The Lionheart Five: An Interview with Emma Powell and Kirsten Hoving

The Lionheart Gallery
Oct 27, 2016 6:07PM

Five questions we ask every Lionheart Gallery artist.

Photo credit: Emma Powell and Kirsten Hoving

1) Name one of your most defining moments as an artist. 

Kirsten Hoving: Seeing a photograph by Keith Carter called Pinocchio that—in a split second—re-defined for me what a photograph could be. 

Emma Powell: I learned to use a camera while traveling with my father in India and Afghanistan, where I had many defining moments. It was in college where I felt I had found my own voice when I was introduced to methods for using hand applied photographic emulsions.

Photo credit: Emma Powell

2) Do you collect anything? 

KH: Snow globes. Old photographs. New photographs. 

EP: You could say I collect strange objects. For example, I have eight parasols, three sand dollars, and an old metal alarm clock on one shelf. I have quite a few old box cameras, which is more of an accidental collection. Many of them I have deliberately searched out. However, box cameras seem to be an object that has a tendency to magically accumulate in any photography studio.

Photo credit: Emma Powell and Kirsten Hoving

3) If you could choose anyone—and we mean anyone—whom would you pick as a mentor? 

KH: I’d love to get some lessons on seeing light from Johannes Vermeer, and I’d love to hear what Julia Margaret Cameron might say about our work. 

EP: I have been intrigued by Abe Morell’s work for a long time. I appreciate the unexpected ways he approaches photography. I was lucky enough to hear him speak a few years ago. He spoke in an engaging and straightforward way that makes me think he would be a good mentor.

4) What’s the most indispensable item in your studio? 

KH: A newly-installed huge bulletin board. I can put my feet up, drink a glass of wine, and have “date night” with my photographs (to borrow a term from Cig Harvey). It really helps to live with them, to see them in all sorts of light, to compare different versions of the same print, to see which ones I still like a week or two later. 

EP: My inkjet printer. It is an Epson 9800, which is a beast that takes up a considerable amount of space. I believe I am the fourth owner of this machine. When I moved to where I live now I shipped it across the country. A digital printer is not a device I would expect to have an interesting history, but mine has. It takes some wrangling, but so far has always done the job in the end.

Photos of an exhibit that Kirsten Hoving is currently curating

5) Tell us about one piece of art in this exhibition. You might describe your inspiration, your process, the title, what the work signifies to you… 

KH: Just one? Oooh. That’s hard. How about two? I guess if it’s just one, I’d pick the photograph Sighting (2016). 

The title is so clearly a metaphor for photography. This was taken in Jökulsárlón, Iceland, at the foot of a large glacier, where there is a famous lagoon filled with icebergs. Some stay there for as many as ten years, before making their way down a little river to a black sand beach and then washing out to sea. We had visited the lagoon the year before, late in the day, and didn’t have time to go down to the beach. The following year, we went back, again late in the day, and went to the beach. It was a total disappointment: the biggest chunks of ice were about six-inches high. That night, there was a tremendous wind storm, and when we went back to the beach the next morning it was covered with huge ice formations that had blown out of the lagoon. Many were old ice—quite transparent and bright blue. It was very cold and windy. The clouds were great and the sky was filled with noisy gulls. 

Emma had climbed inside of a hollowed-out iceberg and had gotten very wet. She then climbed up on another, and we made several shots of her pointing and shading her eyes before she posed as if she was holding a spyglass. We knew she could photoshop one in later. The clouds were great, the light was right, the wind was blowing, the birds were filling the sky, and it all came together. 

The only major photoshopped elements were the spyglass, which we found at a museum the next day, and a few extra birds. I love this photograph because our character, Svala, looks so intrepid, which Emma was. Even though the wind was whipping around her and the ice was really slippery, she stands so confidently on the iceberg. I love that she seems so intent on her job of caring for the birds. I recently noticed that the iceberg has the vague shape of a Viking boat, which was a wonderful surprise that came to me more than a year after the fact.  

EP: In order to create this series of photographs we traveled to Iceland on two separate adventures a year apart. The first time we wandered along a black sand beach and found a small cave under a large rock wall. At the time we found that location particularly exciting. In the end, we had several images that were close but did not quite work. We developed a stage or chapter in the character’s journey called “In the cave of prophetic dreams.”  

On the second trip, we were able to find the same cave, which felt serendipitous. The result of the second time in the cave is the image Hope (2016). Kirsten had brought dried out eggs given to her by a friend back home, and we had been photographing them in several different locations that day. In this case, all the pieces came together, from the cave with a lava rock, which looks like cloth, to the lighting emphasizing the shape of the eggs and my hair as a nest. This image visualizes the prophetic dream, but also shows an intriguing literal scene.

—Douglas P. Clement

The Lionheart Gallery