San Diego-based visual artist Gaojian Kyle Xu is a moodsetter when creating his analogue photographs, often having a synesthetic approach as he uses classical music to feel the atmosphere of the image he wants to create. For Kyle, every film might just be a representation of a classical musician. In his latest series Chinatown he draws inspiration from the warmth of Tchaikovsky's violin concerto with the Lomography Color Negative 800.
Greetings, Kyle! Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Gaojian Kyle Xu, and I'm 24 years old. I'm a Visual Artist based in San Deigo, California. My artworks are heavily influenced by classical music. Often, I find myself fantasizing about if Tchaikovsky was a photographer, what camera, and which format would he use. Which film stock would Debussy choose to express Clair De Lune? How wide the lens has to be, so Mahler's fifth symphony epicness can come through. There are no answers to these questions, but that's what my works are seeking.
What subjects do you usually enjoy filming in your daily time?
I enjoy photograph objects that are reflecting some part of our social issues. I'm looking for lines, colors, and shapes that are combined in our environment; and could representing the narrative that I have in my mind. Empty urban architecture is my favorite location to create images.
Tell us about your favorite products of Lomography.
I had the opportunity to try out LomoChrome Metropolis, Lomochrome Purple, Berlin Kino, and Lomography Color Negative 800. My favorite has to be the LomoChrome Metropolis and Color Negative 800. Most of my work takes place during the nighttime. High ISO film such as Color Negative 800 is great for night lights setting. The cold tone of the LomoChrome Metropolis film gives me the same feeling that I get when I listening to Sibelius's violin concerto.
Would you share some experience on how to film at night?
Shooting at night can be intimidating for some. But similar to riding a bike, you just have to start. Falling to the ground from the bike is similar to getting underexpose in the photo. The only way to improve is to keep on trying. Composition and meter are two of the most important elements in night photography. For my composition and meter, I draw inspiration from Tchaikovsky's violin concerto. For me, the sweetness in Tchaikovsky's violin concerto is calling for warm lights. So, I meter for the shadow within the frame could be 'too bold', and it could overtake the entire scene. A pro-mist filter can be useful whenever I encounter hash highlight from light posted our traffic light.
I like to bring a notebook with me when I take photos at night. It's helpful to write down the technical setting for developing my films. Also, the notebook can help me record my thought process behind each photo.
Please introduce some of your photo projects for us.
Hahaha, I don't think you want to know what's 6+(9-3) about, but I would love to talk about Chinatown and Beautiful accidents.
With the rising hate crime against Asian communities across the nation. I want to create a photo series that's representing hopes and aspirations. At the same time, a good friend of mine introduces Color Negative 800 to me. With 6 rolls of Color Negative 800 120, I drive up to Chinatown in Los Angles to create images. The result from the night at Chinatown is outstanding. Images are very empty, yet full at the same time. There is light at the end of the tunnel, we just have to keep pushing our way through the darkness.
Beautiful accidents was a creation that's inspired by a painting from Edward Hooper's 'Room by the Sea'. I want to explore the idea of minimal framing similar to the painting 'Room by the Sea'. Everything is cover, yet preserve.
Do you have a favorite series among your projects?
My favorite so far has to be Chinatown. Color is everything, and the composition is gold. The message behind the project is powerful, and the images did indeed reflect my message. In photography, it's hard to create images that appropriately express the photographer's message. I'm pleased with the result from Chinatown.
Is there something that you want to express to your audience through your photographs?
I don't think I want to vocalize my works to my audiences. The eye sees what it wants to see. Yes, in a way I do want my work to speak for itself. However, oversharing can leave limited or no room for imagination to take place. Artists belong to the universe that they had created, some are colorful, some are black and white, and some are unexplainable. My universe is confusing, and I get lost in my universe all the time.
Would you introduce us to some of your plans?
I'm currently working on my first photo book called Soft Depression. It's almost done and I can't wait to see it in print. I'm planning a trip up to San Fransico to photograph the city, and prolong the Chinatown series in San Fransico. The Chinatown in San Fransico has a long history for early Chinese immigrants. I'm looking forward to documenting the lifestyle of the people that are living in Chinatown. Another project that's coming up is the Las Vegas project, but that project is still in the writing stage. There are a lot more projects that I want to do, but putting ideas to paper takes time. But, I am looking forward to bring more meaningful works to the photography community.
Thanks to Gaojian Kyle Xu for taking the time to speak to us and share his works! Head over to Kyle's website to see more photos from his projects and to get lost in his archive of photography!