Saturday, November 11, 2006

Art Space Talk: Douglas Ljungkvist

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I recently interviewed artist Douglas Ljungkvist. Mr. Ljungkvist's utilizes the use of line and texture in his black & white photography. In a sense, Douglas takes photos using natural settings to 'build' interesting forms. He uses light to make the visual experience all the more interesting. The viewer is allowed to discover a personal meaning in each photo.

When I view his photos I think about how we all run into barriers in our lives. It seems that many of his photos offer 'escape routes' in the sense that there is always areas of light to travel to, but there is also great darkness at every angle and objects that impede movement. Thus, when I view Mr. Ljungkvist's art I think about how our environment can become a cell.

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Q. When did you first discover that art would be an important part of your adult life?

A. "It was actually only a couple of years ago. I was taking a photography class to prepare for a trip to Patagonia. I was pretty much hooked immediately and I didn't even make it to Patagonia. I have always been very visual and with digital photography technology pushing forward I found my perfect media. Meanwhile I have a twin sister who's a very well known illustrator, so maybe there is something to it genetically."

Q. How has creating art shaped you professionally and personally?

A. "It has taught me to look at things from different angles and to be more patient. It has also improved my problem solving skills. When setting up an image 90% of the decisions are made before you even look in the viewfinder. Unless you're just snap shooting or looking for the "decisive moment"."

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Q. How has society influenced your art? Are there any social implications in your art?

A. "My goal is to make images that are ambiguous from an opinion perspective, that makes the viewer think of how they feel and what it means to them. So I don't really feel consciously influenced by society per se, but more from my environment and experiences."

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Q. What are your artistic influences? Has anyone inspired you?

A. "Most of my inspiration comes from the old black & white photographers including Andrez Kertsez, Paul Strand, Bill Brandt, W. Eugene Smith. When it comes to color and more modern photography I enjoy Stephen Shore and Nan Goldin. Artistically I am mostly influenced by light. Light is so beautiful and can make the most ordinary item or scene come to life in a magical way. I especially like the pale late afternoon light in the winter. I am also influences by lines and texture."

Q. Tell me a little about your background. Are your past experiences reflected in the work you do today? If so, how?

A. "Before taking up photography, I worked most of my career in Sales & Marketing in the travel business. I bring the same creativeness to my photography as I do in business."

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Q. How long have you been a working artist?

A. "For about a year. In addition to my personal projects, I shoot Travel, Events, and Real Estate commercially."

Q. If you could pinpoint the characteristics of people who collect your art, what would they be?

A. "I think my art probably appeals to people that like to go their own way, who enjoy thinking and have strong opinions. A bit of an acquired taste, like myself. I don't think I have mass appeal but hope to create a small but loyal following."

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Q. Discuss one of your pieces. What were you thinking when you created it?

A. "I came across this church while walking around Brooklyn at dusk. I was drawn to the cross of the church that was attached to the facade. Rather than face the building, the cross was facing the perpendicular street. Religion is very much in discussion today especially when it comes to politics so I wanted to show it in a different way. I wanted people to wonder if I see religion as salvation and the light, or if I'm a non believer that think religion is the cause of more evil than good. How does it make you feel? You decide. I felt the scene would record best as a low-key image with the cross as a silhouette and add a red filter to darken the sky for added drama. I'm rather happy with the outcome."

Q. What is your artistic process?

A. "I'm somewhat of an intuitive photographer. I shoot scenes that appeal to me for various reasons and how I see them. My technical setup includes depth of field, lighting selection, and shutter speed. Then I decide if it's a color or black and white scene. Does it fit into an ongoing project, if so I make sure to shoot it in a consistent way. 90% of my image making takes place in the camera. I am not a fan of spending hours enhancing images in PhotoShop."

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Q. Why did you choose the medium(s) that you use?

A. "I am all visual. I relate words, feelings, smells, tastes, everything visually. I learn visually not by reading and remembering and I'm a keen observer and love people watching. Digital photography offers me instant gratification that suits my personality."

Q. Do you have a degree or do you plan to attend school for art? If so, how has it helped your art career?

A. "No art degree. I don't learn well in classrooms. I'm a self taught trial/error kind of guy. I think only so much can be taught when it comes to photography. I do like weekend workshops and I have taken some at ICP."

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Q. Where can we see more of your art?

A. "I am always looking for places to show my art. My art can mostly be seen online and on my website"

Q. What trends do you see in the 'art world'?

A. "I see more and more people getting into art with the emergence of digital photography and video. I also think there will be more cross over art."

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Q. Any tips for emerging artists?

A. "Shoot what you love, shoot what you know, and hopefully others will love it, too. You have to be true to yourself and belive in what you do. If you don't it will show in your work."

Q. What was the toughest point in your career as an artist? Have you ever hit rock-bottom?

A. "Getting established in New York will always be tough. There have been times when I've had self doubt. But then I remember that I'm doing this first and foremost for myself."

Q. In one sentence... why do you create art?

A. "It's therapeutic and exciting to have a vision that comes out the way you hoped."

Q. What can you tell our readers about the art scene in your area?

A. "I live in New York which has the best art scene in the country. There are so many places for art shows and inspiration including MoMA, ICP, galleries in Chelsea and Williamsburg (Brooklyn). There is also more competition in New York than anywhere else. At the end of the day, art is business, and it can be challenging to find curators or art collectors that want to take chances."

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Q. Is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the 'art world'?

A. "Mood. My images are about mood and feel. I like to break the "rules" and shoot how I see things. Some people get too caught up in - rule of thirds, leading lines, fore/middle/back ground etc. My motto is See, Feel, Capture!"

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I hope you have enjoyed my interview with artist Douglas Ljungvist. Feel free to critique or discuss his art. You can further observe his art by doing a search for doogienj on the main site.

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

1 comment:

fabusdr said...

I like a lot Douglas Ljungkvist photos and this is a really good interview, thank you for sharing!
He recently wrote a nice article about his work that has been published on Camera Obscura blog/magazine, if you want to have a look it is here:
Douglas Ljungkvist article
All the best