The award-winning photographer & Central Saint Martins alumni discusses how she captures the poetry of everyday existence and her experience working with Art-Aid Japan
After winning the Deutsche Bank Pyramid Award when she graduated from Central Saint Martins, Nica Junker has firmly established herself as an interesting observer in the world of photography. She produces authentic and believable images, with her work often being described as containing an element of the fleeting. Junker has become skilled in capturing the poetry of everyday existence that we so often dismiss in our daily routine. Her experiences whilst living in Japan and the situations faced by a foreigner who is both a part of and apart from Japanese culture have informed her work in an interestingly creative way. As Junker states: "What interests me above all is to create an atmosphere of ambiguity in my photos and to explore what life really means to me", so Dazed spoke with Junker to find out more about her exploration.
Dazed Digital: Please introduce yourself - How old are you and where are you from/based?
Nica Junker: I am Nica. I was born 1975 in La Sarre/Saarland which is a very small state in Germany, next to the French border. As this state was always shifting between the two countries we grew up as bi-cultural French-German. I am based in London now.
DD: There's element of the ghostly or fleeting about your photos - do you feel this will be a recurring theme to all your work?
Nica Junker: Yes, definitely this is a recurring theme in my work. I guess having lived in Japan this was a theme I was trying to show into my work. The whole culture and every day life was so different and people like to live 'in between the lines'. In the Japanese language as well, you never give a clear comment of yes or no. For art I think this idea can create a poetry. I liked this idea very much and tried to work with it.
DD: What is your background in photography?
Nica Junker: After my graduation from Film school in Potsdam-Babelsberg, I worked as an intern in Tokyo for Rinko Kawauchi/Foil office in 2007. Then I studied Photography at Central Saint Martin's College in London. When I graduated I won the Deutsche Bank Pyramid Award Photography for a project in China and Japan. In Tokyo I worked one year 2009-2010 for Magnum Images as a part time staff. Since October 2010 I began to work mainly as a freelancer for Photography and Film.
DD: What equipment do you use?
Nica Junker: I always try to decide my equipment during the project and its concept or what my client or the exhibition curator asks for. In general for fashion shoots and commercial work I use a Canon Eos D30. I like to work with different lighting equipment according to the project and what I can rent or get at the studio. In general I like to work very minimalist, not using too much technical equipment. That's something I was taught at the film school. For artwork I like to use a Chinese Seagull I bought in Shanghai, my first camera an old Dignette my father bought in the 50s, Minolta, Hasselblad.
DD: Do you feel you've captured Japanese culture accurately or only in a personal point of view?
Nica Junker: That's a good question. Japanese culture as well has its many layers and from milieu to milieu it can be quite different. The business world of Ginza is so different from the Shibuya girl world. The foreigners in Tokyo are in a bubble world compared to the real world for the Japanese I would say. I lived in Sangenjaya which is a gorgeous, young trendy place, where all my Japanese friends lived as well. I think because I was very attached to my neighbourhood and my friends I could portray this quite accurately but of course you always involve your personal point of view. I think when you take a photo you need always to build up a relation to what you take a photo of...
DD: If so, why and where did it come from?
Nica Junker: Through a scholarship I learnt Japanese, which helps quite a lot to be there and to cross the border between the tourist world and everyday Japanese life. It's separated mostly because of the language. I think as well by learning the language you learn a lot of the culture. Then I was living with Japanese friends and worked for Japanese companies. My students at the university where I thought was Japanese. I tried to listen a lot what people told me about their life. But there is a lot still that is new for me and what I can discover in the culture. I am quite curious and always ask a lots of why to my friends...
DD: Who are your favourite photographers/filmmakers?
Nica Junker: Photographers: Rika Noguchi, Rinko Kawauchi, Lise Sarfati, Nan Goldin, Martine Frank, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Diane Arbus, Wolfgang Tillmans, Loretta Lux, Eliott Erwitt, Jonas Bendiksen, Anton Corbijin, Annie Leibovitz, Mario Testino. Filmmakers: Wim Wenders, Werner Herzog, Rolan Klick, Andreas Dresen, Fatih Akin, Harmony Korine, Francois Truffaut, Jean Luc Godard, Abel Ferrera, Eric Zonca, Claude Chabrol, Hirokazu Koreeda, Naomi Kawase, Cassavetes.
DD: What was your experience with the ART-AID Japan project during Art Basel like?
Nica Junker: It was an amazing experience to work for the ART-AID Japan exhibition opening. My collegue at Temple University Shinya Watanabe asked me if I could participate to help for the donation project. The idea was to organise an exhibition next to the ART Basel and visitors can donate for a project to help the orphans of the Tohuku earthquake and tsunami. I helped the ART-AID group by translating into German for a Beuys film that was shown, shoot photos for their website and video material for their archive. The event was very touching, especially where the artists talked about their experience with the earthquake.