Artwolfe sat down with photographer Kristin Capp who is currently teaching photography in Namibia and asked her a few questions…
Artwolfe: Could you tell us a little about your experiences teaching photography in Namibia? What have your favourite projects been? Have there been any specific challenges to teaching here?
Kristin Capp: Teaching photography in Namibia over the last 5 years has been challenging and truly rewarding. There is an strong interest in the medium of photography and immense talent in the next generation of students. I was fortunate to help develop the first photography course at the University of Namibia in 2012, a unit now offered in the Visual Art Department. I am presently very invested in teaching photography at the College of the Arts in Katutura. We work in digital photography and still teach some analogue as well. Some of the most provocative work I have seen from my students deals with issues of personal identity, social justice, many types of documentary subject matter and gender equality.
Artwolfe: If these were the only three photos (the ones that were selected for the AVAMP exhibition- SEE BELOW) that people knew you by, what would you want to scream to them about the “real” you? What are the essential parts of Kristin Capp that are missing in this selection?
Kristin Capp: The colour photographs in the AVAMP exhibition are part of a recent body of colour work made in the south of Namibia. Shooting in colour, and this work in particular, is a different thought process for me than with previous series made in black and white. It adds a complexity to the already elusive act of photographing. My work is always in flux and changing, so recent work is no less real than early work, or work I will do in the future. Group exhibitions offer, by definition, only a fragment or snapshot of each artist’s concerns and technique. I think this can be both the strength and weakness of a show that represents only a few works by each photographer. I was open to showing only three images from this series, “Absence & Evidence” because the constraint of three photographs is possibly what will invite questions and provoke curiosity from the viewer. My earlier work, the Hutterite series, the Americana series and most recently, the series from Brasil, were all shot on film using a medium format, Rolleiflex camera. This is the camera I’ve used since 1994 and still use today, alongside my digital camera. The shift, or rather the addition of colour to my photographic vocabulary was intuitive in the context of my chosen subject in Namibia. Shooting in colour is a natural extension of my work, but does not cancel out or predict what is next.
Artwolfe: How do you go about deciding on scale and how large should a photo be? How large do you exhibit, when you can choose?
Kristin Capp: The scale of photographs, both on the wall and on the page, has always fascinated me. Ultimately, I want my work to live on the page in the context of a book. Until a body of work inhabits the book form, my work feels unfinished and unresolved. Paradoxically, I love the ephemeral in exhibiting. The images live for a finite period on the wall and then come down. Some go into collections, either private or public but that exposure has serious limitations, which is why I love the book as object that travels on its own. Producing work on a large scale is a way to see the work take on a life that otherwise may not be possible in the published form. For the AVAMP show, I was excited to see the work on a larger scale to experiment with the relationship between the viewer, the viewing distance and the actual size of the subject in the photographs. I hope these questions come up when one views the work.
Artwolfe: This series seems quite different from what we see online, the colour, the lack of people. How did this come about, how did you come to take these photos?
Kristin Capp: After my first series on the Hutterite work was published in 1998, people thought of me as a portrait photographer. I am baffled by this label because although many images I make were and are of people. I am as interested in the “space” and the “effect” of the human presence as I am in the human portrait per se. A still-life of a table, a tree or a texture created by light is also a portrait and examples of this are prevalent in my second monograph, “Americana” and my work done in Brazil, which will be published in the future.