To Helsinki based Chih-Han Hsu, his interest in art is not much different to his interest in a person. Keeping his work minimal and clear he believes in intimacy from a precise emotional distance. A great conceptual and art photographer, he manages to capture the in-betweens, the transitionary, and the moment before uncovering.
From Taiwan to Finland, how do you think this has influenced the way you view things and art?
I can’t say whether Taiwan has shaped me in a definable way, I only lived there until 10 before my family moved to Australia. Aside from playing within the stationary factory of my parents, where I drew with an endless stack of papers and hang with the factory workers, I wouldn’t say I’d had much thought on art at that age. As my father traveled often to Japan collecting stationary samples, I was exposed to a great deal of Japanese graphic design and loved their sensibility in advertisements and pop culture. It must be their wild humour, obsessive nature and conceptual elasticity that attracted me.
I spent a 20 year period in Australia, more or less, with some travels back to Taiwan. A time mostly spent confused about my cultural positioning, conversing with education, questioning authority and dealing with life’s misfortunes. My mother’s passing, soon after our move to Australia, shaped much of my attitude to life, a story too long to answer here.
Fast forwarding to Finland, moving here was a conscious choice to move without plans. Without explaining why I ‘d move, I simply sought jobs overseas, and a position with a game studio in Helsinki happened to be the first suitable and successful job application. I took the job and moved. Much of my younger self tried to shape things, at some point I’ve started to accept; instead of fighting currents, it may be easier to attempt sailing. I’m not sure if this would influence how I see things, possibly.
Do you remember why and how you first got into photography?
Like most teens with an interest in art/photography I bought my first camera in high-school and dabbled with the dark room and b/w prints. Due to financial difficulties I put myself to extended studies in multi-media and 3D in university in order to find a balance of creativity and a secure salary. 7 years passed with work in games, at the age of 25 I began shooting by accident with occasional party photo gigs. Soon I took pictures as an outlet within the fragments of time outside my day job. With minimal time at hand, it was suitably a medium with instant gratification.
What do you prefer shooting? Portraits, places, documentary or what?
People interest me, especially if they remain mysterious somehow, I like the intimacy from a precise emotional distance. I don’t restrict myself to particular subjects though; to be honest I’m quite passive when I take photos, when it happens it happens; I just make some effort to isolate the subject. To be completely vague on the description, my interest lie in the in-betweens, transitionary, and the moment before uncovering.
What influences do you have and where do you get inspiration from?
It sounds only pompous to just list my interest, I like art in a way of liking a person. There are people you like then lose interest soon after, then there are people who you trust for company and people who haunt you etc. I don’t see the difference between good art and interesting people. I’m particularly interested in funny people, even more so, people that don’t know they’re funny.
What do you think is the function of photography today?
Well everyone has a camera now, everyone could take photos and videos whenever they wish. It’s been a cyclical wave of construction and discovery for how images are made, I don’t feel people care so much about the authenticity of an image anymore. It’s just an image. Within a flood of media, learning to effectively sort through the stuff that matters to you and knowing who it matters to could be crucial. For any accessible medium, it’s likely similar to effective communication; everyone’s taught to write, but not everyone can write ‘well’, like-wise with any common skill. I’m terrified and delighted if I come across sounding like Jaden Smith by now.
With no distinction to subject, I’m leaning more toward an openness on mediums rather than questioning photography. I’ve been making 3D/digital work for so long, and with photography as really just a way of making images. Recently I don’t find it necessary to separate other ways of image making as much as I did before.
What are you working on at the moment? Are you shooting on something?
Just organizing old pictures, investigating old mistakes and seeing which mistakes are worth keeping. Also, removing the old concepts of photography, or mediums all together. I’d love to integrate writing and 3D works into some new experiments; let’s see where it takes me.
Interview by Amanda M. Jansson