Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Pari Dukovic interview

Nicki Minaj © Pari Dukovic
I have never met Pari Dukovic but I like his pictures. This blog post was a way for me to meet Pari, who made some really nice fashion pictures this year for New York Magazine. I asked Pari a few questions for FOAM:

Michael Christopher Brown: Where are you from in Turkey and why are you in New York City?

Pari Dukovic: I am originally of Greek descent and was born and raised in Istanbul. Since I was a little kid, I wanted to live in NYC - the typical American dream. I also find NYC very similar to Istanbul in terms of its population and cosmopolitan qualities.

MCB: Has NYC changed you in any way?

PD: NYC definitely brings out the best in you if you are willing to work hard and be committed to what you do. It's a very fast paced environment but it's also a place where you are constantly stimulated with ideas. It really is a great place to live if you like to be on the go all the time and be constantly engaged.

Hailey Clauson at Prabal Gurung © Pari Dukovic

MCB: Is there a certain part of the city or a certain group of people in NYC you like photographing the most?

PD: That is a tough question to answer. I am interested in photographing people in the streets so you never know where that magical moment will take place in the city. As a rule, I carry my point and shoot at all times. Sometimes I go out to shoot personal work, but most of the time I just document moments that are around me throughout my day. I do like shooting in Chinatown and areas of NY where it gets very crowded.

MCB: Who and/or what inspires you and why? I don't necessarily mean photographers or photography, just life in general.

PD: Paintings for sure! I love Degas, Caravaggio, Francis Bacon just to name a few. I look at paintings and try to pick up things like a certain color palette, tonality or sensitivity and translate it to photographs. I also love classical music. Listening to Vivaldi, Bach, Beethoven and Mozart, depending on the mood of the project I am working on, helps me a lot when I am editing. I actually only listen to classical music when I edit photographs. I find it very calming.

Jason Wu © Pari Dukovic


MCB: Who is your mentor(s)?

PD: My biggest mentor and supporter is my dad. I guess you could say he is my inspiration to do what I do. He was very supportive of me doing photography. Actually when he was a little kid during the summers he used to work in a darkroom of a photography studio in Istanbul. He used to organize the glass negatives there and help out with general darkroom work.

MCB: What drives you to take pictures? Why are you a photographer?

PD: Photography and my camera gives me a reason to explore situations in an extended depth. I enjoy the search that I go through when I am working on a project especially when it's a long term project. Also a camera could take you to so many places that you might never go. I always get so excited when I get a call from a magazine about an assignment - what will the story be? where am I going? who I am meeting?

MCB: What are your special ingredients? That is, can you explain your 'eye', what goes into your picture making process and what is going through your head when you make pictures?

PD: I think the key thing in my pictures is energy and trying to find something that locks your eyes onto the picture. Sometimes that happens because of amazing composition, a person's unique expression or gaze, or beautiful colors. I am also intrigued by the idea of movement in a photograph.

MCB: Matthew Craig said you process black and white film at your apartment. What is your equipment and technical processes specifically, what cameras/films do you use and why do you make special time for, in retrospect, such a grueling time consuming process?

PD: I use point and shoot cameras most of the time - like Ricoh gr1, Yashica t4 and Contax t2. I only shoot film and really enjoy the process. I think I benefit a lot from using film when I shoot - changing the roll of film and having that kind of a pace helps me to take a few second break and gives me a chance to look at my composition and approach with fresh eyes again.

Using film is certainly a very lengthy process every step of the way. I buy the film, store it in the fridge, process it, do contact scans and log it into my archive with the subject, date and location. This is only part one; once I make selects the image needs to go through the final stage of printing too.  I personally love the softness of film in color negative and the charcoal drawing like qualities of high speed b&w film. I have embraced the grainy quality of film in my work. I think that also brings a beautiful rawness to the work, which marries really well with the way I like to photograph.

Terry Richardson at Alexander Wang © Pari Dukovic

MCB: Do you like fashion? Why / why not? What do you think of the models and their lives?

PD: I like being in places where there is energy and the fashion world is an amazing environment for that. There is beauty; there are stunning designs, people, stages, lights… When I shot the fashion assignment, I wanted to treat it no different than shooting in the streets. I just happened to be in a big room where there are beautiful people and amazing moments to capture.

Models have a very intense schedule during fashion week. I really admire them for how they manage to keep going all day non-stop and have a positive attitude. For example if there is a fashion show at 9 am I would get there around 7 am and they would have been there since almost 5am to get going on hair and make up and before that they might even have had a fitting for a show the next day. If you think about running on 3 hours of sleep a day that is a pretty crazy schedule.

MCB: How do you connect with people when you photograph?

PD: I think the key thing is to be yourself and not try to be somebody that you are not. That kind of genuine approach can get you a positive response and the shoot will be fun.

MCB: If you could do anything would you still be a photographer? Was becoming a photographer a conscious decision and does your life revolve around photography?

PD: I just liked taking candid pictures since I was 9. It was in my last year of high school that I made the decision to study photography. When I was a teenager picking up a camera and going out to take pictures would excite me so much and it made sense to pursue a life filled with something that I am so passionate about.

I would still be a photographer. I can't trade the joy I get when I am happy with a photograph or look at beautiful work.

MCB: Is there going to be a pari in Paris series anytime soon? if not, would you be interested in a commission of this nature? (sorry man, i am not making fun of your name i just think a series like this would be cool, considering your talent)

PD: Well I am a big fan of Paris. I love the city, the architecture, the way a city like that could inspire someone in the visual world. It would be a dream to live in Paris one day for a while to shoot there and get to know it better!

MCB: What can you find and what is always missing in photography, if anything?

PD: I think I am still exploring and will be exploring photography and its capabilities. I just love photography because in a very particular moment if I manage to capture an image it can be so powerful.

MCB: What is a good photograph?

PD: A good photograph is one that moves you, that makes you stop on that page if you are looking at a book or a magazine. When I see great work my body language reacts to it. I get closer to it - I feel engaged.

MCB: Greatest living photographer? Greatest dead photographer?

PD: Greatest living photographer - to name one is so so hard….I will name a few whose work I love: Daido Moriyama, William Klein, Susan Meiselas. This list could be very long! There are so many photographers out there whose work I truly admire and look up to.

Dead - I would want to name one here especially as we recently lost her and I see her as a genius: Lillian Bassman.

Interview by Michael Christopher Brown (Foam Magazine #27/Report)

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