We got a hold of all-round creative maverick Karin Yamasaki awhile back for a little introspection regarding her recent artistic discourse and collaborated together to produce some visual content that drew from Larry Clark’s cult classic film, Kids. With the picture’s 20th anniversary at our backs, we reignited the dialogue surrounding this controversial feature as the cast and crew reunited for a live Q&A and screening in Brooklyn at July’s close. Shot in the style of Italian Neorealism with castings done off the street, Kids was a glorification of the hedonism and depravity of teenage nihilism, or so most people thought. In fact it was a brutal broadcast of the realities of generation X executed in accordance to Clark’s own photographic style: raw, gritty and spontaneous. Our take on the flick however, was an exploration of the facets of sisterhood that was so easily overshadowed by the public outrage at explicit substance abuse and rampant sexual abandon. We took a closer look at the ideas of friendship and camaraderie between the characters of iconic actresses Chloe Sevigny and Rosario Dawson in a set of atmospheric shots, detailed below.
SO RECENTLY YOU’VE BEEN INVOLVED IN SOME REALLY COOL GIGS; YOU SHOT FOR ZEAL’S FESTIVAL OF NOISE LAST MONTH - HOW DID YOU MANAGE TO LAND THAT HIT AND WHAT WAS IT LIKE SHOOTING IN THAT ENVIRONMENT?
I used to do a lot of volunteer work for Zeal. I shot for their acoustic sets, their bigger gigs and was partly involved in their Youth and Steering Group. I don’t usually shoot gigs that often anymore as I realised that gigs weren’t my forte. A lot of my friends play music. I always support them and it just so happened that a lot of them were playing for the festival. I asked my mate Cameron (from TitlePending) if I could shoot for the festival and he pulled a few strings for me! It was cool shooting in that environment because it was about the young people; performing, taking photos, filming and genuinely enjoying and getting in with the music. It was a real good vibe getting back into the swing of shooting at gigs again and it was even better just to be around such a laid-back crowd. I got to meet new musicians and other teenagers there which sparked my mini documentary series called ‘PASSION’.
YOU ALSO EXHIBITED TWO WORKS IN TE URU WAITAKERE CONTEMPORARY GALLERY “CAPTURING YOUTH,” AN EXHIBITION FUNDED BY ZEAL, WAS THIS THE FIRST TIME HAVING YOUR WORK MOUNTED IN A GALLERY? WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THIS EXPERIENCE, AS I KNOW YOU FACED ISSUES PERTAINING TO DISTRIBUTION AND COPYRIGHT.
Yes, that was the first time I had ever had my work displayed anywhere in the public domain. Zeal has always been super supportive of my work no matter what medium I chose to work in. Because of this exhibition, I received a lot of publicity and recognition as the public gained awareness of myself and my work, being able to link artist to photograph.
This exhibit brought issues such as copyright to the fore, something I hadn’t had to deal with in the past as publishing had solely been managed by myself, I also came up against some problems with regards to the distribution of my work, whose release had previously been dictated through my own social media platforms. Being a young person creating art is hard because there are often little bits and pieces which can and often will be brushed over you without you knowing. However this exhibit was a good way to gain an insight into the industry and experience the in’s and out’s of participating in an exhibition.
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR THOUGHT AND WHERE YOU STAND REGARDING THE TREATMENT OF CREATIVES, PARTICULARLY OF THE CREATIVE YOUTH OF TODAY AND THE WIDESPREAD CAPITALISM ON NAIVETÈ.
Being a young artist isn’t that fun. There will always be a handful of people who make comments that come across as sounding condescending or ignorant. I often hear things relating to my age and gender; there's something about the fact that I’m a practicing artist who just happens to be a younger female that others find polarising. I don’t really understand where the stigma that sees the supposedly radical act of young female artists presenting their work stems from, as I have grown up constantly creating and sharing my work. And what’s so amazing about me being a female? I dunno, it’s cool though. That comment always makes me feel powerful.
I feel as though the younger you are, the more people tend to feel that they can screw you around. Young people create for a reason, and I don’t think many people understand the labour, craft and effort that an artist expends in their output, whether it is for personal satisfaction or public consumption. It’s laughable that age becomes a factor in which others valorise or de-valorise art. I've guess I’ve just been exposed to a lot of negative attitudes regarding the arts which isn't really something to feel confident about.
“I AM SCARS, I AM SKIN, I AM STARDUST” AND “OVERGROWN” WERE THE BODIES OF WORK THAT WERE EXHIBITED AT TE URU. COULD YOU EXPLAIN THE IDEAS BEHIND THESE WORKS?
The concept of the exhibition was to present a sense of self and of identity. Aspects of my personal life in transience and flux served to inform my work in major ways and took it in new directions and explored different mindsets.
“I AM SCARS, I AM SKIN, I AM STARDUST” was how I defined myself during a frame of my life that was specific to the period within which it was created. At that time i was entrenched in a rut of isolation, enduring a barren stasis. I hadn't really “found” myself and I think I am still attempting to figure out who I am and where I come from, in reality I don’t think we ever stop trying to, and something that grew out of this was a feeling of suffocation facilitated by abundant introspective analysis regarding who I was and who I w anted to be.
“Over Grown” represented the maturation and outgrowing between two people; whether it be in a platonic or romantic manner. I think sometimes you reach a point in a relationship where someone grows out of the other, be it a friend or a partner; you find that you just can’t resonate with the other person and that you don’t vibrate along the same wavelength anymore. There is a duality to the flora in that it is representative of the blindness to that lack of connection and to change, but also of the fact that it lent something so negative a positive overtone: indicative of a sense of hope for improvement or suggesting that the overgrowing was for a reason.
I REMEMBER READING A PERSONAL DIALOGUE OF YOURS ON ONE OF YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS WHERE YOU SPOKE ABOUT HOW YOU VIEWED YOUR ART AS BEING A REFLECTION OF WHO YOU WERE OR WHO YOU WANTED TO BE AT THE TIME OF ITS MAKING, AND HOW YOU FELT ABOUT AVAILABILITY AND THE PUBLIC HAVING ACCESS TO A FACET OF YOUR PAST SELF. CAN YOU EXPAND UPON THAT VEIN OF THOUGHT FOR US?
Yeah, a lot of the work I create is a reflection of what or how I felt at a certain time. Obviously as the craftswoman, you have a personal attachment to your creations; as soon as you share them, the viewing public interact with it on some level and connect with it in varying degrees (be it simply registering it visually or eliciting some deeper emotional response of reaction). At first, I was a bit hesitant about this as I felt as though whoever I was at the time of the photograph was an individual who was hurting or in pain.
However it details my development as a person and functions as a chronicling device. The consumer views my work and interprets it in their own way - whether or not they do feel something or if they just see a photograph isn’t something I can control. If anything it should be the art they connect with, not the artist.
COULD YOU ELABORATE ON YOUR GENERAL APPROACH TO YOUR WORK AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF YOUR PHOTOGRAPHIC STYLE?
As I said before, my work is how I feel and when I feel it. There’s no concrete, complex step by step manual for my projects and that’s what I struggle the most with because it’s always just a word or a feeling in my head which I manifest into a photo.
My photographic style has developed a lot over the years, I used to tell other people’s stories through my photographs. For example, I always operated according to some kind of narrative or set storyline which I manipulated in minute ways. After a little while, I realised that I myself had a lot of stories to tell and that art was the medium for it.
I’ve always been incredibly influenced by a lot of cinematographers and directors as opposed to actual photographers. My work referenced a lot of Wes Anderson when I was in my early teen years because it was the kind of aesthetic that I resonated with; pulsating colour, lavish symmetry and minimal composition. Some of my current work still ties in with that in terms of my colour palette. Generally, the style of my work depends on my photographic subjects; some of my portraits tend to be a lot darker while my personal projects are often brighter and saturated with colour.
EXACTLY WHAT IS IT THAT YOU WANT TO SAY WITH YOUR PHOTOGRAPHS, AND HOW DO YOU ACTUALLY GET YOUR IMAGES TO CONVEY THAT?
I want to tell stories. I want to show who I am, what I believe in, what I do and that I have a voice. Every person in the world has a different story. Currently I’m telling these stories from a sixteen year old girl’s point of view. If you look at my current oeuvre, you tend to see aspects of what I’m struggling with or what I’m trying to achieve. In another five years time it will be something totally different. That’s what I like about telling stories through my work. I get my images to translate them by establishing some sort of universal aspect that anyone can connect with. ‘OVER GROWN’ achieved this through its colour and subject matter. Anyone can connect with a person because it’s what we do as humans, we forge relationships with others by finding points of commonality. Colours often trigger certain parts of your memory which is interesting as well.
TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS.
I don’t really have much of a creative process but a lot of my ideas come from lying in the bathtub, walking to the bus stop or when I’m about to fall asleep. I create out of the mundane and I feel as though that’s the best time to create. My creative process comes from my everyday life and that’s how I know that it is genuine and how I feel.
ASIDE FROM PHOTOGRAPHY, YOU’RE ALSO INVOLVED IN QUITE A FEW CREATIVE PROJECTS; YOU MAKE SHORT FILMS ALONGSIDE OTHER TALENTED FOLK AS STUDIO BÊTE NOIRE, PHOTOGRAPH FOR MONTHLY ONLINE MAGAZINE PEACHY KEEN (PREVIOUSLY PHANTOM MAG,) WHERE YOU GUYS TALK ABOUT COOL SHIT WITH COOL PEOPLE (RANDA, MISS JUNE AND OTHER HECTIC SOULS OF SUCH ILK) AND TIE-DYE UNDER JUNKIE APPAREL. WHERE DO YOU PLAN TO TAKE THESE PURSUITS IN THE FUTURE?
I will always be creating, that’s for sure. I’m not planning on going to University currently, but things may always change in the next year or so.
Ideally, I would like to carry on with Studio Bête Noire as it’s something I’m very passionate about. I want to have a career in film making as there aren’t enough females in the film industry, and that being something I believe in makes it something worth working towards. The difference between the Studio and everything else I’m involved in is that it's not solely dependent on myself; there are so many other people involved in the Studio so who are important cogs in our machine like Luke (our camera operator), Nikau (our editor) and Lauchy (our sound man and camera operator) so going forward we would have to be on the same collective page.
Peachy Keen is something which keeps me writing and photographing a lot - it’s cool to learn more about certain social problems especially when the other girls write about it and is also a neat way to connect with other people who are fighting for certain rights as well. I would love to carry on with Peachy Keen as well because it opens up different disciplines of the creative arts, but again it also depends on the other girls, Kizzie and Xanthe.
Currently, Junkie Apparel is just a little side business that Angus and I are playing around with while simultaneously learning about manufacturing and marketing. Neither of us take any business subjects at school, so along that front, we don’t know what the hell we’re doing but it’s just a whole lot of fun for now.
Photography: Karin Yamasaki
Styling: Magdalene Lee
MUA: Lauren Hegley
Mia Bradley and Nahyeon Lee wear Comme des Garçons, Anti Social Social Club, Rollas, Gosha Rubchinskiy and New Balance courtesy of FABRIC.\