I sat down with Eric Kvatek and talked about his work, life, and experience at Kapital.
BA: What do you do exactly?
Eric: I am a photographer. I set out to be a documentary photographer but
for some reason, clothing companies like me.
for some reason, clothing companies like me.
BA: Free-time. How do you spend it?
Eric: When I have free time, I do what I do when I work… travel and take photographs.
BA: What inspires or influences your work?
Eric: Of course there are some novels and films that influence me. Other than that I think my own life and the lives of my parents and grandparents inspire me.
BA: What are some things that inspire your work from your family or life directly?
Eric: Stories of my early relatives and my immediate family intrigue me, and I prefer to use these sources as my inspiration, rather than people or tales I have no connection to.
In the Kapital catalog Aloha Brigade I write about true events that occurred between me and my grandfather who was a Cherokee Indian and a World War II combat veteran. In Hooligan Sailors I elaborated on my own personal experiences from when I worked in the fishing industry and my travels in the Pacific and South East Asia.
Other catalogs I developed were more fanciful, the one with Bigfoot and the one with UFOs for example, but even with those, there was a feeling that I was trying to convey that is in fact close to me. The seemingly whimsical theme merely disguises something I did not want to directly or literally illustrate I suppose.
BA: What companies have you done work for? Eric: Kapital, Replay, 45rpm, Free People, Robert Redford's Sundance clothing line, Roxy Quicksilver, Free & Easy, Elle magazine, etc. BA: When did you start working for Kapital, and how did that all
come together? Eric: I started shooting for Kapital in 2005. I met Kiro Hirata in 2000 while shooting for 45rpm. Eventually, he asked me to shoot for Kapital and it was a very natural situation. Our thinking is almost always very similarDo you have a favorite Kapital book? Hooligan Sailors (Philippines) and Aloha Brigade (Maui). I also really like the last few, Earth Style, Innocent World, Azure Anarchy, Deniming for Sunken Treasure. So, maybe its difficult to say the top favorite. BA: Hooligan sailors is one of my favorites as well. Did anything in particular inspire some of the shots? Eric: I already mentioned some of the inspiration for the story. Additionally, my friends who are in the photographs are actual former hooligans and hardened fellows. Some of these guys have been traveling most of their lives to places many people never hear of. The stories they told me and the way they live their lives was something I wanted to try to put into the photos. The girls were all found locally and they were tough and cool as well. During this photo shoot, it really felt like I was shooting a documentary of something that already essentially existed. The only real difference was the clothing, provided by Kapital.
BA: Who is your favorite photographer, or artist? Eric: I like the photographers Dorthea Lange and Larry Burrows. Dorthea shot during the great depression and Larry was a Vietnam war photographer. I like the films of Terrance Malick.
BA: Do you have a favorite place that you have visited through your journeys? Eric: I like Cambodia, but I have not been there recently. I am afraid it has changed. Most of the places I liked have changed. Mexico can be really incredible. I was surprised how much I liked Rio de Janeiro. BA: You've visited Japan several times, what's your favorite Japanese stuff, and what have you seen that is really bizarre? Eric: My favorite part of Japan is the food. Sushi. Soba. Natto. I love the traditions, the discipline, the politeness and respect. But like I said, even Japan is changing. What have I seen that is bizarre? The first time I went to Japan, I went to Hokkaido... this is about 15 years ago. Not long ago, but I was at a bar with young people and a line formed of teenagers that had never met a foreigner. I was the first. One girl told me she wanted to have sex with me. But the next day I went out, several babies looked at me and cried and some old people said I was ugly and scary. So the combination of these experiences was kind of bizarre. Of course a lot of the food is bizarre to an American, but I will eat almost anything... raw kobe beef cow tongue, raw horse meat, crab brains etc. Considering I live in NYC, it is bizarre to see pedestrians wait for the cross-walk light to change. In NYC people cross the street whenever and where ever they feel like. People in Japan only walk when it says to walk. I like that people are not allowed to walk and smoke at the same time. But I like being allowed to drink beer on the street! BA: You seem to have a love for old and vintage stuff, do you
have a favorite item or collection? Eric: I like vintage denim western shirts. I have a dozen or so. From Japan, I like antique aisome quilts with many patches. But old things are very difficult to find now. So I do not buy too many things any more. I always need a new camera or lens so that is what I am usually looking for or thinking about nowadays. BA: Do you have any advice for future artists and photographers? Eric: I think the most important thing is to have your own style, develop it, be true to it, do not change your style for anyone or for any reason.
Thanks again Eric for taking the time to answer my questions, and the lovely photos you provided.