New York based photographer Ben Zank tells us what’s behind his surreal portraits, which seem to explore human isolation and connection with nature, but everybody can read them in a different way depending on personal emotions. Lines, geometry, colours, human body, suspense. An interesting mix is coming out from his work and so we try to find out more about it.
How did your connection with photography begin?
I’ve had brushes with cameras in the past, but I really got into photography after I started using a Pentax ME Super that my grandmother gave me. I’ve since moved onto digital.
I can almost hear a melodic music playing in the background when I look at your pictures. What kind of message are you trying to convey?
My mind is too sporadic to focus on a single message. If I thought about that kind of stuff, I’d never shoot anything. I’d freak out. It’s more about finding what is visually appealing to myself and how far out of my comfort zone I am willing to go at the time. If you look back, you can definitely put two and two together, and that’s what makes everything more organic; that I didn’t purposely try to convey anything.
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How does your process of inspiration and your workflow go? Do you follow your instinct at the moment or do you meticulously prepare everything before shooting?
I just spent eight months playing video games and hardly making anything. I feel like I’ve got some built up creativity from that. Occasionally I have an idea that I put planning into. Those images are easy to spot (Road lines, Going Nowhere, etc.) but due to my spontaneity, most of my work is thought up while I’m shooting. I rely heavily on the location to carry the image through.
How do you choose the characters of your pictures and the titles of your projects? 
I feel like I’ve lost control of a lot of aspects in my work. I don’t always know what to title my photos and I don’t always know much about the characters or what they are doing at the time I created the image. I do, however, have a larger understanding of what works for me and what doesn’t. 
The human relationship with nature seems very meaningful to you, is it? 
I grew up in the city, but spent the summers in the countryside. From that, I’ve developed a sort of mixed relationship with both environments. I can’t be in either places for too long or I feel trapped.
“The images represent an ongoing experience of emotions that I feel, the most recent being isolation and a longing to connect with another human being.”
How much photoshop is there in your work? 
It depends on the image. I put most of my photos through extensive retouching to give them a cleaner look and feel.
How do you manage the details in your photos? 
I don’t. Usually, the photographs I take are to accomodate the colors of the clothing I or my models are wearing. 
How did you begin to shoot self portraits? What was the need you felt behind this decision?
I started doing it out of vanity in a way. Some of my first self-portraits are quite embarrassing and probably showcase my underlying narcissism. On the flip side, I did and still do self-portraits because it allows me to think really critically about an image without expensing someone else’s time.
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