Artist Highlight: Paul Hoi
Paul Hoi is an experimental landscape photographer based in Oakland, California.
He is fascinated by the uncanny feeling of seeing a landscape that feel both alien and familiar, landscapes and spaces that challenge our foundational scale of space and time. In that sense, sci-fi and the psychedelic movement have naturally informed his work. Hoi is especially drawn to the desert because these traits seem particularly pronounced in that environment.
Describe the technical process you use to create your work.
My process and equipment change and evolve from one project to the project. I’ve experimented with analog and digital processes, in wildly diverse climates that range from the Atacama Desert to the Arctic Circle, all of which presented different challenges and creative opportunities. My most recent project was shot during a two-week road trip through the South Island of New Zealand, where I shot with a mirror-less camera modified for full-spectrum infrared.
A big portion of my work really takes place during the planning. Once I become intrigued by a place, a region, or an artifact of some sort, I begin my planning - usually about three to six months ahead of time. Images of places I want to photograph become a psychological magnet, of sorts, and I’d begin gathering logistical and creative notes as the months approach. Once I arrive, I keep a rough sketch of these notes in mind, but I try to stay present and allow things to happen on their own.
Also, I actually like to shoot just a few times a year, and I almost don’t like to begin a project unless I feel like I’ll be doing something that evolves beyond anything else I’ve done. In-between my photo projects, I like to pursue other creative outlets like drawing, 3D graphics, (amateur) interior design and architecture, all of which have found strange, beautiful ways to inform each other, including photography.
Would you describe yourself as an environmental artist? What is the relationship between your work and nature?
I’m really drawn to the desert, and I want to convey the feeling of mild disorientation I get when I’m there. Back to the earlier question about the creative process, it feels as though you’re seeing traces of the past and the future all at once; things that have been there long before you and will continue to simply exist long, long after you’re gone. It’s an otherworldly, humbling feeling that overcomes me over and over again every time I’m there.
I don’t think this makes me an ‘environmental’ artist, per se, but it’s interesting to think about how the space a person works in can transform the process itself.
What do you hope you art communicates to those who come into contact with it?
The terror and awe of seeing an otherworldly landscape that is both alien and familiar all at once.
Do you have any upcoming projects or exhibitions that you’d like to share with us?
I’m currently working closely with a printer in San Francisco (Strange Cessations) on a small run of seven of my infrared photos I took during a solo trip through New Zealand. I’ve never worked so closely with a printer before. It’s been several weeks of proofs and adjustments, and it’s been pretty amazing to see your vision come to life in physical form. I’m very excited to have these available through my website fairly soon.