Photography : "Live and Uncut" - Episode 59 - Irene Kung

Photographer, Painter then Photographer.

The show got off to a slow start as the Google Gremlins returned to haunt me. But Irene was there...

Although born in Switzerland, Irene spent the majority of her life in Rome, Italy. Her mother was a painter. When she used to come home from school to find the house quiet she knew her mother was painting. Irene would stand behind her just watching keeping quiet so that her mother couldn't hear her! She loved watching her mother paint. From school she moved to graphic design but she loved to photograph with her Olympus Om-1 (Film camera). Photography at an early age was important to her and she enjoyed the whole process of photography from the taking of the image through to working in the darkroom with her Durst enlarger. Concentrating on mono work, some of her prints, in those days would take a whole day to get right. She would sometimes use three negatives to merge together. She would then dodge and burn with the tools she made or simply with her hands, to hide the joins.

From film though she switched to painting as she was trying out different styles, edgings sculptures, but finally got an opportunity to work in an art studio helping the artists prepare their canvasses. She got the chance to paint and exhibited for quite a few years. Her paintings were of a realistic but eventually became more abstract style. Her style was trying trying to create the impression of the image coming through from the background in an almost 3D style. Which is what she tires to (and succeeds I might add) with her present day photography.

She switched back to photography after a suggestion by Valentina Bonomo, who owned a gallery in Rome, and commented that on seeing Irene's painting work and some small photographs,  she should concentrate on her photography and if she did she would show her work!  Irene went out and bought an camera straight away (A Canon). After a while Valentina contacted her again to ask what the project was going to be based on. Irene said Im going to do it on Roman Architecture. Valentina said no No No Irene but on seeing the image of the Pantheon she said "Of course we are going to do Roman Architecture" what a turn around... Irene's exhibition was a complete success of which many photographs were sold. Her work is regularly promoted at the Contrasto Gallery in the Rome and Milan offices.

Her prints are amazing as you will see from the screen share. The size of the prints can be up to 1 x 2.5m! We talked about photographing Monuments and general architecture for the commercial use of those images. She has never had a problem with that. Thats very interesting especially since the European Parliament tried to set control of the art of photography.

From the screen share we looked at her images from her book 'The Invisible City'. The style and quality not only of the website but the images are outstanding, which at full print size are quite large. She now uses a digital Hasselblad camera with a simple zoom (ie. 50-110mm her favourite lens) as she wants to be quick and doesn't want to carry a lot of different lenses around with her. All her prints are printed on Rag paper, to produce the deep quality and dense blacks. From London we switched to India which shows a different style . These are a lot lighter and serene, which lends itself to the colour's you see in India especially the Pink and reddish skies. Unfortunately I wanted to show more images but our connection problems returned and my computer slowed drastically.

From the screen share we talked briefly about her camera gear. Irene uses the Hasselblad with her favourite 50-110mm lens - She had used a Canon and Nikon cameras before, but the quality of the Hasselblad allowed her to crop her images. Bearing in mind the size of the final print this type of camera is essential for her work. She now prints her own work on a Large Format 'Epson' printer and she describes how she creates her images using her photoshop techniques. She showed the cover of her book 'The Invisible City' with a number of images from her portfolio. and another book which she is very proud of from an Expo where her name is shared on the front cover with Joel Mayerowitz.

Her favourite and most inspiring artist would Caravaggio, who demonstrated to her the use of Light. Other artists and photographers that she appreciates are Elliott Erwitt, Sebastiao Salgado, William Klein, and Robert Capa, Hiroshi Sujimoto and Joel Mayerowitz of course. We talked about the Japanese photographer Fujimoto and his ability to get into the soul of an image which Irene thinks comes from the early paintings from Japan. Which is what she attempts with her images, to transmit a sensation or a feeling of the monument. For the future there are many many buildings throughout the world that fascinate her, that she would like to photograph, what with all the new products that are being used now - glass, marble and steel . But who knows the future could see Irene move to landscape photography.

For that I cant wait.

Thanks Irene.

Until next time "leave your camera bag at home"


The all important links

Photography Live and Uncut Episode no.59 with Irene Kung

The Website for Irene Kung

Irene on Facebook

Irene on Twitter

Irene on Instagram

Irene on Google+