KATE MOLENKAMP. OUT OF THE COMFORT ZONE
by Talia Smith


© Kate Molenkamp, from the series ‘Noorden’, Nuuk, Greenland, January 2013

Your work is made mainly from your travels to foreign countries – what is it about these areas that you enjoy compared to perhaps shooting in more familiar territory such as Australia?

Kate Molenkamp (KM) - I produce my best work when I am placed outside of my comfort zone. Anxiety doesn’t get the better of me in the same way it does when I’m shooting locally and allows me to really focus on what I’m doing.

I’ve been avidly interested in Asian society and culture over the past few years and photography has been a way of familiarizing myself with the region.

I have indeed shot projects on home soil and there are other subjects and concepts that do interest me; I am particularly keen on exploring North-Western Australia. I just feel that it’s something I will come back to at a later time.

‘Outlander’ the publication sold out its first run and now there is a limited second edition (congrats!), what is it about print that you love? Do you prefer it to the framed image or do they both have their qualities that you enjoy?

KM - Thank you! I think that the digital platform, print media and the mounted print each serve a separate purpose. I love both – When they’re carefully considered they work beautifully together. I believe each platform emits different viewing pleasures for the audience.

Publication ‘Outlander’, info form HERE

Printed media has more permanency than digital media – You’re observing a large, beautifully mounted print or you’re holding a book in your hand – It’s powerful.

Your previous projects from Europe depict a quieter landscape whereas your Korean photographs show the vibrancy of the country with its colours and people. Is this something you are conscious of, photographing the country you visit in a way that is true to itself?

KM - I just simply capture landscapes for what they are. I guess it’s something I’m conscious of to a degree – But at the same time I can’t claim to understand Korea or Greenland because I shot there for a finite amount of time – It’s a matter of honesty and respect of the landscape and very importantly, the culture; which I like to think is evident in the work. This is why I believe long term projects to me important, because they’re an important time for personal growth.

© Kate Molenkamp, Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, September 2014

What was behind the decision to show the ‘Outlander’ series as a solo exhibition after the publication being released?

KM - I had a few reasons for selecting the ‘Outlander’ series. It was quite well received, having sold out quite quickly and I felt confident as a result. It was one less challenge. My main reasoning relates to our earlier discussion about print media: I wanted to create a viewing experience separate from the book (and web series). The ‘Outlander’ book is somewhat conservative in terms of the design and presentation, to help the flow. In the exhibition I would curate just 11.

I wanted to exhibit a finite number of strong photographs large, gaining the most out of the medium format film. When printing my work to a small scale (previously only printing as large as A3+) I felt that many details important to each composition were missed and did the photograph very little justice.

© Kate Molenkamp from the series ‘Outlander’

One example of this was ‘Women in Hanboks’ (with the framed print sitting at 1.2m wide). Consisting of a bird’s eye view of a crowd of people during a Busan spring festival; many members of the crowd are female’s dressed in the Korean Hanbok. Every woman in the photograph is important; I wanted to give the audience the opportunity to carefully observe everything happening in the scene.

© Kate Molenkamp from the series ‘Outlander’

Do you have any projects in the works for the future? 

KM - I had been visiting the Nordic region for a few years, shooting settlements in Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands. I’ve considered the idea of collaborating and producing a book with other photographers who have also documented the region, but I’m unsure of the direction I’m taking it in, so for now I’m sitting on it. It’s also a very expensive part of the world to get to, (Greenland particularly), so it’s kind of hard to continue the work right now.

© Kate Molenkamp, from the series ‘Noorden’, Akureyri, Iceland, September 2014

I’ll be in Asia at the end of the year, a visit to South Korea included. I started shooting work last year on Jeju Island, among other Korean islands. These areas are comparatively rural to urban life in cities like Seoul, Busan or Daegu (to name a few). I want to take these work(s) into other directions, where I not only document stories of the social landscape, like in Outlander. I want to document the lives and stories of the people. I was particularly interested in Jeju’s Haenyeo (Female Divers) last time I was there. It’s one of many humble, traditional ways of life that are slowly disappearing through generational and cultural change. To me these cultures are an insight into Korea’s not-so-distant past.

I am hoping to go back to school in a few years to study social and cultural anthropology, focusing on the Asia region – For the moment I think these projects are really good baby steps for me.

© Kate Molenkamp from the series ‘Outlander’

Any favourite publications (local or international) that you can recommend?

KM - For one, I’m pretty upset I missed out on a copy of ‘Wasteland’ (Voorde/Hladky/Broadhurst) recently. Generally as a rule of thumb; anything by Trent Parke is great.

Over the past few years I’ve been viewed many publications originating in the Asia region (especially China). Xhang Xiao is an all-time favourite. The ‘Outlander’ book design was somewhat inspired by Coastline’s simplicity. ‘The Yellow River’ (Kechun); ‘How Loneliness Goes’ (Nguan). There are lots.

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LINKS
Kate Molenkamp 
Australia