Imagine a naked Caucasian man dressed in kabuki make-up, leaning next to a Japanese hieroglyph. The picture is fascinating, but how do we translate the subject and the mixed cultural symbols as a viewer? To understand the conceptual gears of photographer Alex Koddrip and his photo series “K.Reatures: Battle with Dichotomy,” I asked him to “re-title my life.” “RE-TITLE YOUR LIFE” is an ongoing project in which Koddrip produces a photograph to reveal the participant’s psychology and identity, expressed in a single quote or a word. In order for him to take a mental photograph of my passions, he also asked me for a phrase, word, or thought. So I looked around the table, and told him, “My word is ‘bottle,’ and my passions at the moment are Art, writing, and cats.” On the spot, Koddrip blended all my passions together, and described my photograph—“I would take photograph of a sleeping a cat resembling the shape of a bottle.”
What is the concept behind your most recent photo series, “K.Reatures”?
This project represents dichotomy, which means duality within human beings. This set of pictures is divided in two different sets: the burlesque style and a very clean, white Japanese style set. It’s all about the intensity between our dark side and bright side. This internal battle goes on throughout our lifetime for the purpose of knowing ourselves.
How did you find the link from psychology and business to fine art photography, and where do you find yourself in these converging worlds?
I had the opportunity to study psychology and business in California. For the first time in my life, I was exposed to art-world photography, and I became very interested in it. So I did a lot of research and I started attending some Art and photography classes.
I take photographs of people, because I am interested in human existence. Over time, it evolved into this process of working with people and understanding them—taking their photographs and representing their emotions.
Does your psychology background, in anyway, help you pull out the emotions of your subject matter?
Absolutely. It helps me relate to people to make them relaxed, allowing them to express who they really are. I use pseudo-psychology methods, such as having proper eye contact and mirroring body postures. For instance, if I were to do a portrait of a naked model, I would probably also be naked. I typically adjust my body posture and my voice tone to people that I am working with, and I ask a lot of questions.
Can you talk about the props used in the shoot?
Models make use of some props that play very important symbolic roles in the set. There’s one female model who carries a doll in most of the scenes. In particular scenes, it symbolizes the element of nurturing something. At the same time, it represents her childhood complexes. You see her interacting with people, but she remains attached to the doll. From observing the character’s evolution through several stages of the story, you can understand how the subject gets rid of her childhood complexes, and evolves beyond them.
What is the purpose of the Japanese symbols in the photographs?
I blended western and eastern cultures in the set. Some of the elements include a Japanese character with kabuki make-up, and also the Japanese hieroglyph, which means forgiveness. Emphasizing the element of forgiveness is critical in accepting both sides of human being, to be free of one’s complexes.
Do you find your symbols personal, or universal?
My concept behind the symbols is that they would be generally universal. But at the same time, I know that people relate to the symbols differently in different cultures, and that’s also the purpose of it.
When I showed some of my photographs to a Japanese person, she was stunned and fascinated at the same time. Actually, she was very confused. On one hand, she understood the symbolic representation of kabuki theatre make-up. But the man who wore the make-up is photographed naked, which is something that would never happen in Japan. A Japanese person looking at the Japanese symbols can relate to them, but at the same time, they generate very different thoughts because of the context it’s placed in.
What’s next for you?
After “K.Reatures,” I am thinking of doing something very different both visually and conceptually, focusing on emptiness and the beauty of the void.
“The screening and the launch party for “K.Reatures” will take place on October 2nd in NYC at Go Studios from 6pm till 11pm. There will be an exhibition to follow the next day at White Space Chelsea from Oct. 3rd through the 15th . There will also be a closing party Oct 10, 6-11pm @ White Space Chelsea. “K. Reatures” will then be traveling to LA, Paris, Japan, and Zurich.”