DIANA KIMBALL

Interview by Ben Michel

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BM: Could you sum up your project in a few words?

DK: My project is about bedrooms. I decided to focus on portraits of people in their personal spaces. I guess I hadn’t realized that all college photography class students take pictures of their friends in their dorms rooms. I wanted to impose on their personal space and just be there one on one with them.

BM: What do you mean by “impose on their personal space?”

DK: I’d set up an appointment to go photograph them, and they’d say their room was messy. I was interested to see how people modified their personal space in anticipation of me coming. I was shooting with a Yoshikamat, one that you sort of look down into, so there’s no eye contact. So while I was fiddling with things they’d kind of just do their own thing. I’d usually try to shoot for about an hour, 5 rolls or so, which allowed them some time to get more comfortable, or uncomfortable, depending on the person.

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BM: So how did they modify their space?

DK: A lot of times they’d clean it up. Move laundry from one place on the floor to another place on the floor. I was more interested in people who didn’t modify their spaces. Well, I was interested in both, but those people usually ended up being more inviting subjects, which seems obvious but was more true that I realized. I set up trying to capture awkwardness, but awkwardness really looks awkward.

BM: So people who were less awkward were better subjects?

DK: Yeah.

BM: Can you talk a little bit more about the main focus of your project?

DK: Well, I was originally interested in taking pictures of people in their personal spaces, and then of the spaces without the people. I was going to make a series of diptychs, but I found I was more interested in the pictures with people in them.

BM: Could you describe the aesthetic?

DK: My photographs have a vintage look, that’s just because the camera’s a little broken. The focus is soft and my light meter was broken, so some shots were a little overexposed. I’m a history concentrator, so a vintage aesthetic appealed to me. What looked right to me was a little softer and, it’s harder to place the time. There was definitely a dialectic between the tool and the aesthetic– when my pictures turned out this way, I liked it, and was inspired to take more like them. The pictures ended up having a similar tone overall, and so even though it’s a bunch of different rooms, in the final set it almost looks like one gigantic room with various people flowing through it.

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 BM: That was actually my first impression too, that the pictures were too similar to have been taken in many different settings. Could you talk a little bit about how you took these photos?

DK: Well, I took them with a Yoshikamat, which has a fixed focal length. That imposed a fixed distance between me and the subject, which became pretty important for the series. I also imposed another constraint on myself: I shot only with available light. I felt that the yellowness of room lights was problematic, and so most of the pictures are lit by sun streaming in through the window. That meant that I couldn’t really take pictures until about 4pm during February.

BM: And what were you thinking about when you took the photos?

DK: Well, getting the photo right. It takes a lot of concentration to get all the settings right. I spent a lot of the time thinking about how beautiful my friends are and what beautiful worlds they create around themselves, and how their rooms really ended up not looking like college rooms at all, because of all the modifications they made to the rooms.

 BM: Your pictures seem to be very carefully posed and composed. To what extent did you arrange the elements in your pictures?

 DK: I became a lot more confident about directing people towards the end of the semester. At the beginning I was just telling people to just be in their spaces, and I was lucky that a few of them really took charge of that and would really move around the room. I would sometimes tell them to sit on the chair or sit on the bed, but I was much less directive about pose. I tried one day to photograph two roommates, and it was really confronting and difficult because they were interacting with each other the whole time. a) they wouldn’t stay still and b) there wasn’t the same degree of dependence between me and the subject. After that I really took a lot more liberty in directing people. The last few days were some of the best photos, I was a lot more willing to accept the relationship between me and the subject rather than try to pretend that it doesn’t exist.

BM: And why did you choose these rooms?

DK: In a lot of cases, I hadn’t even seen the rooms. They were the rooms of people I’m close with but whose rooms I’d never been to. It was interesting because I was seeing everything all at once, it was new, except for the person themselves. But I think that part of it was just poise, I selected people who I felt had a lot of poise, because they were more willing to be photographed, and were better subjects.

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BM: What’s your prior photography experience been like? Is this project a departure?

DK: This was my first photo class. It was a lot of novelty all at once, especially because I’d never shot with an SLR. Actually, it helped me a lot to be using a film camera from the beginning; it’s so real, so visceral. It’s easier to conceptualize the measurements, and nice to experience things in reality. I’ve always enjoyed taking photographs, but this was my first formal experience. I’ve always had trouble taking pictures of people because I feel like I’m imposing on them. This project formalized that process of imposition.

BM: Is there anything else you would want people to know about your project?

DK: Part of it’s just about the learning curve of starting, entering into the project of photography and over the course of the semester I felt like that, it felt very rapid and immersive trying to learn everything all at once. One of the most interesting things about our class is that everyone almost picked up on a similar aesthetic, almost all of it was portraiture, and each person’s individual aesthetic was tweaked a bit. It’s remarkable how strong the resonances are between people’s different projects, and it was interesting to see how the projects of people who were close in their artistic endeavors came together artistically. Just over the course of a few weeks, you can really develop in a different direction just based on the influences you get from your peers.

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