Inspired by American iconography and the new topographics movement, Urth Art artist Dino Kužnik has carved out a distinct style in the photography space, one of desert backdrops, pastel colour pops and manmade motifs.
Words and Photography by Dino Kužnik
Urth Art presents a look into the creative world of Dino Kužnik, a Slovenian photographer whose images explore the symbiotic relationship between human development and the environment. Watch Dino’s Meet The Artist video below and read our interview with Dino to get more acquainted with his artistic practice.
Hey Dino, can you introduce yourself?
I’m Dino Kužnik, I’m a Slovenian photographer based in New York City. I work in quite a few different fields of photography, but I’m mostly focused on developing my personal body of work. This revolves around documenting the American west, which falls into the domain of landscape, architectural, documentary and observational photography, and slightly touches the new topographics movement here and there.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a young country called Slovenia, which declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, and opened the gates to westernization. This is why a lot of my subject matter is based on American iconography.
When did you first get into photography?
I was introduced to photography by my grandfather when I was a kid. He introduced me to his vast collection of National Geographic magazines that he started collecting as a student all the way back in the 1960s. This was the first time I saw that you can inform, change minds and opinions, and evoke emotions through photographs. But it wasn’t until college, when I walked the whole summer so I could afford my first digital SLR that I started to take it more seriously. I was totally consumed by photography and soon after that started working as a journalistic photographer, studio assistant and a retoucher.
What made you want to become a photographer?
Since I can remember I was always a very visual person. I’ve always loved illustration, design, arts etc, and photography just felt like an extension of those – an extension of my creativity. But maybe the most exciting or attractive part for me was when I saw incredible creative visions come to life through the medium of photography, and how a photography series can tell a very compelling story that can influence people’s hearts and minds. That’s when I knew I wanted to be involved in photography in some sort of way.
“When I work on my personal projects I am mostly guided by my intuition.”
How has your career developed over the years?
When I started photographing for the first time, my photography was basically all over the place. With years and experience, I developed a recognizable style, and got a lot more focused. But most importantly, I figured out what brings me joy and boosts my creativity. I also learnt a big lesson – what projects to say no to and which people I do like to work with.
How has your work evolved?
My work evolved organically by photographing a lot, by researching artists I like, visiting exhibitions, buying photo books, and talking to people in the industry. But primarily because of trial and error. It’s hard to describe how it evolved aesthetically because this was a very subconscious development, but you will definitely progress if you love something and just basically do it a lot.
What does art mean to you? What do you love most about art?
Art means quite literally everything to me. Creativity is the force that guides me and art is a product of creativity. But only attaching the word love to art is not okay in my opinion, because making art can sometimes bring other emotions, maybe even emotions with a negative connotation, but still important ones like hate, fear, maybe anxiety. But the process itself is something I love, no matter the emotion.
What inspires your work? Where do you go to find inspiration?
I have a lot of facets of inspiration, sometimes it can be a conversation, maybe just an emotion. A photobook, a song, a movie I just watched or just a memory. Basically I find inspiration all around me. I feel like curiosity in general, in things you don’t know about, can definitely bring a wave of new inspiration.
“This is why I love photographing – to see, to experience and to feel. If an observer can get just a piece of that by looking at my work, I feel fulfilled.”
What does your creative process look like?
When I work on my personal projects I am mostly guided by my intuition. It’s basically just the attraction to subjects that I photograph, it’s a very basic instinct. Whatever I feel that stimulates me enough to be photographed, I photograph it.
I usually road trip alone as this is the way I can focus – only observing without any distractions. I feel this is the way of working that is very therapeutic, it acts as my psychiatrist basically. But lately I’ve started to change how I go about projects, I’m getting more focused and very selective. Although the feeling of just wandering the desert is very attractive to me and I’ll definitely do it for the rest of my life.
Can you speak about the most powerful work you’ve ever made?
I’m sorry but that is a near impossible question for me to answer.
What impact do you hope your work will have on other people?
When people look at my personal work, I hope they will feel some of the emotions I felt when taking it. I hope that people can recognize my work just by looking at it, because of its distinct style. But going forward I want to be a bit more story-driven, more objective and not so self-centred as I am with my personal work. I would like to inform, warn and tell stories about people and places that don’t only fall into the realm of the American west. I feel very uncomfortable about this but I feel like I need that push out of my comfort zone to progress.
Which is your favourite piece of work you’re exhibiting with Urth Art?
I have this weird love-hate relationship with my work. I’m very self-critical and I don’t like to glorify my work, let alone pick favourites. But what I do love, is the memories that come back to me when I’m looking through the photos I’ve taken. Certain photographs bring back emotions a regular viewer couldn’t have attached to the photo, you know like a cold night at a vast canyon that was formed over millions of years, with no sound and a deep feeling of serenity and peace. These emotions are something so much more powerful to me. This is why I love photographing – to see, to experience and to feel. If an observer can get just a piece of that by looking at my work, I feel fulfilled.