London-based, Portuguese-born photographer Bruno Zhu keeps his eyes open for seemingly ordinary objects of everyday life, which through his unique vision and work of composition, he puts into mind-challenging perspectives. Here the young talent explains how, in the deeper meaning, you can see results of human action in most of his photographs - and how everything meets in a three-dimensional world telling a story through the images. His photography reminds us how much of the outdoor and indoor beauty we may miss, if we keep walking with our heads bent down.
Dazed Digital: How did you start taking photos?
Bruno Zhu: I believe I started like everyone else: high contrast cell phone camera pictures with friends by the age of 13; moving to DSLR, discovering David LaChapelle and Photoshop filters by the age of 15; introduced to work of Lina Scheynius and of many photographers on Flickr by the age of 16; being told about William Eggleston so having that mandatory Americana 'landscapy', oh so ironic moment, by the age of 17 and so on...
DD: How do you choose the objects you shoot and what is your process like?
Bruno Zhu: This is a very interesting question I ask myself quite often - making me anxious about what I do now and then. The choice of subjects is constantly challenged by new references I come across every day. Whether it is human or inanimate, the subject has to seduce me somehow; it has to be something that will stop me and make me wonder why that happened, how it was constructed. Then I usually walk back and forth and see if a slightly different angle stirs what I saw in the first place, if so, how could that add to my first impression. I look at how many possibilities that situation could present to the camera and which one is more relevant to the 'big picture' I am trying to gather. There are several thoughts occuring simultaneously, but in the end photography has lately become a registry of ways to build harmony, to define something I percieve as true and honest in our present day scenery.
DD: I know you have never been inclined to take photos of people. Why do you think it is so and why are you drawn to photographing objects?
Bruno Zhu: I think this is influenced by my personal relationships; I don't feel I have enough skills to righteously portray the complex puzzles people present themselves to be. But at the same time, my work could have never been possible without people; so dealing with objects is actually partially dealing with people. Observing a metallic curve over rubber or stare at a bent plant leaning over the window entices me because they are all spontaneous and ordinary results from our actions. It is a sort of three-dimensional mark we're making that is just beautiful, languid and innocent. In the end, objects tell their own story of the place where it was found, just like a person.
DD: Is there any photographer/artist who influenced you in your recent style of photography?
Bruno Zhu: It has been two years since I found Lars Tunbjork Office series, but it still has a huge impact on my thought process. The balance between the stark images and his unique sense of humour were truly refreshing, and made me realise I shouldn't be afraid to infuse my character into my work, so to become more personal, but never emotional. Thomas Ruff's body of work inspires me through its variety and the possibility of sustaining a very consistent signature throughout a melange of different medias. There are many more artists. It is a mistake to list these things because they are so disperse in our minds: Roe Ethridge's 'Rockaway, NY Redux', which I had a chance to flick through the other day, stands at the same level as the moment Michael Scott proposes to Holly Flacks at the end of his run in the seventh season of the American 'The Office', and so many other things relate in the same way...
DD: You have hand-made some prototype photo books on industrial zones from your travels. Why was it important for you to make them?
Bruno Zhu: The prototype books are being released under the collective name Turbo, except 'The Burg', which belongs to a different body of work. The Turbo books are a way of organising my main body of work to clarify my interests and to develop my editing skills. I am treating it as a test ground, so ideas for finished products can have a draft version that could then maybe be developed into fuller projects, and also creating more contexts for photographs in my archive that were overlooked. This project grew out of necessity to further understand what a 'photobook' means to me. I feel I needed to experience them by trying to make them, whether that meant exploring bookbinding techniques, graphic design, paper types and weights or constant image sequencing. Every book is a constant trial/error situation, but they are giving me more insight about my own work and that is the core of the entire thing.
DD: Nature vs. Industry? You seem to capture both exquisitely. On one hand, these two topics are very much in contrast, on the other hand, you seem to find the similarities.
Bruno Zhu: I think by now I can say there is no difference between those two categories. These things go beyond the categorical- the woman naturally answers her phone in a quiet corner, the sun naturally shines over the staircase, and the stop sign is bent because someone ran over it - so capturing those moments are not about nature versus man and vice versa; they are about different degrees of contrast, the most exciting being the one when symbiosis seems to have been achieved.
DD: Any future plans? What have you been working on recently?
Bruno Zhu: Future plas include developing more projects. I am currently preparing new work for a short show in Amsterdam, on the first weekend of December.