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Thursday Challenge Interviews...

Claudine RL Co (Simulacra)

I would like to introduce you to Claudine by showing you one of her photos...

tree branches

Claudine said about this photo: "This shot is from the Strybing Arboretum in early March this year, and I think this was probably the first time I was inspired to try to shoot my surroundings in more interesting ways. Now in retrospect I think it looks a little like graffiti patterns against a double-colour sky."

Do you have a favorite author/director? Why do you like his/her work? Which works would you recommend? Why?

I am the girl who can't make up her mind, so I don't really have one favourite author or director at the moment (there are just too many!). I enjoy films that are visually stunning - and brilliant with colour and/or movement - Yimou Zhang's 'Hero,' comes to mind, Baz Luhrman's 'Moulin Rouge,' Ang Lee's 'Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon,' and I loved Peter Greenaway's 'The Pillow Book.' I guess I just love (intelligent) visual candy, colour and motion (if the latter is expressed in dance or martial arts) -- most of my pictures are bright and saturated with vivid hues.

As for books... I recently discovered a work called "The Seven Who Fled" authored by Frederic Prokosch in 1937. He writes so beautifully - his words are deeply evocative. Here's a small sample:

"It was as dry as a bone: cloudlets of dust sprang into being behind each fresh footprint. Yet there was something deceivingly soft and liquid about the landscape. The shore on both sides was covered with small black pebbles-chips of basalt and obsidian. These caught the starlight and cast forth countless different colours-dark green, dark purple, copper, pearl grey."

What is a capoeirista? How did you get involved with it?

Capoeira is 400-year old Brazilian art form that combines elements of martial arts, acrobatics, dance, and music. (Capoeiristas are those who practice the art.) Created by African slaves brought to the new world by the Portuguese, it was a fighting form disguised as a dance since slaves were prohibited from practicing or possessing anything that could be construed as a means to self defence. I heard of Capoeira through dance: Lindy Hop (the original swing dance) and Hip-Hop (I've danced and performed with different groups). Many people have pointed out similarities in breakdance moves, steps and freezes with the movements of Capoeira, so becoming involved with it was just a natural extension of my obsession with expression through movement.

Do you have a favorite type of photography (landscape, macro,...)? Why do you like it and/or find it challenging?

Everything in photography is challenging to me since I'm still very much a beginner. I don't really have a "favorite type" as the moment (but I do love taking macro shots, especially of food). I do know that I absolutely love capturing ephemeral, temporal moments, things or occurrences that are soon lost. I'm signing up for a photography class this Spring -- my first ever, and my father just bequeathed me his 20-30 year old (analog) Nikon and Leicaflex SL2, which I have yet to get serviced and cleaned. I'd like to take more pictures of people and of landscapes. I'm also saving up for a Digital SLR...

For you, what is the most interesting thing to photograph in San Francisco? Why?

I am completely in love with San Francisco, and the Bay Area in general. This year I've been obsessed with graffiti and murals, and San Francisco, thank goodness, (despite a crackdown in the late 90s,) is still full of it. Since I started dancing in 1998, I've focused on African-American based movement and culture. Lindy Hop (danced to swing, jazz & blues) led to a love for hip-hop dance forms (Break, Poppin, Lockin, Boogaloo) and music and culture; but I never really started to be obsessed with graffiti until about a year and a half ago. There are supposed to be 5 elements of hip-hop: 1) the B-boy or B-girl (breakdancer); 2) the DJ; 3) the MC; 4) the Beatboxer; and 5) the Writer (graffiti artist).

Graffiti takes me to places I don't often visit... last weekend I ventured into an abandoned military hospital in the Presidio of San Francisco. It was the most amazing, beautiful thing. It was a cathedral. It was heaven: 400,000 square feet and some 6-8 stories, and nearly every hallway, every rabbit-warren hidey-hole of a room covered with murals and tags and drawings and stencils. Sometimes I find that the sites I shoot are illuminated by the graffiti and vice versa.


Claudine said about this photo: "This picture is from the abandoned hospital I spoke about. I love it because it was one of the most spectacular pieces and it was located on the last floor at the top of the building. On my first visit there I was alone and against all reason I should have only spent a few minutes in that deserted place, but something made me keep climbing the stairs and get to the last floor. I was rewarded by this remarkably beautiful piece."

Ultimately I love art that's spontaneous and improvised, sometimes subversive, and often made out of very little... Capoeira created by slaves; Breakdancing created by kids in the Bronx who didn't have the money or the clothes to get into clubs; Graffiti in public spaces as expression against all the corporate advertising that saturates our everyday surroundings. It's the essence of true hip-hop culture, I think -- beauty and soulful, passionate expression created by individuals with very little material means.

That being said I really also enjoy nature shots. Flowers. Trees. Sky. Sea. And in San Francisco you can find all that.

If you had three weeks that you could photograph anywhere in the world, where would you go? Why? What things would you photograph?

For some reason I haven't been able to travel abroad very much since my family moved from the Philippines to the U.S. in '84. I've never been to Europe, so I would love to spend 3 weeks in France or Italy someday. Actually, I'd probably need a month, if not more, in each place. I would love to visit everything -- the Tower Eiffel, the Musee d'Orsay, the Duomo, Venice, Florence, Provence... and of course, all the secret places with particularly spectacular graffiti throw-ups and burners. Ah, to be independently wealthy...

To see and read more visit Claudine RL Co (Simulacra).

Note: All images are copyright the photographer.