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[Photography] Interview with Janina Aza Karpinska

[KELP JOURNAL] Janina, you are such an accomplished photographer, the very first thing I must ask is what do you look for in a shot? What makes you press the shutter down?

 

[JANINA KARPINSKA] Thank you! I'm not so sure about accomplished; practiced, yes! I take pictures all the time. If I'm with a friend, they know now I'll be stopping every few moments to take a picture. I aim to get the composition right, which is important to me. But another reason I started to take so many pictures was because I was made the target of a stalking 'game'; taking pictures was a way of keeping my focus on things I chose to see, and to encourage myself with the proof I'd been able to leave the house and find treasures in the everyday world outside. Once I started, it became its own reward.



[KJ] Theme is so hard sometimes to develop in a show, like ours. One of the bridges to these photos is that they are in black and white. I am always so surprised at the power of a black and white image. Can you talk about when and why you choose black and white over color?

 

[JK] It's funny, anyone who knows me knows I'm all about color! I attend a color parade every month, with everyone wearing their finest plumage. But, you're right – black and white photos do have a strong sense of power. In this case they are the unifying factor – making a family of each separate photo.

Yet each individual photo seems to have a marked sense of isolation, a kind of loneliness of inanimate objects; it reminds me of a particular painting by Munch of a deathbed scene where, although the room is filled with mourners, they are each marooned in their own grief [Death in the Sickroom, 1895] Black and white photos emphasize and highlight shapes – without any other distractions. They're highly concentrated / focused, and because of that they hold gravitas, like a surprisingly sonorous voice Photo credit Wikipedia

that holds you spellbound.



[KJ] These photos are also all connected by perspective. They all look to the sky. Additionally, each includes a skinny lamp-type shape that draws our eye upward into the horizon. Because of these, I feel hopeful when experiencing these photos. It occurs to me that art connects us on an emotional level to one another, and I wondered if you create with this concept in mind?

 

[JK] Hope, yes! “The sky's the limit'”- a free, yet expressive expanse; looking up and to the light in what might otherwise be oppressive darkness. The statue is known as the Peace Statue, marking the border between Brighton & Hove. It shows the Angel of Peace holding out the olive branch – evidence of dry land being glimpsed after surviving the Flood; a sign of hope after a terrible ordeal. I needed my camera to accompany me any time I left the house – seeking out good shots kept my focus on being creative, even if I felt intimidated. It's so good to hear your response to seeing them was one of hope!

 

I love the seagull flying freely – they appear everywhere here. They have even made themselves known in zoom interviews – they are so loud! It's great to watch the way they swoop and dip, but also hover – the air equivalent to treading water. They embody Freedom – the ability to fly anywhere they wish. As a poet, I look at the world in terms of symbols and metaphors, and am drawn to the symbolism of weather-vanes and compasses, and think of intuition (an important artist's tool), as an inner GPS system to steer us safely through life.

 



[KJ] Inspiration is an important part of the artistic process and you mentioned that you live by the ocean. Can you talk about how it serves as inspiration for your work?

 

[JK] Growing up by the sea and having it so close is like having a steadfast friend who's always there for you; we both have moods and storms, and sunny days. It's a great place to walk when you need to clear your head, and rich with inspiration. I have beachcombed all my life; a few years ago I began making icons from driftwood and shells, which I then photographed, and a couple of them have made it to the front cover of lit mags! Issue Five – Heart of Flesh Literary Journal 



[[KJ] I know that you are also a poet. I always ask my multi-disciplinary artists how they pick their form. Do the projects/subjects pick the forms themselves or do you do some tinkering to figure it out?

 

[JK] Great questions! I'm a collage artist, which means I like to bring disparate things together to make a pleasing whole, and my whole creative practice is made up of quite a few different strands including textiles / sewing / music compositions as well as photography. The sea and beach-finds appear in some form in poems; icons, weavings, photographs, videos. Thinking about it now, I can see that a childhood of beachcombing was all about scouring areas of sameness for tiny bits of green or white beach glass, and collecting shells and interesting stones – a kind of early training for the eye! I'm also a real magpie / scavenger, making use of discarded things that would otherwise be seen as 'rubbish'. I like to think of my creative ventures as acts of creative redemption, giving new life to things that have been written off. Creativity is a life-saver. I think that brings us back to Hope!




Janina Aza Karpinska is a multi-disciplinary Artist-Poet, with an eye for visual poetry, from the south coast of England. Her photographic work has been featured in: International Photographic Exhibition, Ark-T Centre, Cowley, Oxford; an Artist Book, Picture House, Leicester; Response, in-house magazine, Fabrica Gallery, Brighton; and front covers of: Heart of Flesh Literary Journal; Chichester Magazine, and The Hovarian.

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Fascinating reading about Janina's inspiration and perspective on her creative practices...I would like to read some of her poetry... illustrative poems evolving from these stunning, slightly menacing black & white photographs. Wonderful how often we release angst through our artistic endeavours which translates into things of beauty. Light coming through the darkness...

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