015 / 26 September 2014 / Features
States Of Appearance
Photography by Zach Ranson
In Conversation with Camille Okhio
Zach Ranson has an understanding of color, mood, and references far beyond his years. Describing his images as conveying a "hyper-reality," Zach's work spans from portraiture to editorial. Here art critic Camille Okhio discusses with Zach about his journey thus far as a photographer and why he feels the most important comparison is between him and himself.
Camille Okhio: Choose from the following. Do you approach photography as a means to express your own: A. Perspective, B. Ideas, C. Experience, or D. Emotions?
Zach Ranson: I feel like photography is the best way for me to physically show how I view the world to other people. It’s like a complicated puzzle, the best way to start is to do the border first, and then from there, there’s no right way to fill in the rest. I feel like graduating has set the border for me and my work, and now I’m just filling in the full picture. The accomplishment felt when finishing a puzzle is like no other feeling, so that’s what I’m shooting for.
CO: Do you always need a specific kind of space to work in or are you comfortable photographing in different environments?
ZR: Some places are more ideal for different kinds of photographers, and others aren’t, but I think its important for all photographers to be able to work with the environment given to them.
CO: Does the current fixation of identity interest you? For instance, is the idea of being “different” of interest or concern?
ZR: It used to concern me that I had to strategize how to differentiate myself, but it’s not that much of a concern for me right now. Instead of spending the energy to have a plan to be different, I’d rather my identity just form itself through building my body of work. Nothing is original and I believe it’s always better to acknowledge that. Because I’m still young in my maturity, I’m interested in my point of view narrowing itself down even more throughout the years. Until then, I think it’s important to acknowledge references and influences instead of shunning them.
CO: What are you fixated on right now?
ZR: Right now, I’m focused on comparing myself to how I was four years ago, finding the perfect balance of theatricality and subtlety in my work—and anything Ricardo Tisci does. I’m also fixated on the connotations of the number 42.
CO: What are some of your oddest influences? Do you think it’s important for your work to be an extension of self?
ZR: I think there are certain references that continue to show up in my work, mainly things like Tim Burton’s use of lighting in his work from 1988-92 and when I think about my experiences with hysterical women and dormant men. I absolutely feel that an artist’s work should be an extension of themselves, no matter how subtle or obvious that extension may be.
CO: Is Androgyny used as a theme in your work?
ZR: Yes, even though I’m not sure if its always intentional for me. It’s more commonly used as a response by viewers of my work. Typically, I’m not too concerned with the traditionally beautiful female in my work. My choice of subject is dependent on the right casting choice for a certain kind of narrative.
CO: Does the moving image inspire you? What is your favorite film and why?
ZR: I’m going to be lame and say that it’s hard to pick a favorite movie. I have different favorites for varying reasons. However, I do like to keep a top 5 list of favorite scenes from any movies, whether I liked the entire film or not. Right now sitting at the top of that list is Anne Hathaway’s phone call scene near the end of Brokeback Mountain, Tilda Swinton and the Halloween scene in We Need to Talk About Kevin, and the 2 and half minute long shot of Nicole Kidman sitting in an audience in Birth. All three of these scenes are the perfect mixture of performance and cinematography that replicates the emotional states of the three women.
CO: Do you feel that when when photographing that you’re creating images or capturing them?
ZR: Most of my work is of creations that I’ve “set up,” but in the last two years I’ve opened myself up more to capturing “found” moments and interspersing them with images I constructed to offer a sort of “hyper-real” narrative.