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New Zealand –James K. Lowe


James K. Lowe, born in New Zealand in 1988 of Chinese parents, graduated from the Auckland University Elam School of Fine Arts in 2009. Alongside his career as a designer and photographer, he is developing a personal artistic practice inspired by the documentary style of photographers such as the Australian Bill Henson and the American Gregory Crewdson and the dreamlike visions of filmmakers such as David Lynch or video artist Bill Viola. At only twenty-three, Lowe has already won numerous awards, including the Mount Eden Young Artists Award 2009.

As fifteen year-olds, Lowe and his friends would drive around at night, find a place to park and talk for hours about “the strange gap between how we see ourselves and how others see us”, as he recently confided to fellow-photographer Anne Noble. Lowe scripted and directed his series In An Honest World like a filmmaker. He scouted the location, a suburban setting that was to become the backdrop for the drama taking place before the camera. He asked friends to play the parts. He successfully established the mood he was trying to capture by suggesting narrative elements and actions to his characters, sometimes evoking tableaux vivants. The result – striking images of interaction, parting, transitions, at times fraught with psychological unease – is reminiscent of stills taken on the set of an art movie.

Preferring to work at night with large format cameras, Lowe is assisted by a team of friends and family. He avoids using flashes, preferring bulb lighting that he projects, like an artist throwing paint, to selectively illuminate aspects of the scene and reveal his protagonists, making them stand out against the dark background.

Close to In An Honest World in their luminous intensity and evocative power, Lowe’s other series are celebrated for their originality and their sophisticated vision of daily life among mixed-race youth growing up in suburban New Zealand.

Anne Noble, curator

Text from the catalogue-book “Photoquai”, co-edited by Musée du Quai Branly- Actes-Sud

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