Better Eye by Oren Oaariki and Wara Bullot
Last Friday at the studio, film photographers Oren Oaariki and Wara Bullot presented to us "Better Eye," sharing their view of the world around us. With today’s instant gratification of the smartphone touchscreen shutter, photography has become even more accessible. We sat down with the artists to discuss how over-saturated newsfeeds have been the catalyst for a revival and new-found appreciation of images that are honest and physical.
'Better Eye' is currently exhibiting at Lowtide until Friday the 27th of July.
O: I'm Oren Oaariki, I'm a photographic artist. I work with a lot of different types of film mediums. This particular exhibition is instant films.
W: Hey! I'm Wara Bullot, I fell in love with photography from a very young age. My first camera was a Kodak disposable camera. Right now, I am interested in our contemporary landscape, particularly how humans interact with the land, including the everyday activities and architecture.
How did you meet and decide to work together?
O: Wara and I met each other through a mutual friend who is now her partner. It took us quite some time to find out we were both photographers and we liked each others art but it all began with a group of us meeting for drinks and had a bit of a bender as you do, and we discovered the idea for this exhibition.
W: Yeah we met in 2013 at Havana Bar in good old Wellington. Back then I was still studying photography at Massey University. It wasn't until 2017 that we decided to do a show together but the idea hadn't really progressed until recently. We let the idea form organically and it happened at the right time for us, so we locked it in and made it happen. We had just over a month to put this show together of work we've been working on for a while.
What inspired you to get into photography and maintains your motivation?
O: I was given a camera by my father when I was 8yrs old and sort of just muddled through it until I joined a band at high school. That's when I started getting serious about it, photgraphing my friends and our scene and developing my style.
W: At the start, my main inspiration for photography came from the desire to capture moments in an artistic way. But photography is like an onion, there are many layers and messages in it, that motivates me to use the medium for self expression and for others to decode my stories.
When you're photographing, do you work from impulse or are you setting out to show the viewer something they haven't thought of before?
O: Wara's an amazing photographer, she has an ability to capture things that shouldn't be there. Myself, I'm a really fast photographer. Like I couldn't work how Wara does in taking ages to set up for one photo, I'm more instantaneous. If I see something in the moment I'll capture it with my camera - which I think is what Smartphones have catered for. People always say that I'm a "moments" photographer. This body of work is quite different to my usual subject. I often take intimate portraits spontaneously. The camera itself doesn't really allow for that, some spontaneous photos will be of low quality.
This body of work has been made over several years so it doesn't really fit in as if you were doing a project. It's not a project but rather work that no one's really seen. The work itself is driven by the nature of the camera to be honest. I like to take photos how I like to take them but when you're working with such limited settings there's only so much you can do and I've tried to pull out of it as much as I can with those restrictions.
Do you see your compositions in this series as wholes or fragments?
O: I see the work as fragments of memories put together as collections of things that work together.
WB: I definitely see the series, Old World Tropics as a whole. The images are interrelated and are association with each other. They reveal a part of my life-story and the quieter side of my birth country of Thailand. This body of work depicts the mundane, the oddities and the traces of the old customs that exist on a remote island in the south.
Do you think we have lost or gained something when images are organised and presented in an accelerated framework?
O: Tech is not something I worry about too much as there is always some new and cool way to use new things creatively. I do wonder though that really simple skills are lost as everyone thinks they are an expert automatically if they get praise for mediocre things. In those cases I find there is usually some other motivation other then the work being anything special. But in the end who cares its just a movement and the way things are at present.
WB: Technology advancements are moving at a rapid rate but we as humans are keeping up with it all. I feel that every image has a place and a purpose of their own, and we definitely shouldn't see and read images in isolation.
Is an entry level device/app like Instagram good for image-making or is it too superficial?
O: I feel the way people have documented images over the years hasn't really changed, there's always going to be good and bad artists. I watch a documentary recently about film photographers who had to face the new generation of digital photographers - but there's actually a third tier now, like Instagram influencers. Not all of them are great at their craft, but it doesn't really matter. I think a lot of people see it as a competition, but it shouldn't be like that - its just a movement. Just do your own thing!
If social media can connect artists to an extent, and show the possibility of different expressions, alongside memes, gifs and quick news, what is the next step for makers and viewers?
O: I saw that you can get GIFs printed at large scale now. They kind of work like those old rulers with the animals on them that you had at primary school that would move and change as you tilted the ruler. I would like to see more moving image that isn't necessarily video.
In our community there are a lot of people who have a day job, creative or not, who then do the work they're passionate about at night. How do artists work to address this?
O: You're bound creatively by how much time you have. If you have to a work a 9-to-5 you don't have as much time to put into your artwork. I mean you have money to buy materials for the art you want to make, but you don't have that time. And so the times when you're really povo are the times when you make the best art because you have the most time. I have a bunch of artist friends who only have short stints of work, perhaps work for a year and then take the next three years off to work on their art. Creativity is not exclusive, like Steffy Key for example, John Key's daughter, she's out there creating her own art. I think she'll have a whole different audience compared to us who are not in those circles but she's still doing it. She might not be as under-resourced as the rest of us but creativity is like magic - you have an idea and you keep rolling and rolling with it and you find little things along the way, there's an element of discovery. You can develop as a creative and learn entire new ways of doing things. It's also the people you meet along the way, every idea is influenced by something in your environment.
What do you hope people take away from your exhibition and what does your work aim to say?
O: I've always liked for people to just enjoy the work and for it be a fun thing. I'd like for people to be able to find a personal connection with the photos and spark some of their own memories.
WB: For me, I want viewers to question what they see in my work. Some thought that I had styled the scene but in fact the subjects were not disrupted at all. This work is about documenting the journey and the ordinary subjects I come in contact with, to gain a better understanding of this specific place.
What's on the horizon for you both?
O: I want to do a study of work in NZ as I've been reading a whole lot of studies recently about the fact that most people don't think what they do as a job is necessary. I want to photograph and interview people based on those things I learned in the studies. Also big scale GIFs and more instant work.
WB: I'm excited to see what Oren gets up to next, he is always busy with music and photography. For me, I'll be working on another long term project, which I first started a few years ago. The series is quite universal and not as personal as Old World Tropics.