"I believe an artist should give the public what it lacks, and so the job of a contemporary artist is to allow people to dream through a positive and meaningful message". This is how Irene Kung describes her work as a photographer.
When we meet, she explains the message she wants to convey at Expo Milano 2015, using shapes, colors, and the poetry of fruit trees.
You are in charge of the photographic exhibition within the Fruits and Legumes Cluster. How did you select the images, and what message would you like to deliver?
I am very happy to have been chosen for this project. I wanted to provide a positive image in this time of economic crisis and difficulty, and the idea of fruit trees came quite naturally since they are symbols of productivity, health, and fertility.
Thinking about this project that had to feature 26 trees I saw two major challenges: I had little time, because these trees only have a brief moment when they are at their best, plus I had to find trees that were not part of an orchard, where they are planted in serried rows, which was not the image I was looking for.
The sweetness of fruit, its scent, the geometric shape of the tree itself: how do you convey these sensations?
When photographing a tree, you are often disappointed because the shot does not render what you experienced when you stood before it. With the way I work, though, I am able to capture exactly what I feel. Indeed, my approach is precisely this. I get rid of everything that is not essential, so that I see the tree as it really is, as I feel it.
What did you want to concentrate on, the details or the overall view?
Both, because with fruit, detail is very important, but then again, for me, the overall view is perhaps even more important in expressing a positive image.
In which countries were the photos taken?
Italy and Switzerland. I am Swiss, although Italy is my adoptive country, so I visited places I knew.
Roberto Koch, the founder and director of Contrasto, told us that you described fruit trees “through wonderfully-stylized and dreamlike vistas, that are really fascinating and evocative”. How important is dreaming to your compositions?
Very important. Because dreaming is what allows us to achieve our greatest goals and helps us during difficult times. I think dreams allow us to access our intuition, which is a very strong emotion, one that eliminates rationality. For me, by dreaming, you are able to reach the true essence of an object.
The energy of the wind blowing through the branches of a peach tree, the geometrically-perfect spikes of a chestnut burr against a black background, a lemon tree that seems to emerge from the mist, red currants that stand out on a plant immersed in darkness. The force of the elements, the beauty of the subject: is photography the ideal way to inspire a love of nature?
Not only photography, but also painting, sculpture, music, and writing. In my case, photography is the ideal way, but I wouldn’t say that it’s the only way to inspire a love of nature.
How much has your training as a painter and as a designer influenced your photographic style?
Very much, because everything we do in life gets accumulated and then manifests itself through our experiences.
How do you know when a photograph is right?
When it feels right. It’s a very specific feeling, and I think this happens with all photographers. But, then again, perhaps this happens with all crafts. We may do a number of different things, then one of them gives us a good feeling, or a sensation that resonates on a deep level, and then we know that we’re doing the right thing. This is intuition, and it’s not rational. Rational thinking can lead us astray, our feelings do not. Feelings are either right, or they’re not there. For me, the right photograph is the one that touches the senses.