Kumi Oguro | Antwerp, Belgium

Short bio:
Kumi Oguro is born in Japan in 1972. Her study of photography started in London in 1996, followed by further development at Koninklijke Academie voor Schone Kunsten (Royal Academy of Fine Arts) in Antwerp until 2003.  Next to photography, she also experimented with video and installation in a postgraduate program, Transmedia in Brussels. Her research theme in the program was ‘Photographic film and Filmic photography’, in other words, the relation between still and moving image. This subject is also treated later on in her thesis for the master course, Filmstudies en Beeldcultuur (Film studies and Image Culture) at the University Antwerp in 2006, with the title ‘About the “filmic” in photography’. After this study, she concentrates again in de development of her photographic work.  Recent years, Oguro has participated in exhibitions in Belgium and also in Denmark, Finland, Portugal, Germany, The Netherlands, France and Japan. Her first book NOISE was published from Le caillou bleu (Brussels) in 2008. She lives and works in Antwerp since 1999.

Why do you photograph on film?
First of all, I just cannot imagine giving up my 6×6 camera, Bronica S, after more than 10 years of working together.
Very simple camera, quite heavy and makes a nice noise when I press the shutter. I mostly photograph models. They are available for a couple of hours. We cannot spend a whole day without exhausting ourselves. The fact that I cannot see the result immediately makes me tense in a positive way. It heightens my concentration, hoping that each image will be a masterpiece. I say to myself, “now or never”. Often my models say at the end of the session, “I’m curious”. I like to be able to answer “So am I, but I’ve got a good feeling!” Even after years and years of experience, it still makes me nervous whenever I have a look at the just developed films. I get home quickly, have a better look at the images, make a selection and good scans, and finally prints – my complete creation. Yes, it is time consuming but I love this whole process of shooting on film.

What is your work about?
I am intrigued by the images of our dreams just before awakening: it is difficult to find the logic there, there is nothing to indicate time, the space is indeterminate. In my work, I try to create an atmosphere that is quite close to those dream images.
During the shooting, everything seems to be under my control. I examine the (day) light in advance, according to my planning I build up a scene and fix the pose of the (female) models, as if they are dolls. Still, I leave a certain space for what happens on the spot: unexpected light effects or a subtle change in the pose of the model… The faces of the models are hidden. It is not clear whether we see a frozen moment of what was going on (whatever it is) or rather if they are waiting to be awakened from a long, long sleep. It is important for me to keep this ambiguity. These anonymous women are balancing on a thin line between the childlike and the sensual, the fragile and the destructive, the tragic and the playful.