JANE CHUN

Interview by Alene Anello

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Alene Anello: How long have you been taking photographs?

Jane Chun: My photography experience began in high school. I was editor of the school newspaper, and in addition to writing, I had to edit photographs. I started out using a Cannon Rebel, and then acquired a Nikon D50 for my own use. Sharon’s Class is where I started using film cameras, and I really like it.

AA: What kind of camera did you use in Sharon’s class?

JC: A Pentax 1000 with Kodak gold max 400 film.

AA: Are there any photographers you particularly admire?

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JC: Before this class, I really liked the work of Annie Leibovitz.  I’m really into fashion photography, because the way fashion photographers do portraiture is interesting. You know the images are heavily Photoshopped, yet they’re still entrancing.

AA: Does fashion photography have an influence on your work?

JC: Yes, particularly the work of Annie Leibovitz. She doesn’t aim to make her subjects particularly beautiful – she just tries to get them to transform. In my work are portraits of this one guy, David. David is a close friend of mine. The way that, in each shot, his gestures, movements, and facial expressions change is something I found interesting. These six photos show, in essence, what talking to David is like.

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AA: How much did you need to direct him?

JC: I didn’t direct him at all. I rarely direct my subjects. David was talking about Columbian politics. He’s from Columbia. I sat there taking photos.  There’s one photo where he’s blowing me a kiss.  That’s where he saw me. But for the other ones, he was engrossed in the conversation.

AA: So he doesn’t realize you’re taking pictures of him? But he almost looks like he’s hamming it up!

JC: Yeah. This is David at his normal. This is him with everyone. He plays every emotion to the extreme.

AA: The pictures reminded me of stills from a movie. Is that intentional?

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JC: I don’t watch movies. I feel like the movies in theaters aren’t good at examining the human experience, so they’re a waste of time. But I think the way our memories are shaped is like clips from a film.  The problem with movies is that when we’re in an environment, we see everything all around us, but a movie only has a certain frame. That’s how memory works as well. We remember certain details of an experience. Photography is good at capturing and triggering our memory. The way I remember that day I was shooting David it is exactly the way the photographs captured it. So no, it’s not intentional, but I guess the message here is that maybe films do successfully capture the way that we remember things.

AA: Is the fact that he’s smoking and drinking coffee significant?

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JC: Yes, because David is eighteen, but acts like, talks like, and probably has the intellectual knowledge of, a forty-year-old. For some people that might come off as pretentious, but that is genuinely who he is. He enjoys a good cup of espresso, and likes rolling his own cigarettes. It’s significant, because a lot of my friends are on the brink of being adults but are still childish in ways. David is a prime example. He’s an old spirit, but looks young. He doesn’t act young, but his behaviors are sometimes childish.

AA: Do you think if he sees the pictures he’ll recognize them as his personality?

JC: I’ve always shown him the prints I show the class. He thinks some of these are God-awful, but others he likes.

AA: Does all your photography fall into this genre?

JC: Portraiture? Yes. I don’t find pictures of buildings and objects compelling when I’m taking them, because they don’t talk to me. I’ve always liked communicating with people more than with object.

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AA: Where do u see yourself going from here?

JC: I love film photography way more than digital. In digital, you have so much memory and so many opportunities that you just shoot shoot shoot, instead of thinking about placement and framing. This course has taught me, not only that those things are important, but also how to do them. I’m thinking about getting a film camera. I’d like to use a medium format camera, because it would be an interesting change and because there are differences in quality and framing. I’m getting a secondary in VES, most likely.

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