Black Dog Collective founders Simone Alexandra and Kim W. Catton talk about their common projects, passions and goal of bringing photographers together, showcasing up-and-coming artists and forming a network where like-minded people can share their passion of photography.
Real Names: Simone Alexandra and Kim W. Catton
*How did you two come together to create Black Dog? *
Simone & Kim: Well we’ve been a couple for a while now, and one day at a time where Simone had just finished her stay at Fatamorgana we were talking about that weird feeling you have after ending school, where all of a sudden it feels like you’re on your own with no ground under your feet. In Denmark there are a few good schools for Photography but no community out side of them or even between them. Both feeling that being around other photographers and seeing the amazing projects that are being produced, is really important in terms of keeping motivated and inspired. We decided to try to create a space for that. The idea was to start with the blog and then build on that with other projects such as books, events and hopefully a magazine, when the time is right.
Are you both professional photographers or what else do you guys do as well as Black Dog?
Kim: I was educated at Fatamorgana as mentioned before and have since been focusing on doing my own projects, learning a lot about fund-raising in the process too. Besides Black Dog Collective and personal projects I am also working in a gallery in Copenhagen as a curator. All these things go together really well and are all about photography and therefore, besides being a lot of hard work is also very rewarding. I am also quite busy making small zines and books and learning how to get these published. To self-publish or not self-publish, pros and cons, that is the question!
Simone: I just begun studying photography at Gothenburg University in Sweden and basically spent most of my time either working on my own projects, studying or editing content for Black Dog. I wouldn’t call myself professional simply cause I don’t make any money on photography; it’s not really a priority to me or to Kim, making money that is. At this time in my life the most important thing seems to just do what feels right, learn, build a solid foundation and honestly. I’m not really interested in doing anything not photo related. Luckily I’ve been getting away with that so far.
How long have you both been Lomographers or are you new to this whole thing?
Kim: To me photography is the best way to express what I want to express through my art. It suits my goal perfectly. I look upon photography and cameras as a tool like any other. Like a paintbrush or even a hammer! Whenever I start on a new project I quite early in process start to visualize the final product and when that is done the right tools to make this visualization possible needs to be found. This is when questions like 35mm, large format 4×5, digital, medium format, grain or no grain, B/W or color etc. come into play. During exactly this stage of the Roskilde Festival project (a collaboration project I did with Simone) we quickly realized that we needed the effects of panorama to evoke the feelings and quality we had in mind for the images. Knowing the work of Jens Olof Lasthein and seeing what great results he had gotten using the Horizon Perfekt we decided to use this camera. We are new to the thing but have enjoyed using this beast a lot.
Simone: Kim and I are very alike in the sense of using the camera as a means to a goal, and that’s also why I find analogue photography and Lomography so interesting cause there’s a thousand different ways to affect your image whether it be the camera you use, the film, the process or some kind of manipulation. When you shoot digital it’s pretty much a close circuit of actions: shoot, transfer to computer, edit, leave in a folder somewhere.
What do you think the current status of professional photography is in your opinion? Is there a noticeable movement going on? How hard is it to make a living at it these days?
Kim & Simone: We believe that we have chosen the hard way. Both of us are really stubborn on the subject of doing only what we really love and this of course leads to periods of relatively low income. But it really doesn’t matter when you’re doing what you like the most. Professional photography in terms of art photography has received a rather large dose of recognition during these years and more and more galleries and museums have accepted photography as a true art form. This is wonderful and has made things a bit easier being a working artist.
Among the people you interview, showcase and bring together, how would you describe the role of analogue photography generally? Is it only for certain types of photographers or do many still enjoy shooting with film?
Kim & Simone: We are of the opinion that there is a place for analogue as well as digital, that being said, we tend to feature mostly photographers who shoot on film. The main reason for this is that we are mostly interested in art photography and that is very much a world that hasn’t gone digital at all. In everything we do, we always try to give the image the last word and not the way it was shot, but its very clear to us looking at what people send us and the people who show up at our event’s that analogue photography is still widely used and appreciated. Maybe this has something to do with the novelty of digital wearing of a bit after a long period of being the new and hip thing.
We both find it really sad that photography in terms of cameras have gone the way it has with companies focusing solely on the digital market, especially in a time where it seems like analogue photography is gaining interest from a lot of people.
What was the strangest, funniest, or hands-down greatest photographic/ Lomographic encounter that you had this year?
Simone & Kim: During the Roskilde project we received many comments on the weird looking camera. There was this fireman on duty, sitting in his truck calling us over to have a better look at the strange thing. He ended up taking a picture with it, which we in return promised to send to his unit once developed. We think it’s a really strong feature that the Horizon camera doesn’t look like a camera. At times this creates a natural bond between the photographer and the subject – something to talk about. This can be helpful softening things up before a photoshoot. On the other hand and in other situation the “non-camera look” can also help you to a more stealthy approach, which in the end might reward you with capturing that famous decisive moment. Ninja style!
Where do you find your inspiration for starting and developing your project like Black Dog & The one you did at Roskilde Festival?
Kim & Simone: We just talk a lot and I think it’s probably a bit of an occupational hazard that just regular everyday conversations can turn into quite big projects. That’s what happened with the Roskilde Festival project, which is a festival we both like to visit. We were wondering why at this event that is heavily photographed it seems like it’s very much the same kind of photography that comes out of it. As we were talking, this idea of exploring the people who are there to party and how they affect the surrounding environment developed. Like mentioned before Black Dog came to be in a very similar manner. Once we start a project we are very good at keeping each other motivated for doing the things that might be a little less exiting like fund-raising and opening doors etc.
What are some of the project you are working on or have in mind now that we can look forward to?
Simone: We are still working on the Roskilde project and this will develop during the next couple of years. Personally I’m in the editing process of a project I shot in Egypt earlier this year. The plan is to make a small limited edition book, which will hopefully be done in not too long. Other than that I’m trying not to take on new things as I just started school and want to focus a bit on the strangeness of a new school and a new country.
Kim: I’m working on a couple of personal projects. One is a small book called “death is not the end” and it is based on snapshots taken during the past year or so. I have then been sifting through endless rows of negs and am now making the final selection. It has been great working with photos this way being used to carefully planned and staged projects. Another project which I have just started and which I am really thrilled about is going to take on the feeling of being different, stranded somewhere. I will take on the role of a photographer visiting this, to me, weird place in northern Scandinavia trying to capture the essence of the people living there. With a life so different from the one most of us live I hope to capture the atmosphere surrounding a people that has chosen a life without many of the things others find they can’t live without. I’m afraid I can’t tell more about this. This place and these people are quite a gem and I can’t risk someone hijacking the project. Ninja style!
Any parting words of wisdom you would like to leave us hanging on?
Kim: I am not very wise and this can sometimes be really helpful in the process of creating art. That might sound a bit silly but let me try to explain; as an artist it’s important to know where you come from, where you draw your inspiration from and to know your place in time. BUT it is equally important, perhaps even more important to be able to let go of some of this knowledge when you are doing your own stuff. If you get an idea, trust your instinct and don’t over-think the whole thing. Planning is important of course – I guess it’s a fine line.
Simone: The one thing I’ve learned over the last year is to not be afraid of starting projects that may seem a bit scary, its been a surprising and also kind of amazing experience how helpful people can be and how much you get back. It might seem like a small thing but its good to remember to just do things instead of letting them stay in your notebook.