Interview with CG Watkins PART2
interview : yoshiko kurata
(C) CG Watkins / MASSES magazine BRETON
「QUOTATION」VOL.23でインタビューしたフォトグラファー、CG Watkinsインタビュー PART2（英語のみ。日本語は本誌にて掲載中）
– Sometimes the stories and situations are strange and funny, like the restaurant in MASSES. What inspires you?
Cultural differences are a big influence. The daily rituals or ceremonies of one person, while seemingly banal and unexceptional to them, can be enchanting and inspiring to another. This wonder exists on every level, between individuals and entire cultures, and is often-times reciprocal.
That series, “lOrtolans” in issue 5 of MASSES, is a good example of that. I was intrigued by the traditional, ceremonious way that French people eat ortolans. From an outsider’s perspective it seems so strange and ritualistic, it was a fun challenge to base an entire fashion series on a scenario that would end with it.
Another big inspiration is idiosyncrasy. I’ve always been curious about the slight quirks in the behaviour of different people, the way that different backgrounds and interests can affect the way people behave. Most people are self-aware, and the presence of a camera often makes them doubly-so, which is why I like to spend as much time as possible with the people I’m photographing. After a while they forget that it’s there, they get accustomed to me taking photos, and it’s normally in this time of familiarity that peoples’ true behaviour reveals itself.
– I feel that colour and light are important, unique points in your photography. What is the most important element in your work?
If I’m photographing people, the most important thing is them and their character. Whether it’s their own or if they are performing, I try to make what they’re doing or how they’re feeling the focus of the image. Colour and light are also very important to me, but only as tools to try and accomplish this. I’ve always been attracted to lo-fi, imperfect sources of light. Sometimes, when photographs are too “perfect” the believability is lost, the viewer’s empathy disconnects. Places and landscapes have their own character, too.
– You have been to Tokyo before, what were your feelings about the city and its culture?
I love Tokyo. It’s one of my favourite cities. Growing up in Perth, essentially “straight down”, I was exposed to many elements of Japanese culture from a young age. Mostly through manga, anime and films like Tampopo and Violent Cop, so my first couple of trips to Tokyo were unsurprisingly influenced by how I imagined it to be. But after the initial barrage of lights and sounds (and those cultural differences I mentioned earlier) settled down, I started to feel completely at peace. Tokyo, as far as I’ve seen, is a city of appreciation. There seems to be an interest and respect for different ways of life. I’ve always felt comfortable, and have never been bored. Something I can’t say for most cities I’ve visited. Also, clearly, it’s a landscape that has no shortage of visual inspiration for me.
– Also, you have taken the series of the K-POP phenomenon. What was the impetus to shoot this story? What did you experience through shooting the series?
Ah yes, I really enjoyed shooting that series. I was asked by i-D magazine to document Europe’s first ever K-Pop festival, in Paris. It was the first time any of the groups had performed in Europe, and there were thousands upon thousands of fans from all across the continent. I was drawn to the scale of the concert, the diversity of the fans, and the common interest that linked them.
Besides film, music is my biggest passion, I’ve been surrounded by it my entire life, and I’ve often been referred to as a “music cynic”, so obviously I approached the event with bated scepticism. Lip-syncing and dance routines doesn’t equate to music, in my humble opinion. But, upon arrival, seeing these thousands of fans that had been queuing outside the arena for hours in sub-zero temperatures, talking with them and realising how passionate they were about the different groups and their songs, I couldn’t help but get swept-up by their enthusiasm. Then, after entering the arena, walking among them, admiring their costumes and banners, written in Korean, and seeing the tears of joy streaming down their faces, I realised: no matter what my opinion of the music, it was making them happy. It was beautiful.
– What do you want to challenge with the camera next?
I want to keep challenging myself! I’m a naturally lazy person, and the camera has always been an impetus to get off my ass and go places, meet people and look at things differently. At the moment I’m wanting to concentrate more on my personal, documentary work, while also thinking of interesting ways to approach my fashion photography. One hand washes the other, sometimes working on a fashion project can give me ideas for personal work, and vice versa. It’s a constant process. I’m rarely inspired whilst sitting still, so I try to keep moving. Whether across the globe or within my own neighbourhood, the as yet unseen is everywhere.
– Please tell me your upcoming plans.
It looks like I’ll be in Tokyo again soon, I can’t wait! I’ll be shooting a few different fashion series, and continuing to work on a book project featuring the photographic and scientific works of Dr. Tsutomu Oohashi, of Geinoh Yamashirogumi. I had the pleasure of interviewing him a few years ago, for a small magazine I used to publish, and we have stayed in touch and collaborated ever since. I’m also starting a video collaboration with Riyo Nemeth, we will be filming and mixing different ideas throughout the year.
Other than my plans in Japan, I hope to be travelling across the US to start shooting a personal documentary/portrait series, which may well evolve into a book.
I don’t want to travel too much, though. It’s important for me to spend quality time in Paris, with my dog Devo. He keeps me in check.
(C) CG Watkins / MASSES magazine MANAGEMENT
(C) CG Watkins / MODERN WEEKLY TAINZHUO CHEN