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-How did you begin your journey as an artist?

I’ve had a passion for photography ever since I was a child. I remember my first Fuji Finepix F810 camera back in 2004 that my dad bought when he visited Japan. The SD card back then was limited to about 5 photos, and one of my first memories shooting was seeing the SD card completely full. At first, I didn’t understand the language on the screen because it was in
Japanese or English, so I gave up. After this short lived hobby, I continued my avid obsession with the MMORPG Ragnarok.



-What was the genesis for this exhibition? Did you start with an idea, or did you work backwards into the idea? 

The concept for this exhibit began with my belonging and identity. I remember speaking to the curator Dulcina Abreau, a close friend of mine, about my nostalgia for the time in my life when I was happy. I guess the idea started with my current unhappiness and dug its way back to my childhood. I remembered getting excited about thinking of Ragnarok and showing Dulcina screenshots of the game. When doing so, Dulcina began to notice similarities in my work to Ragnarok’s gameplay, specifically the digital map layout of the virtual game.

I saw similarities in color, texture, and composition. The moment I saw this comparison, I began to feel happiness. The same happiness I had when I was a kid. I didn’t have many moments to inspire my artistic work. I only had a feeling that I couldn’t place. For the longest time, I didn’t feel validated as an artist.

I felt like an outsider, an alien that didn’t have the key components of a human. I guess the idea for Ragnarok: Journal of the Era came from a distant memory.

-When working on your photographs, what is the structure of your workflow? Do you prepare shots, or prefer to take them as you go?

In my early stages of shooting, I began to develop a love for portrait street photography. Because of my preferred shooting preference, I was forced to shoot the environment as it really
was. There was no production or curated scenes. It became a habit. I began to find comfort in being on the sidelines, hiding, and waiting for my shot.

-Loneliness and being an outsider seem to be common themes among your work. Where does does this feeling come from? Has it changed since you arrived here?

Loneliness was always something I was accustomed to. While growing up I remembered being bullied for being queer. Even the adults would tease me for being different from what they thought was acceptable. I didn’t fully understand why I was being treated this way, but I now know that it was for an unjust reason. This feeling of isolation made me escape deeper into my interest in Ragnarok. I was able to become someone else and develop relationships within this virtual world.

I am a gay man, but I felt so much joy in having a girlfriend in this online game. I was able to share my feelings and speak to a stranger. It was a form of therapy that helped me cope with my mental health issues. It’s strange to see how everything in today’s society is virtual, from social media to communication outlets. Because, on the contrary, living in the virtual world was seen as such a negative behavior by the adults around me.

I think Ragnarok gave me the feeling of acceptance that I missed out on as a child.

-How has the advent of online platforms affected your work as a photographer?

Once I found my place and my people, I learned that New York City was a place for opportunity. I don’t mean this in the generic sense of the American Dream, but it was a place for me to open up and meet new people. I grew up in the Instagram era and using this online platform really allowed me to connect with all the interesting people in the city. I began to further my career as a photographer.

Text : James Donovan

Photo : Thitipol Samuttha