Kim Scianghetti has already caught the attention of many of us by her skills to capture and freeze strong emotional moments in time. Ever since she ended up as the grand prize winner of the 1x Photo Awards 2014, judged by the world famous Magnum Photographer Steve McCurry, many more members have discovered and come to admire her beautiful work. Thanks to Yvette Depaepe for conducting the interview. You will find more photos by the end of the article.
Could you please describe your feelings and emotions when winning the grand prize of 1x Photo Awards?
I still can't even begin to express it. I can say that I had submitted two images and promptly forgot about it, thinking there wasn't a chance of any placement knowing that the talent that would be entering was all going to be first class. How does one even start to select the winners from so many excellent submissions? I am beyond honored to be included among all of the winners of the 2014 Photo Awards and grateful to 1X.com for offering this wonderful opportunity.
Kim, can you tell us how your life experiences has affected your photography?
My life experiences have very much affected my photography.
The biggest influence in my life - in probably every respect – was being a dark skinned child facing prejudice in a very white part of America during the 1960s, when racial tensions were especially high. I am especially sensitive to portraying all people as fundamentally the same as well as special and wonderfully unique for the things that make us different.
What first attracted you to photography?
At a very young age, I was completely amazed by the science of photography. It was difficult to conceive how light reflected onto a piece of film could capture an image. I just loved that a moment in time could become immortal in a sense. And that one could go back in time and relive it as often as you liked...
What is it that so strongly attracts you to street and portrait photography?
I am drawn to people. To their emotions. I wonder what hides behind the facades we all put up. I aspire to generate compassion and understanding. To minimize fears of our perceived imperfections. To show humans, from every walk of life, religion, color, race and orientation, that at the very core we are all so very much alike. I love exploring their lives, telling the stories of these people and sharing them with others, much like an author, but of course visually, and leaving many blanks to be filled in by the viewer.
I feel that I am just at the cusp of understanding what that extra something I am trying to capture is - it's on the tip of my tongue, just a bit out of reach, but I finally see a glimmer of the direction to which I need to turn, on which to focus.
Is the story behind your images more important than technical?
As an artist, without doubt, the story. Most importantly an image has to intrigue me, make me stop and ponder, what is this all about? With regard to technique, wonderful light and a composition that pulls me into and around the image is all part of the story. Personally, I think there are some who are far too hung up on crystal clarity (especially in an age of digital high resolution cameras) or on not having some of the whites blown out or lack of detail in the blacks just for some examples.
I think of the work from much earlier generations. Henri Cartier-Bresson, brilliant compositions, light and the gift of perfect timing, but step close and there is no perfect clarity in so many of his amazing images. Or Julia Margaret-Cameron's wonderful portraits, blurred or soft focus due to long exposures and movement from her subjects and at times blown out whites. They didn't have the ease of today's equipment, but they had talent in, what I feel, is a more important way.
Do you have a special relationship with your subjects beyond being an observer?
My models have been friends, friends of friends, family, co-workers or models who have contacted me through a modeling website. For those I have never met before I arrange a meet up before the shoot to get to know them. I enjoy working off my subjects’ personality, energy, background, etc. It increases my creativity, and creates a connection and hopefully a breakdown of barriers.
Do you have any important advice for a beginner in street / portrait photography?
Pick up the camera, any camera and just shoot...and shoot...and shoot. Study successful photographers whose work you admire - what makes it work - how is the light, the composition, how does it make you feel. Then study your work - how did it succeed, what could you have done differently. And don't stop shooting...
Who are your favorite photographers, and more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected how you approach your own photography?
There are so many it is difficult to mention just a few...Henri Cartier-Bresson for his incredible timing - knowing how to wait and then at the perfect moment to press the shutter and for his wonderful compositions. Yousuf Karsh for his amazing portraiture - lighting and expressions captured. Sally Mann for showing how powerful images/stories can be told even if they are staged - the trick is not making them looked staged. And most importantly, Bärbel Scianghetti, my mother, who taught me to shoot what you know, what is important to you, and there are no truths in photography.
Do you have a favourite photograph taken by another artist that particularly inspired you and why?
This image is by Bärbel Scianghetti, my mother, and it was purchased by MOMA (Museum of Modern Art, NYC). She shot with a 4x5 film camera (past tense only because she is now retired from photography). Especially in this particular series, she seemed to capture moments that are completely spontaneous (this image not quite so much) and working with a 4x5 it is the furthest from spontaneous - but she also captured such immense feelings even though at initial glance the images may seem idyllic.
This particular shot is of my father and my daughter. He was scraping paint off the house to prep it for repainting while my mom was watching my daughter for me. Per her usual when watching Kaitlin, she would photograph her. She stopped him from his work, full of summer sweat, in his work clothes, chips of paint everywhere on him, to have him hold his granddaughter. There is a clear familia connection between them - their expressions and the way they both hold themselves. There is humor, both with their bellies exposed...and there is sadness, and a tiredness in my father's eyes. What was he thinking? Less than a year and a half later he was gone.
Unlike Sally Mann's images from her Immediate Family series, where her images are perceived as dark, often leaning towards sexual innuendo, injury etc., achieving very open ended stories, My mom on the other hand showed a kinder side of life in this series, though very layered in family dynamics and no less full of open ended storytelling and deep emotions. Each series my mom had done was something very close to her in some way and in this I learned the importance, the benefits, of shooting what you know, what means something to you... and my best chance at creating something that matters to me and in doing so maybe others can see it as well...
Do you have any specific directions you would like to take your photography in the future, or any precise goals you wish to achieve?
To make deeper, more personal and meaningful images. I've also set sights on the very scary prospect of doing a selfportrait series that I will start work on later this year, along with another body of work that is very close and personal to me as well.
Do you have a favourite photograph taken by you and can you tell us why it is so special?
I honestly can't say I have a favorite as of now...I have to steal a famous quote and say “the one I haven't taken yet” ...for I know I can do better work. I will say though I have a strong affinity towards my image 'Citadel', for the end result far exceeded my expectations and to me expresses strong emotions.
And finally, what do you think about 1X as a home base for your work?
1x.com has been a wonderful source of inspiration, beautifully laid out, displaying the images in their full glory. Full of incredible talent, different genres and the opportunity to receive valuable feedback. And the expanded learning section is a valuable tool.