There’s something of the other in Emil Kozak‘s art photography. The Barcelonan artist draws you into his work with what he doesn’t photograph, with his beautiful still photography haunted by the movement you feel should be, or could be happening, just beyond the lens. The depth of field in Kozak’s work is disconcerting and eerie, subtly surreal, and looking at his work will give you an odd sense of foreboding and of the sinister; everything is right in Kozak’s photographed world, but not entirely right at all…
Portable: When and why did you start taking pictures? What was it about the medium that made you keep shooting?
Emil Kozak: I had an injury, and was unable to draw, or use my computer for a period of 3 months. I bought a second-hand Rolleiflex, and used my energy on making pictures. I had no vision of what i wanted to do, but instantly fell in love with the heightened attention it creates having a camera in the backpack. Slowly, through experimentation, I discovered a whole new world. A world connected to reality, but at the same time I was amazed how I could shape that reality and even convey stories and messages through it. I was also very compelled to the connection to the present it puts you in. Sometimes i think of it as surfing. It puts you in a zone, where you feel very much alive, observing the light change as the planet spin etc.
P: Tell me about Little White Plastic Birds. Why did you choose to personify an every day item like the plastic bag?
Emil Kozak: Apart from being a thought I had as a child, it is an exercise in nostalgia and sentimentality. It reminds me of the disturbing feeling I had as a kid, when my mom would throw out my old worn out shoes. I am aware that these feelings are totally irrational, but I think that most people feel similar emotions in relation to material objects. To some extent I often think, that everything in our surroundings can be subject to our sentimental abilities. The plastic bag is one of the lowest valued material objects, and I took it as a challenge to breathe life into it, as it embodies the idea of “One man’s trash is another man’s gold.”
P: Where do you take most of your pictures? How does seeing the world through your camera help you to interact with or understand it?
Emil Kozak: Most of my photographs are made in open nature. I grew up surrounded by fields and forests in Denmark, and now I live in a hectic big city (Barcelona). So I guess I have some kind of longing to wide open spaces. I love feeling small and insignificant, and when that feeling sneaks up on me I photograph it. Often i also provoke situations like that. In my project ‘Big Black Nothing’ I consciously go from the city, and out into the wilderness at night, basically walking until I get scared, take the picture and go back. It is an effort to explore the human boundaries… physically and psychologically speaking…
P: Tell me about the series Habana Libre. Where and when were the pictures taken? What were you trying to find out about the people and places you shot?
Emil Kozak: Habana, Cuba January 2010. I was interested in the contradiction the concept of freedom exhibit.