Marisa Kriangwiwat Holmes, Shoes, 2021, digital collage, 10.16 x 12.7 cm. Courtesy of the Artist and Unit 17.

Lo-fi: An Interview with Marisa Kriangwiwat Holmes

by Emmy Lee Wall, Capture Photography Festival


Strange forms and objects collide in Marisa Kriangwiwat Holmes’ digital collages that form an alliance between both her own photography as well as images sourced from a myriad of sources including encyclopedias, old photographs of friends or bands, amateur stock photographs, and used shopping platforms. Acutely aware of the way we are all inundated with highly-curated, perfectly-posed images daily, the works she creates are purposefully nostalgic, relying on some of the compositional tropes grown on the internet but offering a respite from dominant social media trends. By purposefully creating work that is in dialogue with but visually distinct from that which circulates around us all, Kriangwiwat Holmes asks us to question the way vernacular images pervade our daily lives. 

Emmy Lee Wall: Can you describe your process for us? What sources are you mining for your imagery? 

Marisa Kriangwiwat Holmes: It depends on what I’m making. Sometimes, if I’m making a two-dimensional collage, it can start with a photograph I took as a jumping-off point that sparks a desire to see a different image or collage that doesn’t exist yet… then I have to make it and add elements. This first photo is almost always one I took on my phone. 

I like to thrift a lot of books and pictures. I keep a lot of screenshots and scanned stuff all over my computer. Furniture encyclopedias, receipts, and doodles in my sketchbook are some of the most recent sources of images for my collages. I also like to use fabric cut-outs and scanned painted shapes. A lot of digital images from my iPhone or Ricoh. Some are old 35mm scans from the past ten years, which are of people and friends, or bands who needed promotional photographs. I also like to look at amateur stock photos – I’ll buy them and use the image that has the watermark. I like looking at used shopping platforms and museum archives. 

At this moment I don’t super enjoy the actual action of taking photographs or organizing photo shoots. I do it because I know I have to in order to make this ingredient for a picture. I keep a pretty ridiculous amount of files on my desktop all labelled something like ‘image dump {month}’ And then I just dig through them all and pull parts of them together to see what matches or clicks.

In terms of the process of making pictures, I’d say a lot of it is honestly spent on Photoshop moving things around. It’s a lot of erasing, a lot of dumping it all together, and then taking parts away. Sometimes I’ll make a picture and feel that it’s missing a component. 


ELW: What are your thoughts around authorship during this digital age when we are inundated daily with so many images and they circulate so freely?

MKH: I don’t think about authorship as much as I think about how normal it is for us to be screenshotting and sharing quickly. Whether it’s a message for an event, action, or a meme – we’ll take a photo and plop a bunch of written information over it. We do it to learn but also to communicate with peers our desire to stay in touch. I find myself screenshotting and pulling pictures heedlessly. I think being buried in a mass amount of images daily via social media makes it hard for us to feel precious about pictures and their authors. We’re kind of rough with them, you know? 

I was talking to a co-worker about how a band recorded an album digitally and then ran it through cassette to give it a lo-fi effect. It’s like a filter, it happens all the time. We have the technology now for musicians to record music digitally for cheaper, but we opt for this recording effect to bury the digital crispness. There are nostalgia factors still at play, but my co-worker raised a good point: our ears are muscles that eventually tire after working for some time. Sometimes ears can find rest in something recorded ‘poorly.’ I think people today want this same rest for their eyes. We seek pictures with low contrast, grain, or something just more grey. Of course, then this develops into a style… something had to come after all the brightness from the first tier of post-internet art.


ELW: Seems like your work engages in a dialogue around ownership of images and the way in which they are used and reused?

MKH: Yeah, I guess I’m interested in and I try to pay attention to how people view and share images today. I don’t so much think of it as ownership similar to say, The Pictures Generation. I just sort of believe our current generation is speaking a visual language through mass picture sharing. We’re communicating with them on literal levels where we have images with text overlaid, and we’re also communicating with them in languages we’re not aware we’re fluent in, like style arrangement and formal composition. Tight crops of objects like used clothing are an example of today’s photo composition trends that distort scale and have now become pleasant to us. We can hold the object and subject in our hands. Using a camera isn’t always necessary for me to express these aspects of photo composition that I’m interested in. If I make collages with found images with drawings or stickers overlaid, I can point towards compositional rules and messages behind actual subject matter instead of photographic authorship.  

Recently I think I saw about fifteen images of the same rainbow in Vancouver on Instagram, likely all taken with an iPhone. A lot of people are using literally the same tool and are taking photos of the same subject. A lot of people are sharing the same screenshot. These are the conversations of photography I’m in a relationship with. 

ELW: What draws you to the images you save and select as the material from which to make your digital collages? Is there something particular about these images that unites them or makes them interesting for you?

MKH: It’s not always this calculated but, sometimes it is. Again, you find inspiration in something you stumbled across and that can be a starting point to look for more, out in the physical world or online. I like things that remind me of design and advertising. I took an advertising course a long time ago, and we did an activity where you had to self-analyze what kind of demographic you were part of based on the advertisements you were drawn to. We were flipping through big magazines like Vogue. Some of the compositional guidelines given by the teacher seemed arbitrary at first, for example, depending if the picture had a full bleed or a white border, it would attract a certain type of audience that identifies as either more alternative or classic.

When it is calculated, there are some deeper reasons for my choice of subject matter. What I have taken photographs of is a little eclectic but there are a lot of dogs, horses, friends, and cars (all either real or figurines). I was once more interested in subject matter which supposedly held ideas about the person who took the image as being approachable, cool, or sincere. Most recently, I have been trying to photograph objects as if they were going to be sold on used shopping platforms. I’m interested in the composition of these photographs that aim to advertise and be made by just your everyday person. This kind of photography reads like a deal.


Images in order of appearance:
Marisa Kriangwiwat Holmes, Shoes, 2021, digital collage, 10.16 x 12.7 cm. Courtesy of the Artist and Unit 17.
Marisa Kriangwiwat Holmes, Dress, 2021, digital collage, 10.16 x 12.7 cm. Courtesy of the Artist and Unit 17.
Marisa Kriangwiwat Holmes, Handles, 2021, digital collage, 20.32 x 25.4 cm.
Courtesy of the Artist and Unit 17.
Marisa Kriangwiwat Holmes, Tables, 2021, digital collage, 20.32 x 25.4 cm. Courtesy of the Artist and Unit 17.

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