Full Circle: An Interview With Jim Kazanjian

Portland based artist Jim Kazanjian knows Adobe Photoshop like the back of his hand. He has to, he uses the program to create his stunning digital collages that reference the stillness of the place he works from and look eerily like pencil drawings. An-Mag.com interviews the artist to find out more about his work.

An-Mag.com: Describe your art for someone who has never seen it.

Jim Kazanjian: I tend to think of my work as “composites”. I take samples from various found photographs and layer them together to create a new “photograph”. I’m interested in building an image that has the capacity to “unravel” and begin to suggest something outside itself.

An-Mag.com: Tell me about living in Portland. How does it influence your work?

JK: On a subconscious level there is probably a bit of an influence. I’ve lived here since ’95 so I am probably taking it for granted now. Its overcast a lot which creates a really neat, diffuse light that has an interesting quality. Where I grew up (Los Angeles) the light was generally very harsh and direct. The sky was cloudless and I still find this unsettling whenever I visit.

An-Mag.com: What got you interested in Digital Photo collages?

JK: I was hooked the day I was able to do keyword, high-resolution image searches and find quality material. Before then it was very limiting, mainly because of bandwidth. Once everyone had a DSL or cable modem, the level of visual content exploded. I discovered that I didn’t need to shoot my own photos anymore. If I needed a picture of smoke or whatever I could just find it online. The biggest challenge now is the sheer volume of utterly worthless stuff I have to wade through to find the gems.

An-Mag.com: Have you done physical photo collages?

JK: Yes, but not for a long time. I’ve been working in computer graphics since the early ’90s. I got out of school right when the technology was really starting to become interesting. For my process, I find the analog method too restrictive and time consuming.

An-Mag.com: What do you use to create the collages?

JK: The only program I use is Photoshop. It is my favorite by far.

An-Mag.com: Most of your pieces find houses falling apart. What is the meaning behind this imagery?

JK: They are visual cues I use to prompt the viewer. I’m very much influenced by writers such as H.P. Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood and J.K. Huysmans. I am specifically interested in the narrative archetypes they utilize to de-familiarize the familiar. I prefer to use those devices as a base to build upon and create “entry points” for my images.

An-Mag.com: Is there a reason you always work in black and white?

JK: Black and white has an incredible clarity of depth that I don’t find with color. It has a certain “timeless” aspect as well.

An-Mag.com: What’s next for you?

JK: I plan to further develop this body of work. I haven’t exhausted the material I’ve been using, so I think there is a bit more I can extract from it.

An-Mag.com: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

JK: I hope to have a new series ready before this time next year.