Interview: Kip Harris
Luca Curci talks with Kip Harris during CONTEMPORARY VENICE 2021 at Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello.
Harris grew up in a small farming community in the Intermountain West of the US. He holds degrees in English literature from Dartmouth College, in humanities from the University of Chicago, and architecture from the University of Utah. He was a principal of FFKR Architects in Salt Lake City for nearly 30 years. A serious photographer since the late 80s, he has exhibited in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe with four solo and over one hundred group shows. He has been published in Shots Magazine, The Photo Review, Art Reveal, Smithsonian.com, Street Photography Magazine, Barren Magazine, Tagree, Square and a number of on-line photographic sites. He now lives on the South Shore of Nova Scotia, Canada in an 1823 cottage overlooking the St. Margaret’s Bay. He and his wife created Company X Puppets (a highly portable puppet, dance, theater group established to present intimate mixed media works).
Luca Curci – How did you get to photography? Do you remember why you took your first professional photo?
Kip Harris – Most of my life, I avoided carrying a camera and taking photos. I was worried that I would start looking for things to take photos of instead of looking at what I found in front of my eyes. I took a year’s sabbatical from my office after finishing a very difficult project. My wife encouraged me to take her camera along. When I started using her camera to document my trip, I realized that I saw more clearly and with much greater precision through the lens. I’ve been a serious photographer ever since. Because I don’t earn most of my income from photography, I don’t consider myself to be a professional, just an engaged amateur. The first photograph that I sold was taken of a bathroom in a boarding house style building in Elephant and Castle in London. I took the photography because the pale morning light and patina of the space seemed to sum up this particular building with great simplicity and directness. I have a copy of this photo just outside the master bathroom in our current house.
LC – How much is the editing process important? How’s yours?
KH – I started out as a black and white film photographer who processed and developed his own works. Because film was expensive, I shot very little and tried to make each shutter release matter. I missed a number of good opportunities this way. When I shifted over to digital, I started shooting much more. On a two week trip, I might return to 7,000 images. I then needed to spend much more time looking at my images to decide which were the good ones. I review the images in stages in Lightroom giving ratings to those I think might be okay. Then I pare that group down multiple times. By the time I actually get ready to process images, I am likely to have fewer than a hundred images left. Then the hard work begins.
LC – How do you choose your subjects? Is it a reasoned or an instinctive process?
KH – I place myself at a time and in a location so that there is a high likelihood that I can capture something I might like. For my seascapes, that means going out nearly everyday with my dog near sunrise and / or sunset. I have maybe an hour and a half each day to catch the horizon, the light, the water, and the clouds. When I actually push the shutter is instinctive.
LC – What is the most challenging part about creating your artworks?
KH – The weather. I am out every day. That includes rain storms, hurricanes, blizzards, freezing rain. I’ve destroyed one camera because of too much moisture. I stopped using cell phone cameras because below a certain temperature they stop working.
LC – Did your style change over the years? In what way?
KH – When I first started doing seascapes, I was drawn to big vistas with big dramatic skies. Over time, I became more and more drawn to minimal, almost monochromatic moments. I continually go back over my 10,000 or so seascapes to look for images that originally seemed to bland.
LC – In which way the artwork presented in our exhibition is connected with the festival’s theme? What do you think about the concept of this festival? How did it inspire you?
KH – Indirectly. For me, Venice is a city of water. Your name: ITSLIQUID, first drew my attention. Then as I started thinking about the identity of Venice in the contemporary world, it seemed that the historic presentations of the city: Canaletto, Guardi, Turner, Monet all focused on the buildings in the context of the canals rather than on the water itself. I have one water photo from a two week stay in Venice that doesn’t show the buildings at all just the reflections of color in the water. I thought my work might capture that spirit.
LC – Would you suggest a collaboration with us? What do you think about our services?
KH – Collaboration would be fun. Doing street photography at a time when there are the fewest tourist would interest me. A way of seeing how people spend their days living and working in this most famous of cities is not something I see often. Shooting daily life in black and white during acqua alta would be a way of linking climate change to the predicament that Venice faces as sea levels rise. You have been very proactive. You contacted me about submitting work and vigorously followed up.
LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID Group can represent an opportunity for artists?
KH – By all means. You offer exposure in a market that is very difficult for an outsider to penetrate.
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
KH – Very much.