Greg Kahn was drawn towards photography from a young age. As early as high school, he found that the medium helped him overcome his shyness and reach out of his comfort zone into the surrounding world. Assistant editor Alexander Strecker contacted Kahn to find out more about his work on the project “3 Millimeters.”
How did you first become interested in the Eastern Shore of Maryland? How did the project and your approach develop over time?
I started this project soon after moving to Washington D.C. I was researching the area and stumbled across a 30-page PDF from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. It contained a lot of data on sea level rise and the specific effects on the land. If those numbers held true, parts of Maryland wouldn’t exist in another century. There is a historic culture on the Eastern Shore that I want everyone to better understand. People need to know what’s at stake.
My project began with landscapes of the area. I wanted the viewer to feel the vastness and quiet of the land and the bay that is growing each year. Then I moved in to start exploring the communities along the coastline. I wanted an honest representation of what life was like for these fishing villages that are slowly drowning.
You call yourself a documentary fine art photographer—can you explain a bit more?
Journalism is the cornerstone of what I do. I think my projects work because they are grounded in non-fiction storytelling. That includes my portraiture work as well. The key for me is being honest with the viewer. I want to ask tough questions about real issues, not tell everyone how they should think. In “3 Millimeters,” the seriousness of the story is based on the beauty of the culture and the land. Again, showing the area’s struggles doesn’t mean the photos have to be hard to look at. I want people to ponder the images, think about the situation on the Eastern Shore. Photographs that leave an imprint in someone’s mind will accomplish more in the long run than photos that simply explain.
What are photography’s great strengths in your mind? What about its biggest challenges?
Photography has the ability to connect people in ways that other mediums don’t. I think the viewer’s knowledge that what is captured in the frame truly existed at one time has great power and influence. And I think I see that influence is growing as imagery becomes more ubiquitous in our society. The internet has been huge in extending the reach of photography—what were once shown only in a few galleries can now be seen on computers across the world.
The ubiquity is both a gift and a curse. I think being inundated with photographs everyday can water down the whole medium. But truly thoughtful work will always stand out. It’s not about filters or gimmicks or the latest camera. It’s about the artist’s idea and the execution of that idea.
—Greg Kahn, as told to Alexander Strecker
Exhibition of all 50 LensCulture Emerging Talents: Barcelona, October 13-31
Greg Kahn’s work, along with photographs from ALL the LensCulture Emerging Talents was shown in an exhibition at the Galeria Valid Foto in Barcelona.
The winners were also featured at photo festival screenings in Dublin, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Korea, Tokyo and Amsterdam.