Two Unbridgeable Worlds Together

Photographs by Paul Hoi
Interview via emails, February 2018

Tell us about your new body of photographic work?

Hello, GS.  I recently spent a couple of weeks car-camping through South Island of New Zealand to create a new series of photographs.  I wanted a diverse location that would provide both the challenge of frequently photographed places as well as the option of remote spaces, the latter of which I’m especially drawn to.

For this series, I used a mirrorless camera converted for full-spectrum infrared. Using filters that limit particular light spectrums, the camera revealed spectrums of light invisible to the human eye. I wanted to use this technique to push an otherwise familiar landscape into the fringe of the imaginary.

What brought about an exploration of infrared?

Infrared has been used for military and scientific research.  To the former in particular, I was intrigued by the idea of subverting a military technology to create an imaginary world.  To the latter, I enjoy the idea of cross-pollinating between a scientific method with creating new art.

Like many others, I was introduced to infrared photography via Richard Mosse. The stark contrast of war journalism and the vibrant red and pink tones seemed to bring two unbridgeable worlds together - one of a brutal, war-torn reality and the other of an imagined, dream-like world. Taking this contrast of ideas onward, I wanted to create a contrast of an imagined world that borders on sci-fi with the formal tradition of landscape photography.

How did you surprise yourself in developing this series?

It’s not so much a surprise as much as a reminder, but infrared photography reminded me that there’s no wrong time of day to create an image.  Sunsets and sunrises are obviously beautiful, and I love shooting under the full moon, but infrared works best during midday.

What is the importance of color in your work, what draws you to color photography?

I’ve always been drawn to more muted colors, so this was an interesting project in this regard.  I think for this series in particular, the bold pink and reds serve as visual cues of another light spectrum invisible to the human eye, as portals to another world, of sorts.  I’ve always been less interested in documenting things as they are and more so in wanting to reveal something beyond the surface, to open up worlds of their own.

Much of your work is birthed from trips you take alone- what's a lesson you learned on this most recent trip?

The more photos trips I take, the less ‘key locations’ I chase on the map.  For this trip in particular, I gave myself a huge amount of buffer times between locations I found out during planning and this helped me to have one of the most creatively productive trips I’ve ever taken.