Orange Lilies and Lisa, 2008, © Ann Woo
The photography of Ann Woo is like a breath of fresh air. The development of ideas in her work makes me linger longer at the photographs. Beautifully constructed, I'm glad to introduce a conversation with Ann.
Nymphoto: Tell us a little about yourself.
Ann Woo: I was born and raised in Hong Kong, and came to New York in 2007 to study at the International Center of Photography. Prior to studying at ICP, I was already working as a photographer in Hong Kong for a number of years but I never received any formal training.
A Sunset and Tara, 2008, © Ann Woo
NP: How did you discover photography?
AW: I am fond of looking at beautiful things in general and photography makes it possible for me to look at these things over and over again.
Yellow Lilies and A Sunset, 2008, © Ann Woo
NP: Where do you find inspiration?
AW: I photograph things that I can’t stop myself from staring at, almost in an obsessive way. I sometimes have instant inspirations from what I see, but they are not so meaningful to me. I spend most of my time alone and often hide and read ‘self help’ books – which friends would always laugh at (I always have to wrap them up and read them secretly, as if I have to be ashamed). Lately, I have discovered that I am starting to understand the meaning of ‘inspirations doesn’t come outwardly, but from within.’ I think it’s less important where to find inspiration but more so to understand where these inspirations or ‘impulses’ come from, why I get inspired by one thing instead of another. Ideas and creation can be limitless. All the time I have spent self–doubting or questioning has actually helped in understanding myself, my concerns, and eventually my work.
A Sunset and Tara, 2008, © Ann Woo
NP: How do your projects come about?
AW: I am obsessed with ‘truths’ and have always tried my best to defend 'truths' in my photographs. However, I have discovered that these ‘truths’ are unavoidably lost in the process of photographic representation. For example, in the Sunset series, the spectrum of color photographs were originally printed from one single negative. That picture is a pure tonal gradient photographed from a clear, cloudless day of the sun setting on the sky. Because there is no real object in the picture—neither person nor tree—to provide an anchoring point for true grey, there is no substantial evidence to prove what was ‘true’ grey. I ended up printing this series in a whole spectrum of colors in a desperate attempt to circumscribe ‘truth’ within a mass of imagery. Most people, in a straight forward sense, would refer to these photographs as 'abstract', but I think the idea of 'abstraction originally came from a person’s logical thought process- a method of categorization which humans feel most comfortable with. Abstraction is a strategy and an intention beyond my ability. I have never believed that there is anything one can ever say about a photograph, the world is fluid and ever changing, as are ideas and meanings. Photographs are dead objects. They have no meanings unless a person gives them one. Therefore I think my work does not come from an idea but from (vaguely) an obsession in seeing and a stubbornness in guarding truths and reality, and at the same time from frustrations arising from the representation process within the photographic medium itself.
A Sunset and Carl, 2008, © Ann Woo
NP: What’s next?
AW: Besides re-printing a lot of my old photographs, I am anticipating two shows in the upcoming months. I have a very bad habit of working too slowly. A few weeks ago I saw my friend’s German Shepherd, I looked and looked at the beautiful dog and finally asked my friend if I could photograph it. In the following two weeks I have only been busy fixated on perfecting some paper works, although perfection is indeed not necessary. The day I finished these paper works, my friend told me the dog is already sleeping peacefully in his backyard with its favorite tennis ball besides it. Sometimes instinct comes and goes for no reason, reasons come only afterwards. I’m slow, far too slow.
To see more of Ann Woo's work, please head to www.annwoo.com.