CHUNG | NAMONT

Q and A with Bijan Yashar

“It's in the doing that I understand what the work wants to communicate. Some artists set out with a concept in mind and execute it. I admire that kind of approach, but I prefer being open to what the work itself might reveal that I hadn't considered.”

people standnig in front of paintings


“Catalina” - These found photographs of real estate listings on Catalina Island have deteriorated over time through sun exposure, resulting in the emulsion's cracked, peeling texture. The darker parts of the image have more silver in the emulsion and are more stable, but the sun has fried and altered the brighter parts at a faster rate. We normally associate light with being generative, but it also can be destructive. While light was necessary in creating these images, it is also responsible for their transformation and gradual destruction.


How these works came to be…

The Catalina series came to be as most of my other work happens too, by being out in the world and noticing mundane things that are nonetheless extraordinary or poignant in surprising ways. I was on Catalina Island passing by a realty business when I noticed a bunch of 4x6" photos of real estate listings pinned to a board and displayed behind the window of the business. The photos must have been there for many months if not years, cooked and bleached by the intense sunshine that the island gets. I simply photographed the photographs through the window with minimal post processing.

How did you become a photographer?

What drew you to that medium in the first place?

I started doing photography in high school and have never stopped. I don't think I can stop. I did a lot of drawing and ceramics too during and after high school, but photography was and is something that can be done anywhere without needing much more than a camera and some film or memory cards. Combining photography and travel to new places is one of my greatest pleasures.

Who is a big influence in your life as a photographer? And the artists who had the most impact on your practice?

I can't say there's any one person that's a big influence in my life as a photographer but there are definitely other photographers and artists I'm very inspired by, such as Lee Friedlander, Eugene Richards, James Nachtwey, Paul Graham and Tim Davis. I also love the video and film work of Gary Hill and Richard Mosse. 


Is there a topic, a concept that you keep revisiting in your career as an artist?

The passage of time and the patina it leaves on surfaces is endlessly fascinating to me as is noticing how reality is often stranger than fiction. As part of this broader exploration I'm interested in the idea of light itself, foundational to photography, having a destructive effect. The paradox of light being the source of life and essential to photography but simultaneously bleaching, distorting, obscuring or otherwise destroying existing images on various surfaces intrigues me. My Catalina and Illuminated series, though formally very different from one another, both explore light as a destructive force.

Do you see a relationship between your work as an educator in photography and your own personal practice?

Being an educator doesn't directly influence how I approach my personal practice, but indirectly it's a great complement to what I do because I'm always in the process of learning new things about photography, both in preparation and research for my classes, and also in learning new things from my students.

What's next for you? What concepts are you exploring at the moment?

Two years ago I walked for the first time in my life on a magnificent glacier in Patagonia. That experience inspired me to visit as many other glaciers as I possibly can and of course make photographs along the way. I don't know what those photos mean quite yet, but like much of the other work I've done it's in the doing that I understand what the work wants to communicate. Some artists set out with a concept in mind and execute it. I admire that kind of approach, but I prefer being open to what the work itself might reveal that I hadn't considered. Again, that element of surprise and discovery and making sense of the strange and unexpected is what keeps photography continually fresh for me.