TPL: Pan please tell us about yourself. How did you become interested in photography?
PAN: I am a photographer living in the Bronx; well, to be transparent, in Marble Hill, which is technically Manhattan, but culturally part of the Bronx.
My path into being a photographer might be a little different than most. I was introduced to the medium through a class in this special high school artist program. I was mostly painting then, and photography didn’t interest me much. I was kind of bored, but then, this man from Kodak came and showed us this weird tool, a digital camera. This was the early 1990’s, and digital cameras were not really available then; they cost upwards of $20,000. Kodak made this machine with a sensor that attached to a Nikon camera, and the Kodak person let us high school kids experiment with this fantastically expensive camera in the garden behind the photo lab. I remember taking that test camera and photographing all these flowers; then downloading them slowly onto a computer, and printing them on a dot matrix printer, really big. That was really a shift in my perception.
I used photography off and on as a tool to do something else artistically from that point. In the 2000’s, I was using very low-resolution video images as photographs, sent a camera into the upper atmosphere, stuff like that. But all this was photography to do something else. Then, maybe about ten years ago, I was working with the photographer Sean Hemmerle, on a video installation using his photographs. He was very proficient technically with photography, but more importantly, he was passionate about the medium, and knew its history and possibilities. I saw I didn’t really understand photography that well. So, I decided to really learn the art, learn its history, go back to basics, learn it as a photographer, on its own terms, not as a painter or experimental artist. I read books, learnt exposure, went to every photography exhibition in New York around, bought a film camera, built a darkroom, taught myself all over again, from scratch. And… it kind of took over my life. I guess what interested me was photography’s ability to observe the outside world, with its own slant. Now, I can’t even think of myself except as a photographer anymore.