Meet the Artist: Kirth Bobb
Kirth Bobb is a photographer born in Guyana and now based in Washington, D.C., finding beauty in what may be considered the mundane. He’ll always be glad to shoot in the Caribbean. We’re proud to feature him as part of the latest group of artists in our Black Artists Print Shop.
When did you first pick up a camera?
Photographs have always been present in my life, and growing up in Guyana I found that photographs preserved memories. My first foray into making photographs came out of the need for a hobby and eventually evolved into a small business. it wasn't until someone very dear to me died that I understood the connection between photographs and memory. That's when I discovered photography as an art form and practice that had the potential to preserve memories and find and appreciate the beauty in everything.
I like to think that my photography practice is genre-agnostic because it's always about finding stories, beauty, and, most importantly, sharing what I find. I believe that nothing good is fully enjoyed until it is shared.
Whether I'm creating portraits, working on commercial projects, roaming the streets of Haiti or my hometown of Washington DC, the goal is simple—find and appreciate the beauty in the moment, and make photographs that serve as proof that beauty and goodness exist everywhere.
You’ve said that you could find mundane or boring things spectacular. How did you come to that realization?
There is beauty in everything and, sure, you'll see things that aren't always appealing, but seeing the mundane should inspire curiosity, not repulsion or disinterest. I say that everything is beautiful if there's light hitting it, and finding that beauty is a matter of where you stand and where you look. So I tend to examine scenes from as many angles and perspectives as physically possible.
One of the photographs featured here is Haijiann. Haijiann was inspired by me observing a motorcycle in a parking lot in a gas station in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Something mundane and familiar to gas stations in Haiti.
But I knew that there was more, so I got closer, stood in different places, and eventually, the scene transformed from a motorcycle to a beautiful harmony of color. Really inviting colors, really enticing colors— colors that spoke to the place (Haiti) itself. Colors that reminded me of where I'm from. That's what I mean about finding extraordinary in the mundane. It's just a matter of perspective.
Speaking of color, in many of your photographs, that’s the first thing you notice. Can you tell me more about your approach to color?
The way I see it, color is tied to memory. I grew up in Guyana, a country on South America's North Atlantic coast that is culturally connected to the Caribbean region and often confused with Ghana in West Africa. In Guyana, color was a huge part of daily life. I have vivid memories of visiting the market as a child and being drawn to all the colorful scenes—the fresh produce, the patrons and sellers' clothing, the way the shops and houses were painted. Color was such a prominent aspect of life that it makes sense that it permeates so much of my work today. So much so, a lot of my work in the Caribbean examines the relationship between people, color, and place.
Whenever I see rich and harmonious color, it reminds me of home.
You also say photography is an examination of self. How else do you bring your identity into your work?
Photography allows me to quickly put myself in someone else's shoes, and I learn so much about myself from photographing others. The practice forces me to work with my vulnerabilities and fears. I know for a fact that I wouldn't enjoy looking at a bad or unflattering photograph of myself, so that alone generates enough compassion for the people that appear in my photographs. The question of "what would they think of themselves if they see this photograph?" serves as a guide.
Practicing photography in that way inspires me to work extra hard to find beauty and create something that both I and my subjects can be proud of. That compassion also extends to places. Everywhere is someone's home, and I couldn't imagine that anyone would want their home or country portrayed in a way that wasn't uplifting and honorable.
Can you tell us more about the two pieces in the Print Shop—Haijiann and Man on Phone?
The Haiti piece, Haijiann, is from memory. When I was a young child (~5 years old), I was involved in a terrible motorcycle accident. It's a long story, but when I lived in Guyana, I used to get shuttled to school by motorcycle, and one day I was involved in a terrible crash. I was told that the Hiajiann's handle got tangled with the strap of a passerby's handbag and the driver lost control. The accident was really bad, and my survival was one of those family miracles that I was never allowed to forget. As a matter of fact, I still have physical scars from that accident and since that time, I've suffered from debilitating migraines. So while I don't remember all the details, I could never forget what happened, and sometimes when I come across a scene, I might experience flashes of familiarity—a sort of subtle déjà vu. This is exactly what I experienced when I encountered this motorcycle in a gas station in Haiti. The challenge then was finding the beauty in a scene that conjured memories of an unpleasant time for my family and me. I made Haijiann as a way to reconnect to lost memory.
Man on Phone was made in Havana, Cuba, and is another example of how color, people, and place sometimes embody this unexplainable harmony. You have to see it. The man's pink shirt and green camo hat blend so beautifully into the wall's colors that it was as if he was wearing the building. When I see these sorts of scenes, I have to find and appreciate the beauty and create something that I can share—a photograph.
Learn more about Kirth at his website and Instagram page.