Interview: Kevin Hoth

madelife sat with Photographer and guest curator Kevin Hoth to talk about photography, instagram and the show he’s putting together with us for the Month of Photography titled “End of Light” which opens on March 6th.

Interview by Timmy D’Antonio + Leah Brenner
Photography by Timmy D’Antonio

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Leah: Let’s talk about your process and the way you approach your photography?

Kevin: So I’m kind of re-evaluating what I’ve done so far, I’m pretty good at what I do in my own way, but I’m getting tired of it. I want to do something different. I keep thinking of Alec Soth- you know Alec Soth?

Timmy: Soth? S O T H- like your your last name but with an S? Your nemesis?

K: Yeah… (laughter) I’ve actually met him a couple times and he’s a pretty well known photographer- he’s a magnum photographer but he also is a well respected fine art photographer, he’s from Minnesota. One of the times I saw him speak he said “do we really need more pictures?” He was kind of evaluating his own photos, but he was like “Do we really need more pictures?” So I always think of that. It’s kind of debilitating because you want to just keep enjoying taking pictures in itself. But then you try to fit in- It’s kind of intimidating to think, “oh where do I fit in in art history?” you know what i mean? And then is that pretentious or is that even… yeah i don’t know. I take pictures with my phone every day just for fun and the last show I had here (at madelife) was just my phone pictures, I still take those seriously…

T: I think they’re great, I love them.

0122-kevinhoth-0003K: Yeah, but I did a wet plate photography workshop and it really kind of reinvigorated my love of just the photographic process. So I have a series that I want to do with that but with a contemporary theme. I’ve seen a lot of people take up that process and use it the same way it’s always has been used, portraits in a studio, cloth back drop or whatever, I mean they just look the same…

T: Victorian clothing..
(laughter)

K: Yeah victorian clothing or the new thing is all denim or whatever..

L: I am rocking the double denim today!

K: I almost wore a denim shirt, but I have my jeans on so … nothing wrong with denim.
(laughter)

K: I just did this trip to Costa Rica and I shot some slides because I haven’t in awhile… it’s one of these things where I wanted to just focus on something that I used to do. Multi-exposure, not that it hasn’t been done before, but it’s imbuing the process with a little more chance in a way.

I just saw a video on Mary Ellen Mark and she was talking about how she tells her students that they really shouldn’t look at the back of the camera to see what they’ve just shot. She said that you really can’t see what you’ve got until you’re looking at it true to scale. It doesn’t matter if its digital or not, but looking at it large enough so you can really take it all in… you can’t look at the back of your lcd screen- it’s only gonna give you so much. So I like the idea of, even if its digital- putting off looking at them for awhile.

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T: Do you feel like part of that feeling came from how fast everything changed with photography, now all of a sudden there’s something called instagram where you’re bombarded with images. Sometimes when I shoot a wedding, I pay attention to every photo but I almost forget what I shot, I’m doing it almost subconsciously. Then I feel overwhelmed by how many photos I see- there’s so many non-stop. But going back to that, its the original reason why you did it.

K: Yeah, like really slowing down. I borrowed a friends medium format camera, a twin lens reflex and I’d never used one before. I don’t really like looking at things backwards and upside down- you’re just like, whoa. It was great because it really slowed me down. Your shooting 110- or on a roll of film so you only have 12 or 10 exposures or whatever, so you really have to make this meaningful, if it’s even worth processing and scanning. So yeah, really just slowing down and putting the camera down is a really nice way to get re-engaged with why you’re even looking in the first place.

It always blows me away sometimes…. it really takes lifting up your camera and taking a picture to get you to the picture that you really want. like Eggleston- he’ll go to some location and he’ll only take one photo, which blows me away. I don’t know, I can’t do that. I usually take however many and then pick the best one. But it’s because he’s looking a lot more than he’s photographing. He’s moving around the space and there is not a right way to do it, but that always fascinates me, just one shot.

T: Yeah that’s amazing

L: So…. What’s the concept behind the photography show that you are curating at madelife?

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K: So the show’s called “End Of Light”. I really like this idea of trying to break photography. So I’m really looking for photos I haven’t seen before. It’s a challenge for myself too. It’s very nebulous- photography is all about light, but you can’t have light without darkness. Obviously for me it applies to life too. You don’t appreciate the good stuff without all the crap, recognizing that you need both. But in a visual sense, I think there is something interesting about playing with the idea photography being this descriptive medium but then forcing it to be vague- I really like that idea. When I’m looking at or considering images, that’s really what I’m looking for. Does this image give me more questions than answers? I don’t really want answers. I want a photo thats mysterious, I want there to be this dark, this edge between where light meets dark, where there’s this confusion and the audience can bring stuff to it.

And part of the reason is also because it’s in the black space. I’m more of a color guy, but I thought conceptually it being all black in there and then smaller black and white works. Its a good space, its not a huge space but i like the idea of smaller work, because that makes people come to it, makes it more intimate. They have to get closer to it and the photo becomes more intimate. You know lately in the last few decades of photography, people have been making really huge prints and, not to go into the history of that, but I like the idea of the counterpoint, like “oh I want to make a small picture”. If you look at Edward Weston’s work, there was this show up in Longmont with a whole bunch of his work…

T: Oh really?

K: Yeah and I was really blown away because they had a lot of his work and they were 6×9 prints, these really famous images that we know so well and it was this big, and you’re like, oh its not that big of a deal.. (laughter) I like counterpoint to all these huge photos that are out there.

L: I think it’s more engaging when you have to get so close to a piece- more intimate, like you were saying.

K: Yeah you bump up against other people, you can overhear what someone else is saying about it, which might help the dialogue. Because otherwise you go into a gallery space and they’re huge and you’re like 20 feet away..

L: There’s almost a barrier sometimes with really large scale work, getting too close to it..

K: Yeah you have to force yourself to get close to it. I find that people don’t get close to the big work. It seems like there is really no reason? But I’m always getting close, I want to see how its printed and all that stuff…

T: Yeah

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L: What else are you excited about these days?

K: In general?

L: Do you have anymore trips coming up? You travel and a lot of your work is based off of that…

K: Yeah I always get excited to visit places I’ve been before. I was just down in Buena Vista where this drive-in is. Last time I was there it was gated off and this time the gate was open. So I went and talked to the guy who owns the land and asked “hey, do you mind if i drive in there and look around?” and he said that’s totally fine. It was really great to get up really close to the huge screen. I have a thing for the backs of signs. I like not showing the message.

I’m going to the desert in March, down near Palm Springs. I always love going down there. I made a music video last year thats been sitting on the back burner for a little while, but it should be coming out soon so I’m pretty excited about that.

T: Did you find a big bearded guy?

K: Yeah I did! I found an awesome bearded guy. He’s like a hair stylist, ironically enough.

T: It’s not Sean Clavin is it?

K: No he cuts hair, Greg, he works up at this salon in North Boulder, I forget who told me about him, maybe you did?

L: I don’t think so.

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K: I was asking everyone I knew in town and he just had the perfect beard.  I’ll be working on a photo book pretty soon. It’s the best photos of many trips from here to Palm Springs. I’m definitely due for a solo show, I don’t know if that will happen this year. I definitely want to find the right space for it, a big space, so I’ve got to start poking around. I’d love to have it in Boulder actually. I showed this work in Denver and I just had to promote it and everything myself. I just would have loved for more people to see it. I’m going to wait as long as it takes for it to be the right moment, but i’m excited for that to happen.

I get excited to make pictures everyday. This morning I walked out to the creek, walked around into the ice and stuff.

L: You have a great instagram feed, I enjoy it.

T: Yeah it’s awesome, it’s always super interesting

K: I have a hard time not posting a lot, I feel bad.

T& L: No you shouldn’t!

T: Hey you’re posting your own pictures, some people post pictures of sayings.
(laughter) “Did you know I was this crazy? (laughter)

K: There’s definitely a lot of funny stuff on there too.

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L: I’m excited about the Month of Photography and doing as much as I can to support that, especially presenting the “End of Light” at madelife.

K: For sure. I think its even more exciting in Boulder this year because there’s even more people wanting to push Boulder in the arts direction. I feel like a sense that that’s happening now.

L: Yeah I do too. Can you tell us who the artists are you’ve chosen for the show?

K: Definitely! I’ve chosen a great group from all over the US including;  Michael Cody, D. Scott Clark, Mason Greenewald, Marielle Jakobsons, Yazmin Masloom, Brigid McCauliffe, Austin Nelson, Mike Nyman, Jason Paul Roberts, Lindy Vauhgn Thailore, Lynn Waldrop and Kyra Weinkle.

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Join us for the opening reception of the “End of Light” on first friday, March 6th from 6-10pm in the black box gallery at madelife.  Also opening that night a new exhibition from Lee Heekin on the white walls at madelife titled “Boxpaint”.

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