Q&A with... Kana Waiwaiku
Our latest Q&A is with Portrait photographer Kana Waiwkua, here we find out a bit more about his practice and artistic journey up to now.
My work revolves around "The human condition". I have imagined photography as a journey with no space-time boundaries, an amalgamation of the classical aesthetics with a modern medium.
F&A: Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became a photographer?
KW: The process of taking pictures has contestant throughout my life, I found a really old picture I took of my brother in the garden when I was about 10. I used to always steal my Dads camera, then he bought me my own. I suppose I’m known as a Music Photographer, my work really got noticed after I worked with The Libertines, Asylums and The Enemy. But I see those pieces as portraits, even though the pictures that most people have seen are taken onstage. I still see them as portraits just maybe not into traditional sense.
F&A: Did you study photography or are you self taught?
KW: I studied Graphic Design at Central Saint Martins, focusing on Photography in my second year. I don’t know how many of the readers have African parents, but they push education hard, well mine did. So when all my friends were having the summer of their lives, I was made to go to a Central Saint Martins short course (So I stayed sharp). Luckily this actually worked in my favor, but I wouldn’t realize it until 2 years later.
Anyway, we did bits of everything and it turned out that every one of the people that were on the course hadn’t actually got a place, they were people that wanted to do a Foundation there and thought it would help their cause. I’d already got in, without a Foundation on a to a degree course, so I was given the strangest looks on the first day.
I remember the tutor (Gary) sent us out with Lomo cameras and instructed us not to think about finding the story or forcing it, just to see it and shoot it. We were told not to even look through the lens, to frame with our bodies and trust our instincts.
Anyway....summer ended and I start my degree. I hated it. It more commercial than I thought and being young and dying to express myself, I kinda rebelled. So they invited me to a meeting in my second year and gave me this huge talk and said I was performing poorly. I came downstairs crying.
Somehow I ended outside the Photography studio and Gary saw me and asked what happened. I think I said “I’m fucking it up” Took me into the studio, handed me a Pentax 67 and said: “This’ll save your life”. Someone had not turned up for their shoot with a model, so he said: “Shoot her”. After that, I spent all my money on film and photo paper, if I wasn’t shooting I was in the darkroom if there was no one to shoot, I’d shoot self-portraits. I lived with my camera.
Later on that year, I went on my first UK music tour, didn’t really realize at the time but these events would shape my future. It’s weird to look back and see how those meetings; that at the time I probably took for granted actually turned out to be hugely significant in my development.
F&A: What is your go-to camera?
KW: If I could shoot my Mamiya 7 everyday day for everything I would, but I’m happy with a Canon 5d and 24-105 or 85mm.
F&A: Who or what inspires you to create?
KW: I’m inspired by stories and people, especially vulnerabilities. I think that’s what makes us special, those odd strange things that sometimes give us pain or discomfort. I feel like to acknowledge those moments is important, to expose wounds that make us humans in the hope that other people feel less alone. It’s something I keep rediscovering. Your work will be a record of your time and I want to spend my life interested, curious and constantly trying to develop.
I feel like we forget that we’re all human and all limited and all have things that make life hard.
It's strange what I find interesting or beautiful I guess, but I belive that's the same for everyone.
F&A: What do you like to do in your spare time?
KW: This is going to sound really weird and a bit obsessive but I work pretty much all the time, I’m part of an independent label/management collective called Cool Thing Records so when I’m not working on my own stuff, I’m working with artists we look after I also direct music videos and I’m currently putting together an exhibition and a book. But if I ever do get time to myself you’ll find me wandering around the Getty Gallery.
F&A: What is your favourite coffee table book?
KW: I don’t think I can just pick one:
Sally Mann: Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs
William Eggleston's Guide
The Notebooks - Jean-Michel Basquiat
F&A: How do you lead a creative life?
KW: Struggling, not ironically. I put immense weight on the purpose and intention of my work and to be honest I constantly feel like I’m failing. I think it you take it seriously it’s a struggle.
F&A: What are your hopes for the future?
KW: Exhibit and put out books, also I've always wanted to cover conflicts.