Photography · Koekkoek
Photography Assistant · Margarita Keller
Best Boy · Tim Kardashian
Casting & Styling · Rike Hemedinger
Styling Assistant · Lis Füreder
Make-Up · Julia Marinics
Hair · Propaganda & Less Is More
Lights · Digitalkamera Verleih
Post · Tim Wachnowski
Locations · Studio Franzensgasse. Hotel am Brillantengrund and Hotel Motto

Rae Klein

A Fraying Blur

At first glance: Things held within a cloud of pale air. 

At second glance…

Rae Klein is tough. She has built a body of work that has received considerable praise. She was born in Michigan and is still there, working with a rhythm is respectable and representative of her success in recent years. Today, her role in this relationship is simple: she keeps producing.  However, there is nothing desultory about this method. What Klein does is focus on the essential element of her life. Klein has always drawn but hasn’t always worked in oils. Before attaining her BFA, she planned to become a nurse. Before covering gallery walls, she shipped paintings out of her garage. Now, she has a studio. Oh, and she paints. 

Folds and pleats of curtains separate from tense formality. Her constructions confront yet refrain from congesting the scene (they reference without any upturned noses or scoffs). The closest you’ll get to old-school is a bunch of candles resembling Corinthian columns or caryatids. Still, they are unsupported and unlikely to raise too many analogies to the ‘art of old’ — they are also clearly paintings of candles and candelabras. The source material is deliberate, and she paints it big and small.  

The larger works are considered and organised by preliminary work. Smaller works are usually unplanned and texturally emotive, “If I’m going to sit down and do a painting, I’m going straight in, and I want to know that I can get it done in the session. I don’t want to get back to it later.” However, Klein’s paintings interreact simultaneously on both scales. Vector lines are established, and intense colours are formed. Pallid clouds interact with pairs of eyes in a spiralling stare. In the studio, she pulls up a painting with a horse head from the desk, and it immediately forms fantasies with a luminous white glow, breaking with the background through a plunged brush and sharp contrast. She makes paintings that can absorb hours of looking and hours of reading. As such, she leaves the sensuous appreciation to the viewer, briefing through a blur. Outlines are near perfect, sometimes muddied and obscured like a forest in fog. She restricts the number of brushes she uses, how long she works on her paintings, and how many finished works are produced in a month. 

All in oils, the pigments bleed down like dyes, revealing painted imagery — or, more accurately, echoes of images — sourced from eBay, thrift or antique stores. Then, they are translated, and soon layers are raked in, and blue skies wrap backgrounds like Sistine Frescoes. Using a soft brush solvent for highlights and bursts of light (looking like lens flares from a JJ Abrahams film), Klein creates these marks by melting the paint while running the brush through the surface. The thinner paint draws (using a round brush) a glossy line or carves down (using a Filbert brush) to show the canvas base. “It’s just as important to move paint off the canvas as it is to put it on,” says Klein. The ground comes through like white tree roots, shining with a subtle radiancy. Like cutting away at curtains rather than parting them. But you can still see the paint, just differently.

Contemplating her practice, Klein observes her work through a tinted window, seeing a bit of herself inside but remaining outward-looking. Klein is introspective in her description yet makes her way across canvases with a tender distance. She’s focusing on the work and the process. In other words, she’s honest. She’s tough.

Billy De Luca: This is an early morning chat.  It is 9:00 am.  Where are we?

Rae Klein: In East Michigan. I live and work in a town called Grass Lake. It’s an hour south of Lansing (Michigan’s capital) and an hour north of Detroit.  It’s like a village. 

Billy De Luca: Have you always lived and had a studio here?

Rae Klein: No. I grew up across the State. Kind of by the lake, in Holland, Michigan. After school I moved, and I had been working from my garage in a town called Stockbridge for the past two years. I moved homes and the studio here in October 2022. It’s a cheap place to live, and it’s small.

Billy De Luca: And that must have been during the pandemic too. Did that affect the scale of your work?

Rae Klein: In those days, they were a lot smaller. They went from about 40 inches to now much bigger. My new studio’s ceiling is about 12 feet (four meters). 

Billy De Luca: Does it feel better to have a gallery not to stress about the administrator?

Rae Klein: Oh yeah, absolutely. Shipping was always a doozy. Now a couple of dudes show up and pack ’em up. And that’s it. I think I just have to be there.  So that’s amazing.  

Billy De Luca: Do you stretch the canvases yourself? What makes them so smooth and glossy?

Rae Klein: No, I have a guy in Detroit who makes the canvases, and then I prime them myself. The canvases are all linen. I used to work on larger grain linen, but now I’m switching to a smaller grain. You can get a lot more detail that way. And the glossiness comes from the varnish. I varnish all the works so that I don’t touch them when they are done. Paintings can be overdone so quickly. It takes a lot of self-discipline to let it be the way it is. Some of them are smooth sailing. Others are ‘problem children’. The ones that are more of a struggle involve more problem-solving. I put them in a ‘time-out’ pile I have in the studio of works that are sitting. Eventually, I figure it out. That’s one of the fun parts of working: when it clicks. Then, knowing what to do.  

Billy De Luca: How do you find painting in oils? Does it force you to have patience? 

Rae Klein: All the work up here in the studio is drying…waiting. The oils help. But I still get impatient, and mistakes happen. I’m trying to apply a technique for controlling errors. Some mistakes will cause beautiful results, especially with textures and colours. But other mistakes have to be sorted into the ‘do not make again’ pile, for instance, getting perspectives wrong and disturbing the image or technical stuff like messing up the surface while priming. Learning to control my mistakes is a big part of improving.

Billy De Luca: And when it comes to your colour selection, do you create your own palette of pigments, or do you mix it up a lot?

Rae Klein: I do a lot of mixing. I’m really into earth tones, but it depends. If something is more mechanical and doesn’t have people, animals, or candles, it probably won’t beg for earth tones. But with my paintings that feature more organic matter, I’m squeezing those browns in!

Billy De Luca: And what makes you select your imagery and subject matter?

Rae Klein: That’s always been a tough one to answer. Basically, I think that they are just things I like. That feel timeless. I’m also now realising that they are also liminal: they could be from any place at any time. I think that’s interesting to play with.

Billy De Luca: You’re right, temporally communal. They are not bordered by specific contextual zones like Jasper Johns’ American Flag or a Gerhardt Richter scene of Paris. It’s tailored to a broader audience.

Rae Klein: And it’s not that I’m trying to cast a wide net. I’m glad I’m not thinking about that when I’m painting, but I do like the idea of having people relate to the imagery as if they might have seen it before. In the design phase, when constructing a painting, I’m looking for it to be a little new to me. I’m always trying to play around with it. I want it to strike me as if I’ve just discovered something. I think how I sketch them allows me to play with the idea a lot. The more rigid paintings are constructed much more like collages, and that’s also where I get some excitement. For some paintings, I just sit down and…do. And that’s a whole other thing. When it comes to the physical act, it has a lot to do with texture. It is equally important to fill the painting with exciting textures and marry it with itself. I get several types of enjoyment from different processes.

Billy De Luca: So, one process generates novelty, and the other comes naturally. Would you say that’s how you started making art?

Rae Klein: When I started painting, I was adding a lot of detail to the work. I felt like excitement would come from being very descriptive. Now I’m trying to see if I can leave more out. Like, what if I could just paint a curtain in an exciting and impactful way but also in a way that doesn’t involve planning out the whole scene? I think the exciting part for me right now is saying more with less. That’s the broad journey.

Billy De Luca: I love that. It’s interesting how acts of omission can further the quality of a work. And when you do it well, it feels much better. Like when somebody finds something interesting in your work that you didn’t have in a CV or portfolio.

Rae Klein: Yes! And I’m trying to apply that to my figures. I almost want them not to be a specific person. I want them to be a representation of a person. It doesn’t need a face or even eyes. It can be just one thing. I like setting the tone with objects.

Billy De Luca: I also noted that the smaller paintings involve outlines that come over and into the surface, like a finger through wet sand. They streak into the layers, muddying the paint and allowing the earth tones to spring up. Is that an example of a finishing touch or how your paintings are conducted within a session?

Rae Klein: Oh yeah, that’s both. I use a brush for that, and it’s very difficult to do on the large ones because it takes so much time to fill in an area. And it has to be done last because it marries the background and the foreground. The blend happens within the shapes and layers. I go over an area with the paint from the background to the main subject to ‘cohesify’ the image. Sometimes it creates a more interesting pattern, colour or line; other times, I let the lines show to avoid overworking the painting.

Billy De Luca: What do you think gets people interested? Like a profound experience of art. Do you think people can just as quickly struggle to accept your work?

Rae Klein: When somebody tells me that it makes them cry. That’s when I’ve done a good job with the painting. I’m in Michigan, so most of my interaction with people besides openings is through Instagram. People are all surprisingly friendly. If they leave a comment, it’s supportive. But there have been times when somebody will go, “So, this is art?” But I don’t take my paintings seriously. I’m not heartbroken if that happens. I’m interested in how people see it.

Billy De Luca: So you are removed from your work?

Rae Klein: I think so, yeah. I don’t keep them. Once I’m done painting a work, it has done its job for me. Once it is done, it can go in a pile. The enjoyment comes from making it and learning, not the final result it extracts. I mean, I’m proud of them, but it is not like I am going to keep them. There are always more nuances to learn that come with painting. And they keep coming! So, it’s better to focus on learning and improving.

Billy De Luca: Has the way you’ve produced changed over time? You just got back from your honeymoon. How was it being away from the studio? 

Rae Klein: I took a week and a half off. And I was like…WOW, what’s going on? I just love to paint. If I have free time, I think I could be painting. I just love it.Usually, I’m pretty consistent. It has been stable for the past two years, but the period in which I worked is now widening; when I started, I would ask myself what I could do on the day, and now it’s more about what I can do in the month and how I can plan the next six months. It was interesting because I have always had a schedule, and when I started supporting myself with my work, I would make paintings available every month or two. That schedule is different in the timespan from the gallery schedule, so it has changed, and I’m structuring it a lot more.

Billy De Luca: And who would you say is your toughest critic?

Rae Klein: Good question. The gallery has really helped me grow and become comfortable with talking about my work. Nicodim is great because they are selective with their artists, but I still have creative control. It’s not always like that with other galleries. When it comes to advice, I think it’s probably my husband. I go to him with a problem, and he’ll be honest, and that’s good.

Billy De Luca: What affects your style?

Rae Klein: My method involves a lot of images too, and they are mostly found. I get a lot from that. Then comes the process of making it interesting for myself. I think style is ever-evolving and something that’s in the rear-view mirror. I figure it will continue to change since I’m on a learning journey, and that’s where the enjoyment is for me. Looking back, it seems pretty fluid, but I’ve been told it is pretty consistent. Some people see it that way, but I see it differently. 

Billy De Luca: What would be something you’d always like to keep in your paintings? Is there more to add?

Rae Klein: The first thing that comes to mind is that I don’t see the dogs or the horses going away. I’ve been drawing horses since I was a little kid. I wasn’t a ‘horse girl’ but I did love horses. As a kid, I wasn’t allowed anywhere near horses, so I had to draw them. I used to paint cars, and as I learned more, I realised it wouldn’t fit, and those got phased out. I don’t think how I get images or anything like that will change. That’s always been pretty consistent. I do want to keep up with technology, though. Trying to learn about AI generation and digital resources is very important, especially how to use that stuff. If you start to fear it, it can cause stagnation in learning, especially since that is where the momentum is taking us. So I’m concerning myself with that right now, and it’s definitely interesting to learn about. I don’t see myself integrating these new things very often, but I want to be aware of them and know how I could use them if I wanted, without having any judgement. I’m looking to coexist.


All artworks courtesy of Rae Klein and Nicodim Gallery

Yudo Kurita

Amongst All Living Things


Photography · Yudo Kurita

Styling, Casting, Hair and Makeup · Relatable Content Studios

Talents · Sakura Bready, Jess Cuevas, Uchu Kurita, Mouse, David Donald Sutherland and Bryt Tallbird 


  1. No credits
  2. No credits
  3. Uchu Kurita and Mouse
    Dress KkKCO 
  4. Sakura Bready
  5. Jess Cuevas
  6. Full look WILLY CHAVARRIA
  7.  Bryt Talbird wears full look BOBBY CABAGESTALK Cabagestalk 
  8.  David Donald Sutherland wears full look CARSON WACH

Richard Kern

I try to sit on a fence where one foot is in one world and one foot is in the other world

Richard Kern, the iconic photographer and counterculture figure, has been capturing the gritty, unapologetic essence of downtown New York City for over four decades. His work explores themes of sexuality, fetishism, and power dynamics, pushing boundaries and challenging societal norms. Kern’s photographs are a raw and honest reflection of his subjects, capturing their vulnerability and strength in equal measure.

Born in North Carolina in 1954, Kern moved to New York City in the late 1970s, quickly becoming a fixture of the city’s underground scene. He began his career as a filmmaker, producing a series of experimental films that explored taboo themes and challenged traditional cinematic conventions. However, it was his photography that would ultimately earn him widespread recognition and acclaim.

Kern’s work is characterized by its rawness and intimacy, with his photographs often featuring his subjects in unguarded moments. He has a unique ability to capture the complexity and contradictions of his subjects, revealing their innermost desires and fears. His photographs are not for the faint of heart, often depicting explicit sexual acts and fetishistic scenes.

Despite the controversial nature of his work, Kern has maintained a loyal following of fans and admirers throughout his career. He has exhibited his work in galleries and museums around the world, and his photographs have been featured in numerous publications, including Vice, Purple, Interview, and i-D, just to name a few.

In this interview with writer Federico Sargentone, Kern discusses his approach to photography, the themes that inspire him, and the challenges he has faced as a counterculture icon. He offers insight into his creative process, sharing anecdotes and stories from his long and storied career. Through his words and images, Kern invites us to explore the darker, more complex corners of the human experience, challenging us to confront our own desires and fears.

I was reading the essay Matthew Higgs wrote in your catalogue. I’d like to start there, with the definition he gives of your practice as a portraitist. What do you think of the status of poetic portraitist that you have acquired in the art world? Does that fit you? Or is it something that maybe people have said about you that you don’t like?

I like that definition. I’m glad that Matthew made that definition, even though I wouldn’t have necessarily come up with that myself. Still, it’s very convenient for me to use in my bio. You know, if you’re an artist and a critic kind of clarifies what you do for you, it may sometimes come off as unsettling. But I’ve known Matthew for a long time, and his definition was a nice, precise way to look at myself, which I had never done before if that makes sense.

Do you usually try not to analyse your work by yourself?

Oh, you can’t help but analyse it, can you? I studied art and philosophy. And one of the things they taught in art theory (or whatever you wanna call it), this is back in the ‘70s, was that you had to be able to construct a system of meaning around your work. It had to relate to you and have some kind of justification. So I’m constantly trying to justify everything, myself, but not necessarily in public. And I gotta say a lot of those naked women photographs are very hard to justify.

I’m sure! Even though that is still within the canonical form of portraiture, there is a rich history there that you could go over. 

I didn’t realise it at the time but (that type of portrait) is quite confrontational, my old work was all confrontational: the films and things like that were extremely in-your-face — the emphasis was on trying to provoke people. The naked women stuff or naked men or whatever is also a cheap way to create big controversy. The trick for me is to instil in the picture some kind of meaning that the viewer would have to get past the controversy to see. But this method is not applicable to every single photograph, of course. You know, there are a lot of photographs of just people standing around looking pretty or whatever.

Yeah, absolutely. We could also say that the controversial element if you will, is part of your formal delivery of the work, right? It’s as if it’s a technique for a painter. It very much does a similar trick for your images, no?

I try to sit on a fence where one foot is in one world and one foot is in the other world. But, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve mellowed quite a bit and don’t feel as confrontational as I used to, in my work. I am so far removed from it, I can’t even tell, you know? Maybe it is controversial. I have no idea anymore.

Did you face a lot of backlash throughout your career?

Oh yes.

And how did you cope with it? I am very curious about it. Was that something you went for, in a way? Or you weren’t expecting it?

For me, the logical thing was to be provocative. But then I’d go, ‘What do you mean, I didn’t do anything!’ It’s kind of like that, this weird attitude of provoking people, and then not understanding why they are upset. That has happened to me so many times! I thought what I was doing was completely fine, but then it really bothered people. Then again, I don’t claim to be super intellectual, super smart or anything.

It’s not a matter of claiming it. But if you look at how, perhaps, a new generation of photographers-slash-artists are incorporating that same aspect of controversy in their work, they are super indebted to your ethos. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Haji Shin, she’s based in New York and I think she incorporated in her work your legacy of controversial image-making. I think that the controversial element has been quite adopted as a language nowadays.

That’s probably true, yeah. 

I’m not familiar with a lot of people’s work nowadays, but I do notice that it’s definitely more women photographers doing that kind of stuff than it is men. Most of the photographers I know now are young women.

Yeah, 100%. Critics have described your work as voyeuristic.

Yeah. I totally agree with that one. Every photographer is a voyeur, in a way, I think.

What’s your relationship with that claim?

Oh, I’m totally aware of that and down with it. I mean, my best days on the street are not so much in the winter, but in the summer. I have this little tiny camera I carry around, I get a lot of great shots and just beautiful people on the streets. And a friend of mine described this as, quoting a poet he knew, a two-minute romance, where you pass someone on the street, and you’re in love with him/her for two minutes. 

You don’t catch their eyes but see them as you go. Then you continue with your day, you know, keep walking. I’m taking photos of a lot of these 2-minute romantic people. Most of the time I don’t even know what I photograph, because I’m not looking through the lens. I’m just holding the camera down in my hand by my side. I get home and I go ‘Oh, I can’t wait to see what I photographed.’

Shot with DXO ONE Camera

I look at the photos, and sometimes I realise I’ve got really great stuff. But I can’t even remember seeing them, you know? 

But anyway, that’s a strictly voyeuristic thing. And I also shoot photos out my windows all the time. I’ve got an apartment in Miami Beach for the last two or three years, and I’ve been shooting people on the street out my window, walking onto the beach and stuff. That’s just an ongoing thing; sometimes they see me photographing them but usually, they don’t.

“I’m a voyeur, and always have been.”

Do people get offended sometimes?

I can stand in front of someone, look at them, and when I put a camera in front of my eye, they begin to look magical. But that’s regarding a regular shoot. I shot someone yesterday, it was a fashion job, and I’m looking at the photo through the camera going,  ‘Wow, she looks really good’.

How’d you come across the fashion-image maker career?

I don’t know; honestly, I’ve been doing it lately to pay the bills.

It is something you might enjoy, no? As a professional practice.

It all depends on who I’m shooting and the situation…sometimes it’s fun and sometimes it isn’t.

There have been years where I do it and periods where I don’t, but lately, I’ve been doing a lot of it.

And at the beginning, were you treating it as an art project?

No, it’s more of an occupation thing, but I tried to get a few of my shots in there. There’s one series I’ve been working on forever with girls with their cell phones. And it goes back to before everyone had an iPhone. And during this job yesterday, I shot a couple of shots like that for myself while we were doing the fashion shoot – I always stick some of this stuff in the shot list.

I’m so fascinated by this kind of marriage between the art image and, let’s say, commercial images. Your work perfectly summarises that in a way. You could look at one of your artworks and one of your magazine shoots and maybe no differences would catch your eye, in terms of the involvement of the same compositional methods, sometimes the same subjects.

It’s more doable with today’s fashion and clothes. It is much more relatable and similar to (those of) my art images. I mean, now, when people work with me, they let me keep it much simpler regarding styling. A long time ago, I would be doing these jobs, and they would have these ridiculous clothes, and those photos are pretty useless to me now, but if I can keep it looking really natural with something someone would actually be wearing, then it works for me. The marriage you mentioned might take place. In some jobs they just let me do whatever I want, which is great! 

I can do every single kind of shot I’d like to do. And yeah, that’s fun.

And do you have a studio practice?

No, I have a pretty large apartment here in New York, and that used to be a studio. But then I had a kid, got married and a bunch of other things took place in my life. So now it’s more of a living space. But I do break it down into a studio every once in a while. I’m doing that next week. I just move everything around and create a studio in it. So yeah, sometimes I work from home and use it as a location.

And speaking of New York, what do you think about how things changed? Back then there was this kind of huge community around music and art as well. What’s your take on the present?

As far as I know, from talking to my son and some other young models, there’s still a gigantic community of all these different underground scenes that I don’t know of because I don’t go out at night much anymore. But all that stuff still exists. It may have been a bit more grimy or dirty when I was young. New York has gotten much more cleaned up now.

I know it seems a dumb question but how did you find your voice within that community? When did you realise that you were an artist?

I still haven’t realised that. I would call myself a photographer.  That way I can avoid anyone saying I’m a bad artist [laughs].

But who cares, right? I was wondering though, during that time, you collaborated a lot with musicians and other artists. Is it something that you’ve lost interest in now? Is it not as exciting anymore?

Well, I still do a lot of that stuff, but I’m not going to do it as much. Certainly, I won’t do it for free! Back then I would just do anything even if there was no money involved. But I don’t really have the time to do that anymore. But there’ve been people who’ve been my assistants or models who want to try something who I collaborate with for fun. An example is this Italian woman, Maria de Stefano, who worked for me for free for a long time and has this big project going on in Italy about migrant teenagers and their stories. She worked with me and then she went off and did her own thing. 

A model I worked with when she was young went off to become a hugely successful painter. I helped her turn an idea she had into a short film and shot it for her.  This kind of thing has happened a few times and it’s always good for me to see.  

What do you think changed in the world of photography throughout the years and how has your practice evolved?

Well, the most obvious changes are digital photography and the iPhone! That pretty much made anybody a photographer now, which is fine with me. 


Yeah. What I’d say is that I started when the film was the technology and there weren’t a million photographers. That’s the main difference I’m seeing. And I consider myself lucky to have started when I did and still be doing it. There is one thing I remember from art school. It wasn’t necessarily told to me, but I realised that whatever you start doing, you have to never stop. You have to do it all the time. There are the Sunday afternoon photographers or the Sunday painters who do it in their spare time as a hobby…but whatever you’re doing, you just have to keep doing it. I’ve seen a lot of people fall by the wayside over the years but I don’t know why I keep doing it. I just keep doing what I’ve always done I guess because it’s fun for me.

Since we’re talking about continuity, what’s the next project you’re working on? 

I have three or four books coming out pretty soon. One is a book of Polaroids I took as test shots. That’s called ‘Polaroids’.  Another one contains black and white photos from 1980 to 2005 that have never been published. It’s called ‘Gray’. ‘Cops’ is a fanzine companion to a zine I did two years ago called ‘Cars’. It’s photos of cops in NYC in the 1970s and 80s. And there’s another one called ‘Incorrect’, a collection of photographs of people holding grey cards. Before the current cameras, you had to hold up a grey card at the beginning of every shot, so that you could make sure you got the colour right.  People aren’t posing, they’re just standing there or whatever, and none of the photos have been retouched or corrected, so it’s a book of messed-up photographs.

That’s amazing! Books are of course a core part of your practice. You’ve done tons of books, and many of them have legendary status. What is your approach when you start a new book? Like, how do you work on that? Do you have a specific process for editing down images, what defines for you the bookmaking practice?

Well, it takes forever. In the past, when I was doing books like ‘New York Girls’, I’d do those with Taschen. And they were specifically interested in photographs of naked girls. That’s what they wanted and for a long period, that’s all I was doing.

But those big publishers don’t do that kind of book anymore. It’s completely unprofitable for them now because of the internet. So the books I’ve done the last few years have all been with a small press because they let me just pick a topic, make me a book, and then publish it. An example of that, and probably the best example is the book ‘Medicated’. 

I shot girls who were on medication for about five years. At the same time, I interviewed them about the medications they were on. Those interviews are the text that accompanies the photos in the book.  Books where I get to do a specific topic, are the best thing for me. I backed off on shooting nude because it’s a lot easier to get stuff published. 

I have Cars which I love, by the way. 

Oh, you like that book? Yeah, that’s a nice one. The cop book is the companion of that one. Same format and everything, same time period. 

But I was gonna say also when I’m shooting people with their clothes on, they still look just as sexy as without their clothes. More provocative, I guess provocative is the word I’m looking for.

One thing that gets me thinking [regarding nudes and representation] is Instagram. Everything is a minefield there. Everything has to be carefully thought out because you get attacked by this group or that group or whatever. And that’s why I like to do books because no one can attack you directly. [laughs]

I haven’t thought about it before, but I’m just realising now that your images have, in a way, transitioned in use-value. Back then, porn movies and online porn weren’t aligned, and there was less circulation. So your images were treated as pornography by publishers, you mentioned Taschen and their interest, and users as well.

I shot real pornography at one time, so I can totally understand that.

But today, maybe, since there’s so much porn online, and things have gotten much more hardcore, those images have transitioned as acceptable in a way, sexy, to quote you, or provocative, but not pornographic. Does that make sense?

Well, also, when an image gets about 20 years old, it no longer is seen as pornographic. Really, I mean, unless it’s hardcore, then it’s going to always be pornographic. But at about the 20-year mark, they just become nostalgic, people look at it in a completely different way. When I first showed ‘New York Girls’ photographs, it upset a lot of people. Art critics mainly but they’re easily unsettable. But now, the same kind of people look at those photographs with affection because they had seen them in their youth. Another good example of that is the movie ‘Fingered’, which caused so much controversy when I made it in ’86. Wherever it was shown there was always a problem! Now it’s in the MoMa collection! That kind of stuff happens all the time.

“Think about ‘Un Chien Andalou’, people ran out of the theatre screaming when it was first screened and now it’s an art classic.”

Every invention had this kind of shock value at its inception. Science, religion, art: everything that breaks up a determined pattern meets some resistance. But I also understand you perfectly when you’re talking about the nostalgia effect. What do you think about the duration of an image? You basically said it, but I wanted to see if you had more. Can images transform throughout their own life and maybe tell different stories?

A good example is something I put on Instagram recently, two girls from Smith College laying on a bed – a couple. They look pretty punk. It was from 2004. A young journalist had written to me asking if I knew this image was all over the place in the gay and lesbian culture. I wasn’t aware of that. He said that image was everywhere and he was writing his thesis on it. I put it on Instagram, and then another friend of mine who’s 25 told me it was everywhere on Tumblr, and that it had been there forever. So that way, I found out that it was an iconic image.

What’s your relationship with galleries and shows, at the moment?

I just had a show in Switzerland. And that was the first one I’ve had in a long time. They wanted to show very old photographs, [laughs] which is fine. The photos were from 35 years ago so any kind of controversy attached to them has been removed. But I think because of wokeness, many galleries I used to work with are really paranoid about working with somebody like me now, but maybe not. I don’t really know.

I can see what you mean. I think there are some huge structural problems with cancel culture and the art world right now, most people are maybe scared to show works that are controversial, like maybe yours. 

Even if the work shown per se isn’t controversial, it doesn’t matter, they look at your whole past now. That’s where the controversy comes in. But it seems to have turned around quite a bit. It’s almost as if wokeness became kind of uncool. And there’s a reaction to it.

“Every scene eventually provokes an opposite reaction!”


  1. Cristina with Guns, 1990
    One of the first series I did was women with guns. I had a slightly paranoid friend who supplied all the guns for the shoots. Shot in my living room in NYC.
  2. Toni Garn for Numero Berlin, 2016
    This shoot was a cover shoot for the first issue of Numero Berlin. 
  3. Lung Leg’s shirt, 1987 (note I had the wrong date on the file I sent). 
    Lung Leg was the focus of many of the films I made in the 1980’s including You Killed Me First 1985 and Fingered 1986. Lung is an excellent painter. Back then she was obsessed with Demons and this shirt shows one of them. She made several Demon short films in the 90’s. Now she paints animals and does commissions for private collectors.
  4. Hunters, 2006
    Shot in upstate NY with my ex-wife (in the orange) and a model from Chicago. A friend in upstate NY offered to let me shoot on backcountry farmland he owned where he secretly grew marijauna. He supplied the guns. 
  5. Julia in her bedroom, 2017
    Julia Fox in the NYC apartment she was living in back in 2017. 
  6. Kemp from GQ Italia, 2008 
    Model Charlotte Kemp Muhl shot in her NYC apartment. For 2-3 years I was shooting women for GQ Italia.
  7. Test polaroid, 2003. 
    This was a test shot for an early shoot I did for Double magazine and as often was the case, the polaroid was better than the shots I took.
  8. Naproxen, Serteraline, etc, 2016. 
    One project I focused on for many years concerned young people taking doctor’s prescribed drugs.  The result was the short film Medicated (2013)(which can be seen on my website) and the book Medicated published in 2021.
  9. Hand in mouth, 2000
    I was shooting this girl for a “leg” magazine in Los Angeles when she said “I can put my whole hand in my mouth” so of course i said “let’s shoot that”. 
  10. Smith College Couple, 2004.  
    A friend attending Smith College suggested that I come shoot and interview some of the students there as it was known as a lesbian friendly environment. She offered to cast.  I pitched the story to ID Magazine.  

    All works courtesy of Richard Kern.

Peter Kaaden

Alles Wird Gut


Models · Marlene at Tigers Management, Nathalie at Girls Club and Belle at Modelwerk
Photography · Peter Kaaden and Till Milius
Fashion · Peninah Amanda
Production and Casting · Pina Marlene
Hair · Ruby Howes
Makeup · Maria Ehrlich
Fashion Assistants · Sophia Bogner and Jakob Schaefer


  1. Dress THE ATTICO
  2. Bra Stylist’s own, skirt VALENTINO and stockings FALKE
  3. Coat VERSACE and jewellery Model’s own
  4. Coat VERSACE
  5. Dress THE ATTICO

Justine Kurland

London’s Huxley Parlour Gallery Presents ‘I Belong To This’ Curated By Photographer Justine Kurland

Curated by contemporary American photographer Justine Kurland, ‘I belong to this’ gathers a group of 17 artists to explore notions of the self, family, death, and private and communal rituals, as part of a declaration of identification, a promise of solidarity, or a blurring of self into multitudes, as inspired by Ariana Reines’s poem ‘Save the World’, after which the exhibition is titled. 

The work presented by the artists constantly refuse an emblematic or fixed identity, and instead, have repurposed their DNA into a limitless family album, resurrected ancestors, and activated psychic space to give shape to their experience. The photographs in the exhibition work collaboratively in resistance to destructive power dynamics by creating new pathways to knowledge in a pact between artist, subject, and viewer. It is through these acts of resistance that we are able to recognise ourselves both through and among others.

The artists include Genesis Báez, Jennifer Calivas, Naima Green, AK Jenkins, Sydney Mieko King, Keli Safia Maksud, Jacky Marshall, Qiana Mestrich, Shala Miller, Cheryl Mukherji, Diana Palermo, Calafia Sanchez- Touzé, Keisha Scarville, Wendy Small, Gwen Smith, Anne Vetter, Annie Hsiao-Ching Wang.

NR Magazine speaks with the featured artists about the inspirations behind their exhibition pieces.

Genesis Báez

How did growing up in both Puerto Rico and Massachusetts shape you as an artist?

It shaped who I am therefore it inherently, even if indirectly, shapes my work. Having roots in two drastically different places opened my mind up at an early age. I developed a curiosity and need to see things from different perspectives. 

You and your mother feature in your piece for the exhibition. Could you talk a bit about your relationship with her?

My mother and I feature in the piece Lifting Water. We lift a heavy glass vessel that is about to overflow with water. When I made this picture, I was thinking about transference, inheritance, and the weights that we collectively carry. My friend once said that she read the image as us removing the water between Massachusetts and Puerto Rico. I like this interpretation! My mother and I like making pictures together. I inherited a relationship to Puerto Rico from her, as she took me back there for the first time when I was three, and then throughout my life. But my work is not about her or our relationship. I also make photographs with many people, both family and extended community.

What do the concepts of motherhood and motherland mean to you and your work?

I don’t think about my work in relation to motherhood, but rather the idea of an origin or belonging, and how these are quite precarious and slippery. What if you don’t have a motherland – can’t go to it, can’t stay in it, or don’t want one? I don’t have a motherland. At times it’s been painful, and other times I don’t want one and it’s a relief! Sometimes, overidentifying with a ‘motherland’ can quickly slip into complicated nationalistic tendencies. I’m more interested in describing the watery, temporal experiences of existing between worlds. I used to yearn to have a clear, grounded origin that I could go to and say, ‘I belong to this.’ Now I lean into the watery places of my belonging. Belonging can be nuanced and certainly extends beyond geography.

Jennifer Calivas

How would you describe the relationship between body, earth and identity within your practice?

It may sound corny, but sometimes I need to be close to the earth to get grounded. In graduate school I was exposed to so much in the way of art and ideas which was wonderful in many ways, but afterwards I wanted to get back to earth so much that I literally went into it. When I am underground for one of these pictures, I can’t see what things look like, so finding out how my body looks when I develop the film is really exciting. I love to see how the earth cracks and forms around me and finding out what new forms have appeared. Seeing these new sand or mud blobs take shape helps me to mess up my own sense of self and for its boundaries to feel less rigid.

What impact did performing this self-burial have on you?

It gave me a rash! All of these pictures were made by the ocean, in the sand or on mud flats. Did you know that the rotting smell of the ocean is caused by tiny microbes doing their part to digest and ferment decaying matter? When I am buried in these pictures, I can feel my body being eaten. In my effort to be still for the photograph, I end up getting consumed. The last time I made one of these images this bacteria made my skin burn and gave my assistant’s silver jewellery a patina. I think I’ve performed my last burial where I’m stuck in the sand and now. I want to move my body around which is what I’m doing in my new work.

What sculptural influences do you take from ecology and your environment?

I grew up on the coast of Maine, spending my time climbing around the shoreline, always poking and prodding at the ground to discover things. I seem to have a limitless love and fascination for this space and by burying myself in it, I get to experience it with all my senses and feel what it’s like below the surface. When I started these pictures, I had death on my mind but realised quickly that below ground is teaming with life, which has made me think about stillness differently.

Also, I am at the mercy of the weather, tides, and light when making these images. I like having to coordinate with nature in this way. There’s not much negotiation involved; I have to follow its lead. This reminds me that I am a part of environmental processes, not separate from them.

AK Jenkins

What was it like for you creating the series ‘Grandma’s Fans’? 

It is very much an ancestral conversation that is happening, along with my own memories of what growing up in the church has instilled in me – how it has shaped, and at times shamed me. My grandparents’ home is still in our family and much of it remains intact. It’s really hard to create new memories in a space like that which has so many markers of presence, both physically and spiritually. It often leads me to enter into a conversation with things that may never be fully answered. It’s like how I still listen to older music and records – there is so much more I understand from them now that we both have more life in the world. The act of revisiting, be it an album or my grandmother’s house, is a practice that allows me to understand changes in meaning overtime. 

What attracted you to working with portraiture?

I would say that specifically, self-portraiture is at the centre of my work right now. This shift happened after I found myself conflicted with the power dynamics and even weight of ‘shooting’ people with the camera. At the same time, we all look at the plethora of images to understand our narrative in the world. I wasn’t witnessing the nuances of my own life; it was like people like me didn’t really exist in image culture. So, imaging the complexity, strength and the love of my existence became obvious and urgent. The work is not speculative, though I’m interested in exploring that moving forward, but I’d say these thoughts, moments, and places I find myself playing with are within the context of my daily life. I appreciate that portraiture gets to the core of humanness, even though people often come to the work through identity, I think really good portraiture penetrates deeper than that. I never have to say queer and Black; you see that when I image myself. But I still do have to make images that speak to conditions of love, desire, belonging and beauty.

In writing about the series, you mention that it is ‘rapt in moments of contemplation and refusal’. How do you feel this relates to your identity as an artist? 

I think it is what we try to do as artists – in making our work we are constantly wrestling with what we give, what we take or leave on the table, as we draw from our realities and imaginations.

Sydney Mieko King

Your work in the exhibition includes archival photographs of your grandmother. Could you talk a bit about your relationship with her?

My grandma lives on San Juan Island in Washington State. My parents, brother and I visited my grandparents there every summer until around 2016. My mother always said that my interest in art came from her. We used to make chalk drawings together on the cement floor of the garage while I ate Push-Ups from the freezer. One summer I was really invested in growing plants, so we tried to plant tulip bulbs near the mailbox and cared for a tomato plant together. My grandmother lived day-to-day and told us very few stories about her past. Most of the time we would watch movies and TV together or take naps on the couch. Every summer we would get into a fight, and I would spend the rest of my visit trying to make it up to her. She was tough in a way that I couldn’t handle; she had the capacity to ignore and not forgive.  

If she were my age, we would be the same size and shape. Her clothes that didn’t fit my mother I now wear. The two-piece outfits, the tie-dyed gown, the house dress that she’d put on when we drove away each summer, waving from the front steps. When I saw her this summer she faded in and out of consciousness. She still made snappy comments to me and my brother, told us we were ‘being mean to grandma’ when we joked with her at the dinner table. That was her old self, the one that loved us and pushed us away. My mother says that she is silent most days now, too tired to move.

You studied Art and Archaeology at Princeton University. Was this where you first became interested in the potential of the body to create new realities and histories?

The old photo labs at Princeton were right next to the ceramics studio, where a lot of sculpture students would make and leave behind their two-part plaster moulds. There were dozens of moulds of vases, mustard containers, wine glasses and other objects. I started photographing the objects I found there, angling the light so that the objects would appear as three-dimensional casts in my resulting images. I was fascinated by the idea that I could change my perception of objects through photography – to create an almost-tangible form when there was only the absence of one. After a while, I started making my own plaster moulds with a variety of materials, mostly to experiment with form. I would mould apples and oranges from the dining hall, blobs of foam insulation and snow procured from just outside the art building. I was fascinated by the way these objects could switch between two states, a shifting in form that I had begun to relate to my own understanding of identity and how it could be portrayed through photography.

How do you navigate the concept of identity through photography and its relationship to the body?

I view the difficulty of portraying the body through photography as a topographical one. It will always be impossible to fully translate and understand a three-dimensional body by transposing it onto a two-dimensional surface. To re-imagine the medium’s relationship to the body, I started bending my prints, later manipulating the surface of the negative to somehow empathise with or mimic the surface of what I was photographing. Thinking of the plaster mould as a form of proto-photography, I later returned to recording the surface of the body, itself.

Making moulds with plaster requires so much stillness – it is a material used for replicating sculptures for educational purposes, for creating ‘death masks’ of the recently-deceased. When I mould myself in plaster, I try to occupy positions that evoke movement and breath. A bend in the stomach, legs wrapped around each other, or the overlapping parts of the body. It becomes an exercise in trying to hold still, and the inevitability of the object falling off my body with each breath I take. The moulds become an archive of my body over time – a way to understand its shifts. Some moulds that I made a year ago no longer fit; sometimes I cannot remember how I created a particular mould and go through an exercise of ‘trying on’ old positions that my body once occupied.

Keli Safia Maksud

What aspects of your work stand out to you as declarations of identification?

The overarching theme in my practice is the politics of identity. I interrogate state narratives and how they are used to manufacture national identities. It is crucial that I give a sense of my background, as it runs hand in hand with my practice. I was born in Kenya to Tanzanian parents of Muslim and Christian faith, making me a Kenyan-Tanzanian-Muslim-Christian. In addition, having only ever attended British, Canadian and American schools, I cannot deny what Frantz Fanon calls, ‘Presence Europeenne’ as a constitutive element of my identity. How does one postulate a Black and/or African self within a language or discourse in which Blackness is absent? It is a result of this fragmentation in my identity that I find an interdisciplinary approach to art making to be the most accurate and naturalist way of making sense of the world.

With the theme of this issue being Identity, I thought it would be interesting to know your thoughts on the relationship between sound and identity.

Identity is tricky, because it is often thought of as being fixed. In my work I am much less interested in fixed notions of identity and more on in-between, hyphenated, and contradictory spaces between identities. I am interested in how things bleed into each other or are in excess of boundaries that we have built around them. As such, sound allows me to explore these interests because it is omnidirectional and cannot be contained. Working from the space of leakage is generative as it is where I can begin to think about questions of connectivity and cross pollination.

Could you talk a bit about the inspirations behind your work in the exhibition?

For the past two years, I have been researching and deconstructing national anthems from various African countries. When African nations gained independence from European colonial rule, they too were motivated by the ethics of self-determination by adopting new national anthems that would speak to the new ideologies of the independent states. These anthems, however, were composed using European musical conventions (notation, language, and instruments) and many were modelled after former colonial powers, thus exposing the contradictory and hybridised nature of postcolonial subject formation where self-determination both mirrors the former colonial powers while also speaking against the former colonial power. Put differently, these new states continued to use European tools of imagining while also rejecting European ideology.

The outcome of this research has ranged from works on paper to deconstructed sound works of various national anthems. The sound piece for this exhibition is a deconstruction of the Algerian national anthem. Here, I was interested in taking an anthem that is quite revolutionary and militaristic and turning it into something that connects and allows for reflection. I am interested in how sound moves through space and how it feels in the body, so this piece begins in a very high sublime range and gradually drops to a very low piano sound which plays back from a subwoofer, which is really felt in the body and ends with this coming together of voices in some form of a chorus.

Jacky Marshall

What inspired you to start working with photograms?

I have always admired Christian Schad’s Schadographs and was inspired to see what compositions I could make myself. My work is an iterative process combining all the elements of my drawing and photography, and taking my drawings into the darkroom and experimenting with new ways to make pictures was a natural process. At first it was just the poppies and ginkgo leaves, then the drawings I had been working on from Zoom life classes were added. I was drawn to the test strips which I could put together and make new collages. 

What parts of your creative process help you navigate your identity?

The act of making pictures and being creative helps me express myself in ways I could not verbally articulate as a child, and probably still now as an adult. I am creating a new world for myself in my work. 

What is it about blurring the boundary between painting and photography that appeals to you?

I am both a painter and a photographer. I like that I can be working on my paintings and drawings that are quick and gestural, and then take them into the darkroom and make another picture using the two processes and even adding more elements to the photograms at the same time, playing with colour through the darkroom process. Painting and drawing with light instead of paint and ink. Everything for me is available to be used and recycled.  

Qiana Mestrich

Born to parents from Panama and Croatia, how do these cultures influence you and your work?

As an artist of mixed heritage, I consider my work to be transcultural in nature, meaning that it combines elements of more than one culture. I never knew my (Croatian) father, so that is a country and culture that is still very foreign to me. Eventually, I would like to use my art as a framework for discovering and connecting more to this Eastern European identity that is in my DNA.

My mother’s homeland of Panama is a very unique place geographically, it being an isthmus in Central America and the site of the canal that most people know it for. Culturally it is a mix of indigenous, European (Spanish colonial) and African influences as the country was an important centre of the trading of enslaved peoples in that region starting in the 1500s. Given this unique history, upwards of 80% of Panamanians are considered to be Black or ‘mixed race’.

Beginning in the 1830s, another wave of Black migrants came to Panama from Caribbean islands like Jamaica and Barbados – this is when my mother’s family settled in Panama. Somehow my mother’s maiden name is Scottish in origin, which we still haven’t traced back, so this cultural multiplicity is everywhere within my family tree. Genealogy is one aspect of my practice.

I’d love to know your thoughts about how you feel identity impacts knowledge sharing and community building – I know these aspects are a key part of your practice.

I first encountered photography as a teenager in the mid-1990s and I never thought twice about the fact that we studied the work of (mostly white male) artists in class. It wasn’t until I got to college where I took 3 years of colour photo and began to question, ‘where are all the Black photographers and why aren’t we studying them in class?’ 

My confidence as a photographer and connection to the medium was formed when I was able to discover (on my own) the works of artists like Carrie Mae Weems, Lorna Simpson, Andres Serrano and Renee Cox, among other emerging photo-based artists of that time. From there I devoured work by Latin American photographers like Garduno, Bravo, Cravo Neto, Iturbide; obsessed over Japanese photographers like Hosoe, Sugimoto, Moriyama, Miyako; marveled over Black British photographers picturing the diaspora in Europe like Shonibare, Pollard, Fani Kayode, Barnor….the list goes on.

Essentially, I was determined to educate myself about ‘photography’s other histories’ and that is how my blog, Dodge & Burn, was founded. The blog was initially a place for me to digitally hold my knowledge, but then it became a platform for the many photographer interviews I published. It connected me to a global photo community and judging by the feedback I got from my peers and email correspondence from curators, students, and educators, it was something we all needed.

Your piece in the exhibition includes your son – could you talk a bit about your relationship and the inspiration behind the work?

Winston is the oldest of my two children. He’s the son I wished for, and he was so excited to come into this world that he was born a month early. I literally went into labour during my baby shower! Parents can be biased towards their offspring of course but not a day goes by when I don’t marvel at his presence, and I am validated by the many compliments I get from other adults who know him.

The sequence of images I’m showing in the Huxley Parlour group show were taken during an impromptu dance session (which Winston often breaks into) while I was shooting some still life photos in my makeshift outdoor studio on the deck of our home. One of his favourite songs came on and he started doing this dance called the Orange Justice – his limbs were just cutting the summer air and I found it curious how his head just hung down the whole time – a position not typical when performing that dance. 

The sun was blazing above us, and our home’s vinyl siding was the perfect reflector. I fired off multiple frames as I often do when photographing my children because I have to make every millisecond count before they tire of my requests to pose. I was trying to record Winston’s energy, this ecstasy he was in.

In interpreting the spirit of this work, I’m curious about the various (art) historical references that a viewer might apply to these photographs – from the religious (crucifixion) to the profane (lynching) to the technical capture of motion (Muybridge) but ultimately it reminds me of the transcendent experiences of African rituals throughout the diaspora that defy time and space.

Does motherhood influence your creative process at all?

Mothering has influenced my creative process in the sense that it made being an artist more urgent. Caring for two children fuelled my desires to care for and nurture the artist within me.

Shala Miller

How do you feel like your pieces in the exhibition explore the concept of identity?

I believe there is much to be seen and heard within the quotidian, and there are both simple and dynamic poetics of everyday living. Poetics that continue to help me understand the beauty and pain of Black femme adulthood, which in turn helps me understand the world around me. My entire artistic practice is bred from this belief. ‘Play’ is not just an image of myself, a Black female bodied person, beneath a tree and hanging from a tree. It is an image in conversation with my history as a Black female bodied person. It is an image about resistance and finding grounding.

What inspired you to work across text and image?

Working with text and image has been a sort of touchstone of my practice over the years. It’s what led me to video installation and writing for moving image in general. I try to use text as an extension of image making, not separate from it. In ‘Play’ specifically, I was also thinking about ethnographic field work as this image is a part of an ethnographic study I’ve been doing about the epigenetics of trauma and my relationship with my mother. The text beneath the images is a kind of poetry but then also field notes.

How important is transformation to you and your practice?

What gives steam to the engine of my practice and my personhood is being devoted to discovery and being a student of life. And I think with discovery comes transformation, or a kind of repositioning. And that is the sort of thing that I strive for in both my practice and my life.

Cheryl Mukherji

Your work for the exhibition explores transgenerational trauma through interventions in the family album. Does healing play an important part in your practice?

Healing plays as much part in my practice and life as it does with anyone. If the question leans more towards knowing if I have healed (in any way) as part of my practice, I would not have an answer to that mainly because, right now, I am interested in naming things, articulating feelings, and ideas (which is its own way of healing, I believe) more than rushing to fix them.

Are family and psychic inheritance important aspects of your identity as an artist?

Family, transgenerational trauma, and inheritance are recurring themes in my current work which makes them an important aspect of my identity too, because my work is semi-autobiographical. I don’t identify as an artist who is only concerned with and restricted to exploring these themes, but they do shape both me and my work in huge ways.

Diana Palermo

How does spirituality influence your identity as an artist?

Trust and faith are required for both. Being a heavily experimental process-based artist, I find that my fluidly intuitive relationship with materials and the unknown are a bridge. Personally, I will have moments where I feel like I’m conjuring a ghost while working in the darkroom, and moments when the by-products of spiritual rituals feel like sculptures. They influence and inform each other.

What was the inspiration behind the pieces chosen for the exhibition?

In the last year, I’ve thought a lot about the element of fire as an archetype in my life. I’ve been interrogating different symbolic meanings in direct and cryptic ways. I’ve been particularly curious about fire as both creator and destroyer. The poems in the two photographic prints are informed by these inquiries. 

The long exposure lumen print (Incantation 11) is a diaristic document centred around the unknowns of Covid. I was quarantined out of my studio at Columbia University from March 17th until 26th August 2020. The exposure of that print measures that amount of time. I set up the conditions by writing a poem on a sheet of acetate and using it as a transparency by placing it on photo paper and leaving it on the floor for almost 6 months. I don’t think I knew how long it was going to sit alone in that room. In many ways it records my absence and created itself. 

The other piece (Incantation 9) is a poem drawn with a flashlight while kneeling on the darkroom floor. The prints were then developed, and the image was revealed. For me, it speaks to the slow emergence of something new when fire and light are wielded in a balanced and intentioned manner. 

Do you have any rituals as part of your creative process?

I am a pretty methodical person, but when it comes to actually creating the work, it can be somewhat chaotic. I find that my studio set-up and clean-up are extremely ritualistic. I place certain objects and materials in a way that would make me want to use them when I enter or leave. Though the parameters of the pieces are planned, the actions are frenetic and leave a lot of room for fortuity. I find this is much like the relationship one has with spiritual rituals.

How do you see your work as a declaration of identification?

Claiming space as a queer person in otherwise confined spiritual traditions is a declaration. I’ve done a great deal of work both internally and academically unearthing the spirits and stories of queer mystics, gods, and saints. My work is a visceral reclamation of religious archetypes and stories through intuitive actions. Though many of them are created in the dark or in an absence, they are presented in the light with all their history and power like a relic in a museum or chapel.


Calafia Sanchez- Touzé

Could you talk a bit about the inspirations behind your series of images in the exhibition? 

The photographs in the show are about the feeling of premature grief. A feeling I’ve long associated with my father and brother. In Mexico, I was surrounded with images of suffering, violence, and martyrdom, mostly in a religious context. I started thinking about how those images might have affected my father as a child and his understanding of his own mortality and sickness. I used crime photographs taken from the local newspaper in Michoacán as references for my portraits, as well as iconic religious postures to position my subjects. 

Has exploring aspects of the body and your family always been an interest of yours? 

I think my study of the body has a lot to do with my fascination with the ways skin can make us think about death. I make images where skin is plump and smooth, folding on itself, and juxtapose it with moments where skin is older and fragile, where it becomes a thin layer that could tear at any moment. Skin shows the body’s proximity to death in its capacity (or lack thereof) to seal the inside from the outside, but it can also show nothing at all.

Gwen Smith

What inspires you to work between photography and painting?

I’m a vessel filled with pictures—sometimes the photographs that I generate are transformed into paintings or collages, and other times they maintain their shape as photographs. This fluidity of media bears traces of my own fugitive existence, the way that I connect my lived experience to a greater genealogy which crosses lines of colour, nationality, and family. I create proof of my own existence through my relation to others- the artwork is my evidence.

How important is archival imagery to you and your practice? Does it help ground your sense of identity at all?

Essentially, I am an archivist: I accumulate images, photographs of family and those who have made me who I am, shots of artworks that have struck me, and use them to chronicle meaning in my life. These images connect to one another, forming threads of belonging and selfhood through a labyrinth winding around the complications of dissociation and Blackness.

‘These artists mark an intractable this. The lens points, more like an ear than an index finger, in the direction of what is felt rather than seen.’ – Justine Kurland

The exhibition runs until October 16th, 2021. 

Discover more here huxleyparlour.com

Ben Kelly

“Keep going, don’t stop”

One of the UK’s most influential designers Ben Kelly is perhaps best known for designing the interior of the famous Manchester nightclub, the Haçienda which was infamous in Manchester’s post-punk house and rave scene. Of course, this is only a tiny part of his extensive and varied career. Kelly has worked with big names such as The Sex Pistols, Virgil Abloh, Factory Records, Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren. However, speaking to him one is reminded of their favourite university lecturer, sternly indulgent and ultimately kind to anyone who falls under the umbrella of the ‘young creative’.  He has the interview questions before him, he’s made notes and he asks questions. “What does NR stand for?” “How did you research me?” “What university did you go to and what did you study?”. It’s certainly a novel experience for the interviewer to find themselves becoming the interviewed, and that is only the start as NR Magazines joins Ben Kelly in conversation.

You originally wanted to be an artist before you went into design. If you had stuck to that initial career path what do you think your art practice would look like today? 

Well, that’s a simple yet complex question. Who knows what the answer is without having a crystal ball. But when I was applying for my postgraduate at the Royal College I was asked why did I want three more years of further education in the interior design department. My answer was I wanted to discover whether it was possible to mix together art and interior design to produce what I called art interiors. I had equal interests in those two subjects. When you’re a student doing interior design it’s frustrating because you never get to see an end product, it only ever exists as drawings and models. But I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to work with another student to redesign the student bar at the Royal College. I named the student bar the Art Bar and we had a neon sign made saying art bar which is still there today. That’s one of my proudest things that’s been left behind. We went about that project as designers and artists because we had carte blanche because we didn’t really have a client.

Fast forward, I ultimately felt that some years back I had achieved my goal of this combination of references to the art world within the discipline of interior design. Ultimately in the last three or four years, I have produced a number of art installations in 180 The Strand. So I have kind of achieved my goal in a roundabout way. Along that way maybe I was using clients to experiment with this notion of producing what I called art interiors. When we had a looser brief I took that opportunity to investigate those possibilities. I also now operate as an artist in the art world, all be it slightly obliquely, and produce interiors so that’s my answer.

You stated that you are inspired by Marcel Duchamp and that he has “pretty much inspired everyone in the creative world, some way or another.” How exactly do you think he has inspired everyone? 

Well, I scribbled down by default. That’s a complicated question but I guess my answer would be that it is an accepted fact, stated by Duchamp himself, that he either intended to or did change the way we look and think about art. If you move that on into the world of design and the broader world it’s unquestionably influenced by the thoughts, approach and activities of Duchamp. I think it’s bled into design and architecture sometimes in subtle, sometimes in obvious ways. It can be almost subliminal. So it’s there under the surface, not necessarily clear or obvious but I believe life had changed generally thanks that one man being on the planet and doing what he did. Without Duchamp, our lives would be different in a quieter way. It would be a poorer world. The thinking behind everything would be different and it would look different. It would lack subtlety and humour.

“Duchamp opened a new toolbox of thought processes and an application of ideas, a new language.”

So historically you go from Duchamp to Richard Hamilton, the artist who reproduced The Large Glass of Duchamp. Hamilton taught at Newcastle School of Art in the late 60s where Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music was a student. Ferry was under the spell of Hamilton who was under the spell of Duchamp. Ferry was equally influenced by Duchamp and the lyrics of his songs related back to him. When I designed the Haçienda I struggled to find a background colour for it because there were acres and acres of walls. I had an idea of that colour but I couldn’t grasp what it was. I eventually found it on an album cover by Bryan Ferry called The Bride Stripped Bare which is a title from a Duchamp artwork. So I enjoyed that connection. I told Ferry about that anecdote and his answer was “I’m glad I could be of help,” and off he trotted.

How has he inspired everyone? By default. By a subtle undertone of influences that other people, other designers, other artists, other thinkers who have drawn inspiration from Duchamp, and that seeps through the cracks.

How would you describe your identity in design? 

I don’t and I won’t and I can’t. I like to have an independent identity and not be associated directly with a given description, but I’m interested in the broader description of popular culture. I operate under that umbrella to a degree, but not all the time.

There are two quotes by journalists, which doesn’t answer your question but it sort of does. One is certainly my all-time favourite. In 1982, the same year I did the Haçienda, I did a hairdressing salon on the King’s Road called Smile. Smile was a really fashionable hairdressing salon they started in Knightsbridge and lots of fashion and music people went there. They took this property on the King’s Road one door away from Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s shop. My brief to myself was to design a hairdressing salon that looked the least like a hairdressing salon as possible.  In other words,  it wasn’t a typical hairdressing salon. So each styling position was different to the next one, they were all different and I used the colour orange. This journalist said, “Ben Kelly rescued the colour orange from the scrapheap of style”. It doesn’t get any better than that as far as I’m concerned.

The other one was about the Haçienda. A journalist referred to it as “the motorway aesthetic”, simply because I used cats eyes and roadside bollards in the scheme. So I leave what my identity in design is for other people to decide. That the job for other people it’s not mine. I just like to be independent and keep pushing boundaries. Going back to Duchamp, I like taking one thing from one world and another thing from another world and putting those two things together that have never coexisted before and suddenly something new happens.

You have stated before that you have been quite angry with people ‘sampling’ your work, but do you think that anyone can create anything truly original in this day and age? 

Well, your research has lead you to quotes where I’ve said I’ve been angry or pissed off or whatever and quite a lot of those things I’ve said tongue in cheek. I think I know what specific example is being referred to here. It’s very flattering if people copy your work. However, going back to the Haçienda, (or it might have been the Dry Bar, I can’t remember which one), but within weeks, not that far away, another place opened and it was almost identical to the piece of work we’d done and that pissed me off! It was incredibly opportunist of whoever that was.

Fast forward. I painted stripes on the columns in the Haçienda, merely as a method of making them clear as hazards as they were on the dance floor. So I took the language of factories and workplaces where hazards are marked as per British standard. But that simple gesture I made somehow found its way into popular culture and it’s kinda gone global, you see it everywhere. One person in particular had seen it, someone who became a friend and a collaborator.

“A man called Virgil Abloh put stripes onto garments for a label called Off-White.”

I didn’t know anything about Virgil or Off-White when it was brought to my attention. It seemed pretty obvious where the inspiration for that had come from. It took me by surprise at the time and I was kind of shocked.

It must have been quite frustrating to see that after spending so much time and effort coming up with the ideas.

Well it was just work, and I never thought it would go further than that. Yeah maybe I got pissed off but it took me a while to think about it and understand that it was absolutely no different to what happens with music and the whole idea of sampling. As I’ve said I don’t own copyright on stripes, that would be ridiculous to even think about, but ideas and copyright are so difficult to define. You end up being philosophical because,

“Virgil sampling something I did has paid dividends beyond what I could even imagine.”

It lead on to him and I collaborating, and becoming friends, and opening doors, and making other things possible. Now he’s probably one of the most famous men in the world and that’s not a bad thing to be associated with. It’s a funny old world.

Do you think the idea of copyright and people copying work has gotten more complex with the rise of the internet? 

This might sound contradictory I think it had become both more complex and more simple. Because I think we all now understand the idea of sampling. However, copying is a different thing and I will give you a couple of examples. There is a film called 24 Hour Party People which was all about Factory Records, the Haçienda and the whole factory scene in Manchester. It was directed by a man called Michael Winterbottom who I mostly think is a great filmmaker, a man with integrity, but they copied my design of the Haçienda. They had to rebuild it for the film and they approached me for help but as soon as I suggested a fee might be charged they disappeared. The film came out and they did an amazing job but they copied me. That design is my copyright and that’s all designers have. You only have copyright to protect your work so if it’s copied to the millimetre without your permission there’s something wrong there. I spent several years fighting it legally. I wanted to make a big thing about that and take it to the press to make a noise about how important the issue of copyright is but I was so exhausted by the time the distributors of the film settled out of court, I just wanted to let it go.

More recently Manchester City football club have done their version of Haçienda strips on their T-shirts and that really made me very angry. Nobody spoke to me about it and I thought they did a very poor job, I didn’t enjoy what they had done. Of course, they are one of the richest football clubs that there is, so how could I do battle with them? I have to be philosophical and say a bit of a poor show on their part.

So that’s the way it goes with copyright and sometimes it’s relevant and sometimes it isn’t. You have to be careful and young designers do get their work copied, particularly in the fashion industry. I don’t think that young people are sufficiently aware of how to protect their work. I always wanted to make a noise about it but I was exhausted and wanted to move on. However, I make reference to it where I can, like now, to bring awareness.

How has designing the Haçienda influenced your design journey and ethos? 

That’s a huge question for me. The Haçienda opened in 1982. Next year it will be the 40th anniversary of the opening.

“My quote is the ‘Haçienda never dies’, and it doesn’t.”

Its influence and story, it’s embedded in popular culture. It’s been acknowledged as one of the most important nightclubs for a whole host of different reasons. However, for me at first, it became the monkey on my back. It wouldn’t go away and people would only talk to me about having designed the Haçienda. Of course, I’ve designed many things, many different types of interiors, and many other things outside of interior design, and that kind of annoyed me. Then I stopped being annoyed and realised that it was a massive asset to me.

My interpretation of your question is, having designed the Haçienda, the slipstream that followed on from it has massively influenced, and lead on to, the majority of work  I’ve done ever since. I could say possibly 99% of what I’ve done since, in one way or another, there have been references to the Haçienda, or it happened as a result of Haçienda, or some intersection of those. Something to do with the  Haçienda has been a part of nearly every project I’ve done since. That might not be visible or legible or understandable but I know it’s embedded in there somewhere. So that’s fed into work I’ve done in many other disciplines, it’s been a big part of what I’ve done.

You worked on the set design for the PTB19 runway show. How do you see interior design and fashion working together in the future? 

Again with that project they came to me because the collection they showed had been partly inspired by the design of the Haçienda. For the set, there are subtle references to the design of the Haçienda which are
mostly some black and yellow stripes. I’d like to think it was done in a poetic and subtle way. It was great I really enjoyed doing that show.

But to answer your question, I have no idea, I can’t predict the future. Well, going back to Virgil, his last Off-White show was done virtually because of the pandemic. My observation was that he’d taken his inspiration for the set from a combination of two interiors. One was was The Barcelona Pavilion by Mies van der Rohe. The other was a set from 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick. So obviously you get this really heavy mix of references which is a kind of Duchampian. I know that Virgil, is as obsessed with Duchamp as I am, it’s something we share. So fashion and interiors, there’s no limit to that collaboration. I expect to see really rich pieces of work coming out of that combination of design disciplines and industries. People like Virgil are in the luxurious position of leading the way because they have big budgets and can work with the best people in the world.

But if you put all that to one side and bring it back to young people, who’ve left college and are trying to find a way of being creative, that’s where my interest lies. The future belongs to them and it’s the hardest environment to be operating in right now, my sympathies lie hugely with young people. But finding a space, finding backers, finding a budget, being able to just go to a nightclub, is almost unaffordable.

“To buy a drink in a bar is almost unaffordable so new ways have to be found. They have to be super creative, and sidestep the mainstream and find another way.”

That’s why punk was so great, it was two fingers to authority and invent your own ways of doing things. It didn’t last that long but the spirit and the ethos of it is still there. I’m looking forward to the revolution.

Has Covid affected how you approach your art practice, and if so how? 

Well yeah, that was interesting when covid hit and the lockdowns and the poor handling of it by our government. I’m very lucky because I’m sat here talking to you from my studio in London, but I have another, bigger, studio on the south coast. So I went and isolated down there and the phone stopped ringing, well it’s emails and texts these days, but that all stopped and went quiet.

I had been asked to design a piece of artwork as a print, but the pandemic put a stop to the exhibition happening. So I’m sat there in my studio and I thought “I won’t make it as a print, I’ll make it as a painting”. It was to do with the language of the Haçienda, and I thought “Oh I could do another one” so then I did another one and another one, and I did maybe fifteen or sixteen of these paintings over the first and the second lockdown period. It was fantastic, it was like therapy, it was another form of expression. I’m hoping that some paintings I’ll be able to show in an exhibition. So the pandemic physically affected my art practice in that it made me sit down and make some paintings which I enjoyed. It will lead on to me doing more of that kind of work. Something that I independently drive forward, there isn’t a client or a brief, it’s just me. So I have the pandemic to thank for that.

What advice do you have for young creatives looking to work in design? 

Be independent, is my advice. Keep going, don’t stop. Mistakes will be made but you learn from those mistakes. You will fail at things, but failure teaches you an awful lot. When I started it was so much easier, because my first projects were done for people who were friends or like-minded people. Now it’s much more complicated because everything costs more money, there’s less money around and the internet changed everything. We need to find a way for young people to operate. For young creative people in the art world to find space to do what they do and add richness to our lives.

“Richness is being removed, the oxygen is being sucked out, and we need to fix that.”

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

Well, two things. I have done a collaborative project with a photographer called Eugene Schlumberger. Using Kickstarter we have funded a book called Haçienda Landscapes. The story there is I stumbled upon his work on Instagram. I kept seeing these photographs that I thought were really beautiful and really just compositionally well thought out and I realised that they were referencing the Haçienda. This guy was finding the language of the design of the Haçienda out in the post-industrial landscape in the North-East of England, with all the ruined factories and machinery with hazard stripes. I messaged him, we started talking to each other and eventually met up in London. I said we need to do a project together and it should be a book called Haçienda Landscapes. I’ve also been taking photographs over the years of things that kind of reference the language of the Haçienda but mine were more snapshots. His are quite thought out, carefully composed and it makes a really nice kind of contrast with these two different sets of photographs. We’ve been very successful so I hope we are going to produce a thing of great beauty. The other is an exhibition at 180 The Strand which has turned into the most amazing alternative art space. The owner of the building is someone I’ve known for a very long time and they’ve commissioned me to do a couple of installations there. It’s going to be called ‘Columns, Revolving Mirrors and International Orange’.


Images · BEN KELLY

Hassan Kurbanbaev

“Photography is my interlocutor.”

Shining a light on the hidden gems of Uzbekistan, photographer Hassan Kurbanbaev documents and explores the identities of the people and landscapes of his home country. Capturing the spirit of the country’s capital city Tashkent, Kurbanbaev’s also uses photography as a tool to better understand his surroundings. Immersing himself in the country’s emerging generation, his sentimental perspective shines a warm light on the often-overlooked aspects of Uzbek life.

A Soviet republic for the majority of the 20th century, Uzbekistan became independent in 1991, and the country’s history of immigration has made Tashkent a city of great diversity. Kurbanbaev’s body of work reflects this richness of culture, as he documents Tashkent’s youth, inner city spots, rural landscapes and personal portraits. Snapshots of urban life bathed in sunlight, trees caressed by the breeze and locals lost in thought – the photographer’s love for his city stands out in his work.

Kurbanbaev’s work has planted the seeds for a new era of liberated image-making in Uzbekistan. Championing authenticity and showcasing his heritage, he speaks into existence a new kind of artistic expression for the Uzbek photography scene and inspires other emerging artists to do the same.

NR Magazine speaks with the photographer to learn more about the history of artistic censorship in Uzbekistan, the blossoming photography scene, and Kurbanbaev’s exploration of his country’s identity.

When did you first start getting into photography? 

I took up photography while studying at the Tashkent State University of the Arts, where I entered the Faculty of Cinematography in the early 2000s. Now it’s slightly difficult to call this university a full-fledged education, but at the time we had a photography course that helped me understand that it was something I’d be passionate about in the future. After graduation, I didn’t immediately become a photographer in the full sense of the word. I worked for several years in radio and did various jobs, but eventually returned to photography as a profession. I guess I understood photography as something that made my existence useful and conscious.

You’ve mentioned being ‘full of questions’ about your ‘identity as a citizen of Uzbekistan’ – as this issue of the magazine is about identity, I’d love to delve deeper into your thoughts about that. 

I think that I, like a lot of other people from the post-Soviet era, experience this feeling of uncertainty about questions concerning the concept of self-representation, a homeland and community really means for us.

Uzbekistan with its modern borders was formed by Joseph Stalin, who personally laid out every centimetre of the border. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan retained a totalitarian-type, autocratic, harsh regime that was present for many years, which of course stopped any real understanding of yourself and the place you live. Instead of turning to a critical study of history and our national identity, we turned to propaganda and a constant zombification of Uzbekistan being ‘a country with a great past and a great future’. You just don’t believe what you’re being told – something inside you resists. My childhood in the 90s was when Uzbekistan became independent, and at the start there was still a sense of freedom – the borders opened, we had MTV, and I was definitely shaped by that feeling of freedom.

Uzbekistan slowly started to return to its old ways, which prevented us from accepting ourselves as part of the country. I come from the south-west of Tashkent, where they mostly speak Russian, and I was also raised in a Russian-speaking environment, so this was also part of what confuses me about my identity. These internal conflicts have haunted me all my life. Photography helps me to constantly examine my country from different angles and to seek the truth, even if it’s not something I reflect in my work. Photography is my interlocutor.

Your work, and ‘Untitled (Portrait of Uzbekistan)’, stands out as an exploration of your country and the things that unite it. Has documenting the people and places of your home uncovered anything in particular for you? Have any specific moments resonated with you?

Yes, I think my love and respect has grown for the people living in the provinces and small towns. They are very hardworking and good people, able to withstand many hardships that life has presented them with. I don’t know if I reflect the determination of their spirit in my photography, but when you are with them, you definitely feel it.

Your work is the first I’ve encountered of its style that details life in Uzbekistan. It is clear that life in the rural parts of the country is often overlooked – is that something you wanted to change through creating the series? 

From a visual archive stance, modern Uzbekistan and personal photography in particular lacks a solid foundation. By and large, Uzbekistan is well represented in the colonial view of the past few centuries, and as an almost ideal picture from the Soviet Union, but in contemporary photography, there are only a few series from local photographers that have an impact on the Uzbek photography scene. Personally, I couldn’t name more than three people that have gained recognition documenting Uzbekistan or that have had their work published in books. The country itself is interesting to me and as I travel, I learn more and try to share this experience. To me, it seems that now is the time for local photographers to document their city, or anywhere they feel connected to. The most important thing is expressing your opinion and your viewpoint as much as possible – this is the only way to form a new community of photographers, and a community in Uzbekistan, which I think should then be transformed into an institution.

As a photographer, how do you find life in Uzbekistan? 

Only from about 2016 did I feel motivated to work here as a photographer. The country has changed for the better over the years, but some reformation processes have slowed down.

Most of the photographs in the series are portraits, but there are also poignant still lifes, as well as sprawling landscapes – does the natural environment and the Uzbek landscape have a big impact on you? 

I am not a naturalist or a landscape photographer, but I do love nature, and sometimes I find it necessary to spend some time in solitude with it. Landscapes and still lifes are just a continuation of the study of my country through the eternal images of nature.

Do you ever find it hard to explore your creative freedom given such a long history of censorship where you’re from? 

Yes, it happens constantly. Some artists I know still have a fear of putting themselves at risk with their work. At the same time however, I think that now is the time to act on and explore topics that wouldn’t have been possible previously. I don’t limit myself in what I do, but I know that at any moment everything could change. You never know what tomorrow might bring.

The 139 Documentary Centre in Tashkent has become an important place for the photography scene in Uzbekistan. Could you talk a bit about its impact on you? 

It would have been impossible to imagine this centre opening a few years ago. It is a small but important organization that is finally really engaged in visual research of Uzbekistan, through documentary photography and exhibitions of young artists. The centre has helped support artistic freedom, which has been much needed for the arts community in the country for many years. I’m very glad that I held my first solo exhibition here.

What has it been like over the years having more freedom to document what you want? Has there been a noticeable difference in your creative process now to back when you first got into photography? 

It has not been an easy journey, and I feel like I’m just at the beginning of it. Photography is a plastic medium and requires constant commitment. I am changing along with the country. In other words, this is my evolution – from an amateur fashion and stock photographer, to rethinking my work, understanding the key moments, and constantly learning in my profession.

You’ve mentioned how important it is for Uzbek artists to document and speak about Uzbekistan. How else does identity and your hometown Tashkent inspire and influence your work? 

I’m an introvert, and sometimes to get some time away from everything, I walk for hours in the city, in the courtyards or along the road. It has always helped me in the worst moments of my life, especially as a teenager. Tashkent has always been my friend. In 2016 I returned to photography after a break, I began to photograph my own city and its youth. This helped me return to my profession. If all Uzbek artists address their community, it would be so cool – we really need a variety of stories! But then again, I know that a main problem is money. Young artists don’t have money to fund their own projects, and I often experience these problems myself.

How has the pandemic affected Tashkent? 

2020 was a frightening reality for the whole world. Like the rest of the country, Tashkent, was no exception. The pandemic obviously affected the economy and peoples’ way of living. For example, we had economic migration to Russia and Kazakhstan, and many people were unable to work to earn money for their families. I don’t know how they survived.

What do you anticipate for the future of Uzbek photography? 

I think in five or six years you’ll recognise some great projects from new artists in Uzbekistan. We live in a time where we can use a platform like Instagram to help realise and share our thoughts and ideas. I think that if censorship doesn’t return to my country, then our future is bright. But in general, being an artist in Uzbekistan is hard.

What inspires you about other Uzbek artists? 

This is a great question! If we’re talking about photography, there are some young photographers that I follow on Instagram who I met at the 139 Documentary Centre. They work in the same genre of subjective documentary, and there is a lot of personal touch to their stories, which inspires me the most.

Your series ‘Logomania’ explores how signs and symbols of Western culture have become deeply embedded in the daily lives of people in Uzbekistan, and you’ve commented on how this has had a devastating effect on your country. Could you talk a bit more about this and the ‘crisis of self-identification’ that you’ve mentioned?  

After almost a century-old totalitarian regime, Uzbekistan gained freedom, but at the same time there was an increase in the uncontrolled import of poor-quality goods. This is how the market was formed, influencing our perception of beauty and prosperity, and it strongly influenced the emerging culture of Uzbekistan.

Globalization and the lack of vital improvements in education made us dependent on everything Western, and as a result, we formed a mediocre culture of self-identification that was reflected in everyday life. For the series I looked at this problem through the lens of everyday fashion, which is fascinating to me. In these gold Gucci patches on the velour local dressing gowns, I saw everything I mentioned above.

What do you value most about Uzbek culture? Do you have any favourite people or places to photograph? 

I appreciate their modesty, humility and their great love for life. I appreciate the strength of our people who bring goodness and light into this unjust reality. I am still exploring my country, so whatever I photograph now becomes my favourite place.

Do you have a particular process when shooting or is it just something that comes naturally to you? 

It depends on the projects, for example, Logomania is a completely staged project, but most of the time my process is candid – my friend and I collect backpacks with cameras and travel without a specific aim in mind.

Are you working on any projects at the moment? 

Yes, I am working on a new project that investigates the changes in Uzbekistan 2016 to the present day.

Discover Hassan Kurbanbaev’s work here hassankurbanbaev.com

Anastasia Korolkova

Tears and Cheers


Photography, Art Direction · ANASTASIA KOROLKOVA
Photography Assistant · GENNADIY MELKOZEROV
Fashion Assistant · KIRA VASIL’KOVA


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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 thephotographersgallery.org.uk
Kensuke Koike’s work can be found here kensukekoike.com

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

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