Whitehot Magazine

February 2008, Interview with Mariko Ogawa of Team Lofi

Gala Knörr, Bohemian Inc. Rainbow Friends, 2007, colour photograph, courtesy of Team Lofi, Paris

Gala Knörr interviews Mariko Ogawa, founder of Team Lofi

One fine Parisian winter night, I found myself sitting in one of those so-called “indie” bars in Paris named the “Pop In”. Ever since I moved to the city of lights, I found myself going there religiously. I could not find a bar in Paris that spoke a language I knew but, the "Pop In" played sixties rock and roll records at its Sunday night parties. On one of those sixties nights after a couple years of building myself as a young artist and learning French, I was at a table with a pint of the best cheap fresh beer when my friend Sara Hay came to tell me a story in a nervous manner: “Oh my god! You will not believe what my eyes have witnessed. I was sitting with friends at a table when I saw this Japanese girl kung fu fight a drunk French man trying to violently attack his girlfriend”. I knew I had to meet this brave woman. Her name was Mariko Ogawa; she was a petite Japanese girl wearing a flowered dress in the style of the summer of love. She spoke English with the sweetest Japanese accent that made everyone smile. Since that night where she confronted the evil forces of a drunken man, we became buddies. Time passed and our circle of friends grew into a group of international creative artists. Our practice includes: DJ gigs, concerts, art exhibitions and movies. I soon discovered that Mariko was a very shy photographer with a torrent of talent hiding in her dark room.

After I had my first solo art show in the Spring, I left for my home country and when I checked my email, I saw that Mariko had sent me an invitation to be part of something she called “Team Lofi”. I decided to discover the possibility of meeting strangers that used, and shared a love for vintage and toy cameras like Mariko and I did.

Mariko Ogawa, untitled, 2007 color photograph courtesy Team Lofi, Paris

GK- How did you get the idea of creating Team Lofi?

MO- I was feeling like a misfit during my time in art (film) school, and after finishing school I had to (enter) a world where the connections you have rule your career. 90% of the art exhibited in the famous galleries in Paris sucks. It's scary to imagine how important your connections are. I found and met most of the photographers of Team Lofi on Flickr. They take the good photos (sic). I want to believe that good work can prevail. It was my motivation to create the group.

 Sylvia Kochinski, Bones, 2007, colour photograph, courtesy of Team Lofi, Paris

I am glad to see that you did not pick me for my extraordinary good looks haha…What do you think Team Lofi is becoming?

MO- Actually we are total strangers to each other. There is some difficulty to push a collective project forward with people you don’t know well, and therefore we are having some reality-based issues. I think all of us have the same motivation and interest, so I hope to find a way to bring us closer together. The other day I discussed with my painter friend about how to survive as an artist and we agreed that the act of creation becomes ART only when exhibited. Otherwise it remains as a hobby or something personal. To make an exhibition includes business and it's boring, but we have to be strict about it. As for myself, I'd love to go out shooting with the other members when any of them are in Paris. I like their works a lot and it would be cool to do it together.

 Mariko Ogawa, untitled, 2007 color photograph courtesy Team Lofi, Paris

As for your own work, what do your photos explore? What feelings or ideas?

I'm not conceptual about photography. The ideas come first naturally and the thoughts follow it. When I shoot a movie, it's the absolute opposite and making a movie is stressful. I like both of them, but I definitely have much fun in photography. It reminds me of the walk in my childhood with my grandfather, he was teaching me haiku when we walked around. By the way, I got bored of self-portraits. I began to work on slow shutter and multiple exposures lately.

 Gala Knörr, Nonchalant Erik, 2007, colour photograph,
  courtesy of Team Lofi, Paris

GK- That’s cool, I have been exploring multiple exposures but most of my photos have turned out like a bad acid trip. I like your self-portraits; it makes me feel like I’m interacting with a ghost, I find them rather captivating. Why did you use yourself as a model in the past years?

MO- Well, I blame my friends to be so alcoholic (sic). Have we ever met without any bottle of wine? I'm always afraid of losing my camera or breaking it when I'm wasted. It’s a vicious cycle, I take photos when I'm sober and it's always when I'm by myself. I'm definitely interested in having a model, so please contact me if you want to be in my photos. I'll appreciate so much (sic).

 Sylvia Kochinski, Saabsaab, 2007, colour photograph courtesy of Team Lofi, Paris

GK- How did you manage to find places to make exhibitions?

My charm? Seriously I just met the right people to get some help.

GK- I am still sad that I had to fly to New York the night our show opened, how was the first Team Lofi exhibition?

It took place at La Miroiterie, an artists’ squat in 20th of Paris, a chaotic district. Our exhibition opening party was held on the same night as a punk concert at La Miroiterie. Usually, the door to the exhibition room is different from the one to the concert room, but they arranged it in a way that all the people that were going to see the band mingled with the artsy visitors before going into the concert room... People stayed in the exhibition room because of the free booze, and it was warm and friendly. I think the most positive part of Paris is that it's small. I heard some quite nice feedback from the unexpected punk rocking visitors afterwards.

 Gala Knörr, Russian Lady, 2007, colour photograph, courtesy of Team Lofi, Paris

GK- How did you feel about showing with a heavy metal band?

MO- Hell yeah!

GK- hahaha Rock & Roll!

Mariko Ogawa, untitled, 2007 color photograph courtesy Team Lofi, Paris

Team LoFi represents about ten different nationalities and is composed of photographers that like Mariko find themselves too shy to show that their magic is real. The collective works similar to the old school motto, “today for you, tomorrow for me” . In this way Team Lofi has opened the doors to their first exhibition in the oldest artists’ squat in Paris: La Miroiterie. Eight team lofiers entrusted their work to Mariko, who put the show together, breaking the geographical barriers that stopped most of the showing artists from spreading their visions and cosmic vibrations. Because at the end like Tennessee Williams once wrote we all “depend on the kindness of strangers”.


Gala Knorr

Gala Knörr was born in 1984 in the Basque Country, Spain. She lived in London during her last two High School years, and coursed her studies in Art & Design in Richmond University in London for a year. The following year she moved to Paris and graduated from Parsons School of Design with a BFA Fine Arts. In the past four years in Paris she has been involved in various art shows as an artist and curator. She also started the DJ collective "Bohemian Inc." famous for celebrating the neverending life of rock & roll music, and became part of "Team Lofi" (an International Photo Collective that uses vintage cameras). On April 2007, her first solo art show "TURN ON TUNE IN" opened its doors with great success. In words of Calvin Johnson (K Records founder & Beat Happening's famous baritone) "all of Paris is weeping because it has been too many centuries of hard work to attract a Gala Knörr to it's shores, now the time has come and such a relief is felt, deep inside." Currently Knörr lives and works between southern Spain and the french capital. gala_knorr@mac.com

Website: http://web.mac.com/gala_knorr

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