eclectic and ever-growing practice.

Largely focused on fashion campaigns and editorials, Logan has also worked on a variety of music videos, documentaries, and exclusive content for the likes of Nordstrom, Pull&Bear, Fender, Columbia Records, L’Officiel, Adidas, Flaunt Magazine and more, as well as filming artists including Grimes, Lykke Li, Alice Glass and many others.

NR Magazine speaks with Logan to discuss the versatility of his work and how he has come to develop his style over the years.

A lot of your personal work channels feelings of nostalgia in your depictions of youth culture – is this something you consciously aim to create or is it something that just comes through naturally as part of your creative process? 

That’s definitely something people have mentioned to me before. I would say that it comes naturally. I aim to capture moments that just are and that feel real. The nostalgia element isn’t something I intentionally seek out, it just kind of happens that way.

How have you come to develop your style? 

I grew up filming skateboarding and I think that style of shooting and editing transitioned over heavily when I started creating a lot of content in the music world and eventually into all the fashion projects I’ve done over the past few years. I never noticed until fairly recently when people would point it out and be like, “You used to film skateboarding right? I can see it in your work.”

I definitely use some of the same shooting techniques that I used as a 14/15-year-old filming skateboarding. It has obviously improved over the years but it’s the same method. The same goes for editing – I’ve always edited skate videos to the mood and beat of the song and I let that dictate how a project comes together. I never understood how people could make a rough edit with no music behind it. The music dictates the entire flow and feeling of the project, and I just let the feeling take over rather than looking at something for what technically makes sense. It has to feel right, otherwise it’ll drive me crazy.

How do you juggle your more commercial work alongside personal projects? Do the two influence each other at all or do you have clear separations between your personal and commissioned pieces? 

It gets hard to balance both, honestly, but commercial work always comes first. That’s the work that allows me to be a freelance artist living in Los Angeles and it funds my personal projects and editorials.

Personal work is very important, so whenever I get an idea or have free time, I definitely try to push myself to do something that’s meaningful to me. Those projects take a long time to complete though. I always overthink it or get busy with something else but eventually they’ll all get done.

The personal projects I’ve done are still some of my favourite things I’ve created. Even if they are 2, 3, 4, 5 years old, they still hold up in my opinion. Whenever I watch them now, I’m like, “Yeah, this is it. This is the kind of work that really keeps me going.”

Commercial work shows me what I’m capable of with a bigger team, budget, and resources and pushes me on a production scale. But with that being said, personal work shows me I don’t need a huge team or budget to make something that I really love or that I think is great.

What’s important for you when directing? What sort of things inspire a narrative and help you tell a story? 

The most important thing to me is capturing moments that are real and that feel real. Pre-visualized shots are great, and you always need to have a game plan, but I think I’ve always created the best content from just trying random things to see what works. Also, a lot of the time I roll a bit before and after the main take and those little off moments can sometimes be the most beautiful and unique.

«Storytelling is much less important to me than having a project that makes you feel a certain way.»

What aspects of your own life influence your work? 

I think just living in the moment and going with the flow of things. I really try not to overthink and not do anything that doesn’t feel right. That’s how I’ve always been as a person and it’s how I tend to approach projects. I just have to trust my instincts and usually the outcome is better than anything I try to force.

How have you managed creatively during the pandemic? 

The first few months were absolutely brutal, but over time I started doing shoots for brands my friends owned or worked at and I started doing music videos a lot because it seemed like the majority of the fashion industry was on hold. That kept me busy for a while until everything came back full swing August 2020, and it’s been pretty steady since then. Some months are slower than others, but I always have different things to work on.

I do wish I had picked up new creative hobbies during my time off but to be honest with you,

«I just ate pasta, drank wine, played a lot of video games, and binged a ridiculous amount of TV shows… and I’m ok with that.»

Are you working on any projects at the moment? 

I’m in post-production on about 3 or 4 projects right now and I just did a shoot over the weekend that I’m really excited about. I have a few really cool editorial projects coming out in July and I’m always making content with my really good friend and artist Hudi, so we’ve got some music videos and other things in the works.




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