July 1, 2020
DISCOVERING AN ANALOG WORLD
Photography by Karen Miki Rohee
Interview by Melanie Meggs
French photographer Karen Miki Rohee only started getting really serious about photography in late 2017, when she entered the world of film photography after acquiring a film camera. Since then, she has let her passion for film guide her on her photographic journey, mostly shooting street. Karen tells a story mixed with her own emotions through her photographs. In her black and white captures she plays with contrast, leading lines, and isolated subjects.
This quote not only reflects my philosophy of life but also my photographic journey by capturing spontaneous moments.
IN CONVERSATION WITH KAREN MIKI ROHEE
TPL: Karen, when did you start getting interested in photography?
KMR: My first influence was my father, he was always taking pictures ever since I was a kid. I remember finding some 35mm and 110mm film canisters here and there , something that always made me very curious. In 2014, I invested heavily in photography, when I got my first DSLR, a Canon 500D and its kit lens. After a while, as I was getting more serious about photography, I upgraded to a Canon 7D. Unfortunately, after some time I unconsciously started to put aside my camera, as I was also busy finishing my Master degree. It was a very frustrating period for me, as my love for photography still remained intact. Until one day I found the work of photographers such as Sebastiao Salgado, Vivian Vivian Maier, Fan Ho, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau, and Saul Leiter. That is how I got very curious about all the possibilities available in the film photography world. So in 2017, I acquired my first film camera: a Canon AE1 with a 50mm f1.8. It has now been 3 years since I fell in love with the analog world, to the point that I'm almost exclusively shooting film.
TPL: Where do you find your inspiration?
KMR: It is normal to have days when you feel less inspired than others. When traveling or discovering a new environment it's easy to find inspiration, but when you have a walk in your neighborhood for instance it can be more difficult to find something that can catches your attention. However, I strongly believe it's a very good way to exercise your eyes and work on your perception, no matter where you are. You just need to try to see the world differently. But in order to work on my creativity, I look at other photographers' work.
TPL: You previously mentioned your admiration for Sebastiao Salgado, Vivian Maier, Fan Ho, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau, and Saul Leiter, who re-ignited your passion for photography. Who has mostly influenced your style?
KMR: All of them have their own approach of photography that is very interesting to analyze. Personally I have a special attraction for the body of work of Vivian Maier with her candid images and self-portraits. Fan Ho and his wonderful aestheticism of an image. And lastly Saul Leiter and his color work, where everything just works together.
TPL: Has your style of shooting changed since you first started?
KMR: I honestly don't know how to define my own style of shooting at the moment. But yes, now I try to capture the beauty of a scene, I guess it's also the reason why I'm only shooting film now. Indeed I enjoy the before and after process of taking pictures! Buying a specific film, loading it in your camera, taking images not knowing what they look like, developing them and discovering your images on a negative before scanning them! Film photography is a whole world with endless possibilities! The film: colour, B&W, Slide, Film soup. Format : 35mm, 120mm, 127mm. The size of your negative : 24x36, 6x6, 6x4,5 , 6x7, 6x9. Type of the camera : SLR, rangefinder, TLR, point and shoot, etc.. So yes my style of shooting definitely changed!
TPL: Where is your favourite place to shoot?
TPL: Do you think equipment is important in achieving your vision in your photography? What would you say to someone just starting out?
KMR: I think that first of all it is essential to think about how far you are willing to go with photography before investing time and money in choosing your equipment. Then it's very important to find which camera you are comfortable taking pictures with. Personally, when I had to choose my first digital camera, I have always felt comfortable with Canon. Not only with the design but also just how it felt in my hands. Photography is a journey where you will have to face different types of situation like feeling less motivated but you want to force yourself to go out and take images or simply taking photographs under restrictive conditions (low light, moving subject etc...). If you are not feeling comfortable with your material, it will make the whole journey even more difficult. What I always say to someone who starts photography is to invest into an intermediate camera and not an expensive one at first as with time you will figure out your personal likes and needs. And if you start with digital but get less inspired you can do what I did! Try film photography!
TPL: What characteristics do you think you need to become a good photographer? What are your tips or advice for someone in your genre?
KMR: Our society works with trends, and photography is not spared. I am just going to list some characteristics that I personally believe are important to have (or try to have) if you are taking photography seriously: patience, tenacity, creativity, auto-criticism, but very importantly, just stick to being yourself! There are no bad images when you actually have an image! Bad images are the ones that you don't take. That's why "carpe diem" is my philosophy! Take a picture of what you personally like, be selfish in that sense. Don't take an image for the only reason that it is trendy. I take images for me because that specific scene touched me. It doesn't matter if it's a street photograph, a portrait, a landscape, etc. What I believe is most important, is to share your emotions, a story, a feeling. But also, as photography can be very subjective, it's important to receive constructive criticism and feedback! Everything is about equilibrium. Just enjoy your journey with your work...that's what matters!
TPL: Have you ever been involved in the artistic world before photography?
KMR: I'm a very curious and creative person, so I have always loved drawing, painting, music, and I even did some magic!
TPL: Are there any special projects you are currently working on that you would like to let everyone know about?
KMR: I'm currently thinking about two projects that I would like to achieve. A series of photographs, portraits more specifically, and opening my own film camera store in the coming years hopefully!