“I create images that turn ordinary places and objects into stimulation for the imagination” – is the authoritative description of the body of work by photographer Wara Bullôt (b.1989 in Bangkok, Thailand). Focusing primarily on architecture, landscapes, objects and products around us, Wara’s work explores the relationship between nature and our built environment. The minimalistic aesthetics merging with symmetry, shapes, colors and lines in her current project ‘Know Where’ is created with combining different (and unrelated) spaces to re-frame a place hitherto non-existent yet familiar. Wara also shoots fashion and lifestyle (see bottom images) beside other commercial work. Here’s our Q&A with Wara Bullôt:
Please tell us about yourself. As you were born in Thailand, how much of the (so-called) Asian sensibilities are there rooted in your psyche?
Up until 8 years old, I grew up in Thailand and I was taught how to behave like a ‘proper’ Thai. Politeness and kindness was the fundamentals of my upbringing and I was very much sheltered from the truth. Growing up in New Zealand and Australia has expanded my point of view and also formed my identity. I call myself a Kiwi because I spent the majority of my time growing-up here and I feel the most connected. I do acknowledge my Thai heritage but I don’t think there is strong Asian sensibilities rooted in me, because pretty much I’m like a banana 😛 Yet, I’m curious to learn more about my roots and always have the burning desires to re-connect with Thailand through a photographic project.
My curiosity drove me into photography because it was a tool for me to see the world in another respect and I liked that idea. I remember in my first ever darkroom photography class at 13; I only took photos of a toilet-bowl, over and over again! I became obsessed with it even though my friends and teacher thought it was crap and boring (excuse the pun). I really didn’t care because I wanted to make the perfect picture. Since then, I continued my photographic studies at Massey University in Wellington and graduated as a Photography Scholar.
Your current body of work examines relationship between the built environment and the natural landscape. How do you view the changes that are taking place ‘outside’ and how do you attempt to capture any conflict or coexistence?
Both our built environment and the natural landscapes are ever-changing whether it’s because of mankind or the natural phenomenon. So I am interested in investigating how humankind’s constant need to construct and colonize nature for our everyday purposes, can shift the visual understanding we have of our surroundings. I found that living in the city; surrounded by highways and tall buildings forces the urge to connect with some kind of natural environment that is always present. I think it is hard to combine the built environment and the natural landscape together but it does coexists. This idea influenced how I created my work to construct images that are a bit odd yet appears real.
I wanted my body of work to be seen as one so I chose for them to be hung in a grid and I liked how neat it looked as well. These original art works are 20″ x 25″ so when they are hung closely together they become cohesive. Hanging my art work in a grid also forces viewers to stand in one place for a longer period of time, I find they become even more engaged with the work, it is like watching something on a big screen for them.
How do you manage to maintain the contrast and symmetry in your work (w.r.t. the series “Know Where”)? What does this title signify?
Shooting on the right day was important because if the lighting of the building doesn’t match the landscape or vice versa it will just look really funny. I made sure the original image is awesome then I start to play around with it. I really go by what looks right, rather than sticking to a process. ‘Know Where’ is just play-on words. It provides more contexts to the work.
I also love still-life photography and photo-documentary, I would love to shoot more interesting people. I became really interested in shooting buildings was when I first encountered Heygate Estate in Elephant and Castle in London. The building left me in awe because I hadn’t seen or experienced anything like it where I grew up. The initial experience really took me to places and made me wonder about the daily functioning of the people who lived there from a non-pessimistic point of view. My encounter with Heygate Estate really was the starting point of me questioning our built environment and our relationship with the landscape.
Tell us about the equipment (camera and lenses) you mostly use. What is your workflow like and what are your views on editing and digital manipulation?
At the moment, I mainly use my digital camera a Canon 5D, aprime lens and a 24-70mm, I always have a tripod and a stepladder with me when I go on locations. I love shooting on my Hassleblad 500c as well and I will never stop shooting on film. I work with colour photography a lot because I enjoy seeing things in colour. Of course every photographers’ best friend the Adobe Suite is always there to help me create my work. I try to avoid over doing things, I like to keep things simple and on point.
I think photography is a universal language and so accessible to everyone now because of the rapid growth of technology. There are so many layers to this question both good and bad. All I can say is the role of photography is never singular and viewers should learn how to read photographs and always question what you are seeing.
Tell us about your achievements, awards, clients, publications, etc.
My biggest achievement so far is the ability to follow my intuitions and be passionate about what I do and let everything else follow. As a recent graduate, I am fortunate enough that my artwork is speaking for itself and being recognized by galleries and the online world in both New Zealand and overseas. To me, I don’t think hard work alone is success, knowing why you are working hard is your biggest success. I am always keen to collaborate with clients and like minds.
I recently moved to a new city, Auckland! This is a very exciting time for me because I am seeing a lot of cool stuff here. I am in the process of working on a personal project, researching and doing some test works. I am really inspired by rock formations and craters at the moment so I am just testing out my options and continuing the theme of the built environment and the natural landscape.
I love works of Lewis Baltz, Stephen Shore, Edward Burtynsky, Wayne Barrar, Wolfgang Tillmans, Robert Adams and Bernd and Hilla Beacher are just to name a few. My favourite bands are ACDC, The Datsuns, Darts, The Ramones , Little Dragon and SBTRKT live. Supreme Coffee is my addiction also eggs on toast every morning.
Something to say to our readers or aspiring photographers:
Do what you love to do, take risks and never give up! Don’t forget to have a work life balance, get out and about and enjoy what’s on offer.