Artist of the Week: Ann Woo

Ann Woo is a photographer based between Hong Kong and New York.  She received her BA in Design from Hong Kong Polytechnic University and completed a certificate program at the International Center of Photography in 2008.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I was born and raised in Hong Kong. I originally graduated with a degree in fashion design and then worked a self-taught photographer for almost 8 years before going to New York in 2007. During that time I studied at a one-year program at the International Center of Photography and have started making fine art photographs since.

If you had to explain your work to a stranger, what would you say? I would say: I make photographs using analog methods – shooting on film and printing in the darkroom. I photograph things I love looking at, like flowers, landscapes, people, sunsets.  I don’t believe in giving meanings to photographs so my photographs always end up having detached, unemotional or dispassionate outlooks.

What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like? I shoot on films and print in the darkroom. I have an obsession with telling ‘truths.’ I only photograph things that are real and I use traditional mediums to limit post–production alterations. At times I find the process restrictive and rigorous, since I can’t enjoy the convenience of using digital photography and I do not allow myself to give narrative to photographs. However, I find it hard not to stay only with what is real.

What kinds of things are influencing your work right now? Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Maslow, Carl Jung. Gandhi and Maslow have inspired me to stay truthful to my thoughts and beliefs, to honor these truthful thoughts and not be influenced by convention. Carl Jung has inspired me to reflect from a deep, subconscious level.

What do you want a viewer to walk away with after seeing your work? I don’t believe there is any way to control how other people feel and I try not to consider this as an element when I am making my work. I prefer to leave the answer open to the viewers.

Best, worst or favorite reaction someone has had toward your work? Many people have said that my photographs are abstract but I disagree. I photograph things that are real using ‘real’ materials (materials that one can actually physically feel and touch).  For example, in my ‘Sunset’ images I photographed only the gradient of the sun–setting sky. Since there is no real object in the picture most people have mistaken them as unreal or digitized. Somehow it is the worst and best comment at the same time since it reinforces my inquiry of ‘truth’ in photographs.

What do you do when you’re not working on art? I spend most of my time alone reading books – mostly self–help books on topics like health, psychology, how the mind works, etc.

If you hadn’t become an artist, what do you think you’d be doing? I would be a business person, an entrepreneur. Besides art, business strategies are what I spend most of my time thinking about. I think business is fun, exciting and it can also be extremely meaningful to do. If I weren’t an artist I would definitely start my own business.

If you had one wish what would it be? To be able to be completely focused and living in the ‘NOW,’ with full energy and enthusiasm.

What were you like in high school? I was a loner and an outcast in the classroom. Although my school results were fine I was a serious day–dreamer. My eyes almost always drifted out of the windows and I never remembered my homework. I didn’t quite get along with other people and was never able to keep up with the ordinary standard. Outside the classroom I was pretty athletic – I won numerous medals in swimming competitions; I did life–guarding, coached swimming, went canoe camping, hiking.  I also played volleyball, basketball, badminton and rugby.  I walked alone with a guide on the Himalayas once.