Interview Tanisha Parker
Photography Sarah Roberts
When I sat down to interview Karen, I quickly felt as if I was catching up with an old friend. Karen; her girlfriend, Carina; and their sweet pup, Bailey, welcomed us into their Chinatown apartment with Sunday brunch and some of the most delicious brownies I’ve ever tasted. Karen speaks about growing up in the city, her girlfriend as her muse, and My Girlfriend is an Art Project.
Tanisha Parker: What inspired you to pursue photography?
Karen Huang: It was actually very random. I wanted to major in photography in college but at [University of] Hartford, they don’t allow you to major in photography. So I did media art instead which is more focused on web design. However, after I graduated I realized that I hated web design. I spoke to my brother about my interest in photography and he told me, “Listen, you got to start from the bottom up.” Honestly, everything is on Craigslist. I found an internship for this photographer who worked for Getty and I did a lot of assisting with him for about a year and a half. He taught me a lot about editing and it began to get really technical. It was all batch editing for stock agencies, which was really cool for me because that was the way I was learning. I started part time at Rosen doing a lot of admin shit, but I didn’t hate it because I was working with photos. Then, I got promoted and started buying photos, which shaped the way I shot.
TP: Web design seems to be more technical than creative. I find it interesting that you’re the second person I’ve heard in a weekend describe web design in that sense.
KH: It’s totally different. I only studied media art because my advisor said, “You know, you like photography and design, why not do media art?” At this point, I was just trying to figure out a major. I was so undecided for two years and I didn’t know what the fuck I wanted to do so I did multimedia web design. But you sit in these classes and someone is teaching you coding and all I’m thinking is, this is not fun. I hated going to class. Sometimes I wish that I had gotten into it because you make bank but I’m happy doing what I’m doing. And sometimes I make other people happy too, when I tell them that we want to feature their photos in our books.
TP: You work from home often so does that leave time for you to shoot more photos?
KH: laughs No. Ever since I’ve started dating [Carina], I mostly take photos of her and Bailey. I used to go to art galleries and shoot. I went around chasing Banksy when he was here but I prefer shooting Carina because it’s more intimate.
TP: So is My Girlfriend is an Art Project complete?
KH: Well, it started out as a Christmas gift that I would show to Carina every year but I kind of slacked off this year. I did think it would be cool to expand it into a series. Like My Dog is an Art Project and so on. I also shoot my nephews a lot too, so that would be cool too. I think it would be nice, though, when we’re old and wrinkly, to look back on the book and reminisce.
TP: Your photos have a postcard like quality to them. And you seem to capture things that the average individual may not notice or may glance over, like the mural by my train stop or an ice cream truck.
KH: Growing up here, you’re kind of over it. I hate taking pictures of the Empire State Building but the cityscape is nice, especially when the sunset is all nice and the sky is pink. I’ve taken this same picture outside of my window a bunch of times. I want to shoot my own shit. I want to always do something different.