Through the Lens with Snap Pilots

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One of the exciting things about working with the authors of Sahtu Press is that they tend to be interdisciplinary artists and community builders working on multiple projects to express their creativity. Krysada Panusith Phounsiri is no exception, combining dance, photography, and poetry in many aspects of his life.This week we had a chance to interview him about Snap Pilots, where he is one of the founding photographers.

Can you tell us a little about Snap Pilots? How did you guys get started?

Krysada Binly Panusith Phousiri: My friend Jacob and I formed this as a natural progression of our passion for the visual arts. I remember in college, I fancied the idea of getting a camera and I would ask for his input about that camera. At the time, I did enjoy taking photographs, but wasn't into photography as I am today when it came to the technique and craft. I was just interested in capturing moments. I never bought that camera I was interested in, but it felt like that was the start of something special.

There was an urge to do research and dive into the world of photography ever since then. It never surfaced until 2012, when I really bit the bullet and began to take it in as a hobby. It reminded me of when I first started falling in love with dancing, it sprouted in an attraction to an idea with attached with some feeling of discovery. Meanwhile, Jacob was studying film at SDSU. He was already heavy into the film world with experience is shooting photography as well.

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The both of us eventually worked harder in our respective crafts. Jacob did a lot of film.editing work and I did a lot of photography. We are also from the same dance crew. The thought of forming a group for the visual arts felt organic; it was probably on both of our minds. It took us a year to discuss ideas about what we want present to the world. We spent time talking about the projects / themes we hoped to accomplish, the name, the logo, and getting a website together. The idea was for us to be a hub for both the photography and film world, recognizable by style, creating through projects of our liking.

Who are some of your favorite photographers?

Daido Moriyama, Richard Koci Hernandez (@koci), Peter Coulson (@petercoulson), Adam Adolphus (@adam_adolphus), Alexandra Cameron (@alex_cameron), Steve McCurry (@stevemccurryofficial), Lee Jeffries (@lee_jeffries), Sean Archer (@sean_archer_photo)

How did it feel to have your work included in the Smithsonian exhibit "A Day In The Life of Asian America?"

That was the first time I realized that I can make an impact with photography. I can be part of the ether that encompasses the visual narrative. For it to be present in a space like the Smithsonian exhibit meant that my work can speak without me being there. Thankful for the opportunity to be selected and I hope to do a lot more projects along those lines.

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What's coming up for Snap Pilots in 2016?

Projects, projects, projects. I am trying to line up more portrait work with more models to add to my portfolio. I have a few ideas on various series I want to do with portraits, movement, and street photography. Planning on tapping into fashion, mainly Men's fashion photography. I am also slated to work on a Photo-Documentary Project with the Lao Community in San Diego. For Jacob and film, there will be a few dance projects that we'd like to create. I will also dab more into cinemagraphs and color grading various videos / photos. There will be a few gear purchases as well.

What cameras are you shooting with these days?

I shoot with a Canon 6D and two Zeiss lenses; Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 T Planar and Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO Sonnar. That's my base go-to set for shooting everything I do.

What's a camera you're saving up for?

I'm waiting to hear from Canon to see what they are offering for 2016. I'm interested in a Canon 6D Mark 2 or their current Canon 5DSr offering.

What's your advice for families taking holiday photos?

Hire a photographer so you won't have to stress about self timers and the sporadic nature of children. If not, then here are a few tips:

  • Think about the colors you want to present. Make sure the colors compliment each other. It's best to have only a few colors during the shoot rather than a bunch that don't match well together.
  • Make sure you have a clean background so that your family is the center of attention in a photo. Get rid of distractions in the background.
  • If you're using holiday lights in the background, it's best to stick with one color. If you want to use multiple, stil ensure they don't distract from your family.
  • If you don't have lighting equipment to shoot and you want something indoors, try to use window light in a big living room, especially if you're shooting mid-day.
  • For outdoor shooting, look up the times for when the Sun is about to rise or about to set. These two times of the day are called "Golden Hour", it is when the Sun gives soft lighting that is quite beautiful. Avoid shooting in the middle of the day if you are not in the shade! You'll get harsh shadows and the faces in the photos will not be as flattering.
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What are some of the things you think we still need to document in the Lao community, visually?

We need to capture the plurality of Lao America. Our experiences may be parallel, but how we choose to live with what we have can be so different. It would be good to capture how unique we are even among our community. You have artist, writers, scientists, engineers, farmers, different religious backgrounds, dancers, and many others. We need to ensure to the world that Lao America is not tied to static traditions, but it is alive and breathing through many interpretations. The range of personalities, creativity, and cultural richness is huge

Photographers on both ends of the spectrum need to thrive in their respective spaces. What I mean is, we still need to archive our culture through photographing people, events, ceremonies, and what is considered home. On the other end, we also need to push the boundaries for what is visually accepted as "Lao". Photography can be as realistic as it is unrealistic and those boundaries can be played with. We just have make sure we know what we want to capture is either more for art, or cultural preservation. We can do both definitely.

Right now, folks are documenting a lot of Lao New Years, Lao events, weddings, and religious ceremonies. It would also be good to capture fashion, new or old. It would also be good to document different people in the community as a form of visual narrative of who we are and what we do.

Be sure to visit Snap Pilots at: http://www.snappilots.com Don't forget to get a copy of Krysada Panusith Phounsiri's debut book, "Dance Among Elephants."

Sahtu Press