Kata Geibl studied photography in Budapest at the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design and at Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture in Helsinki, Finland. Her work is mainly focused on humanity, collective memory and the ambiguities of the photographic medium. In Uncanny Valley, Kata uses delicate references to the science fiction movie Solaris by Tarkovski and perceives something almost inconvenient for present time.
In the Uncanny Valley series, you are using an analog medium-format camera to depict in high clarity places of Finland clearly facing the intervention of human technology. I think this is an ideal follow up to New Topographics. How did your relationship with documentary photography start?
It’s really nice that you mention New Topographics, because seeing Bernd and Hilda Becher’s work for the first time had a huge impact on my photographic perspective. Until then I associated documentary photography with a snapshot type of vision and not with precisely planned photographs.
“To me even documentary photography can appear as fiction, if we think there are infinite possibilities in how we could interpret reality”.
I remember when I started to take pictures I was looking for what I believed to be the raw, unmanipulated truth and it took years before I realised that everytime you take a picture you always frame something and that it also means that beside the frame there are unavoidably things that you leave out.
Why did you title the project Uncanny Valley?
When I was living in Helsinki the word uncanny came up almost everyday, there is also a joke among Aalto students that if you want to be a Finnish photographer you have to use the word uncanny in your artist statement at least one time. Back from when I was studying philosophy I remembered Freud’s essay Das Unheimliche (The Uncanny) which matched perfectly of how I felt living in Finland for almost half a year. The strange eerie feeling of something quite familiar, the strangeness of the ordinary. Uncanny was the perfect word to describe how I felt wondering through these Finnish landscapes. Then I found the terminology Uncanny Valley, which is a scientific term used to describe the anxiety that human beings encounter with too human-like machines. I instantly thought I could also use this terminology in context with landscapes, I also like the irony of the word valley in connection with the Gulf of Finland, which is the most plain region I’ve ever been to.
You have chosen to place the photographs of Uncanny Valley on your website in a very specific way which shows you don’t contented with classical online views, but you pay great attention on the presentation. What is the proper way of presenting these works in natural size? Are they big framed prints?
When I started to create the series my first intentions was to make a photobook out of it. So when I came back to Budapest with my finalized series I instantly contacted my friends from MAMA Books, and together we made the Uncanny Valley dummy. It’s a white plastic covered photobook with 53 pages, we decided to flip some of the images so in order to look at the pictures you have to rotate the whole book, it gives the viewer a constant uncanny feeling. I tried to reflect on this book feeling of the series on my homepage too. But beside the book the images are big size prints (100cmx80cm) in wood frame.
Why do you prefer to work with a heavy medium format camera? What are the advantages?
For me the advantage lies in the way I like to create pictures. For instance for Uncanny Valley I spent the first one month just with location scouting, without my camera. I took sketches with my mobile phone and tried to figure out what part of the day, in what lightning to go back to create the pictures. For most if the images I decided to use the rose colour of the sunset and the soft light of dawn. Using a medium format camera gives me the time and precision I need to create a picture and so to speak not just to take one. But every project has its own needs and every time I’m working on a series I start to miss other perspectives of photography.
In your last award-winning work, Sisyphus, one can observe the use of conceptual photography in connection with documentary. Could you share your thoughts on the interaction of these two categories of photography in your work?
In my series work I always try to question the reality that surrounds us, how to we form our understanding of it. To me even documentary photography can appear as fiction, if we think there are infinite possibilities in how we could interpret reality.
More on her website.