Interview with photographer Uno Yi
F-Stop Magazine: How did you first become involved in photography and what led to you working in this medium as an artist?
Uno Yi: I know it will be a typical story just like other kids’ dreaming to be a war photographer. But here is the cliche: I was one of those office workers who got tired of his job. I happened to see Tim Hetherington’s Infidel and I was fascinated right away. I quit the job to be in Missouri to study photojournalism about a month later.
F-Stop: The current issue of F-Stop Magazine includes images from your project “Lost Children” can you tell us how this project came about?
UY: I spent almost a decade in the U.S. staying away from my family. I always missed my niece the most. Whenever I saw kids around her age, I could see myself getting interested in them. When I drove around the town to find a story, I happened to meet Abby playing outside the house with her siblings. Abby was curious enough to ask me what my name was, who I was, where I was from and others. I liked to hang out with her and her siblings. At the beginning, they just reminded me of my niece, but inside the house was shocking and I decided to start working on the story. Later, I found the town is full of broken families.
F-Stop: Can you discuss your process of making these pictures?
UY: As I mentioned earlier, I enjoyed hanging out with them. But it’s another issue to photograph them. I mean they are children who are ready to pose for photo shoots all the time. I needed to make sure that they got used to being around the camera. It took time but I could see the family was getting used to being around the camera and myself.
F-Stop: How did you meet the people you photographed?
UY: I saw a guy on the street with a tattoo showing a confederate flag. I asked him if he was a KKK member and he laughed at me — remember I am Asian. Later, we talked and he told me about his family. This is how I met the second family. I already told you about the first one. I approached other families in the story a bit differently. But I believe it can always be good to talk to people to find stories out of them.
F-Stop: How much time did you spend with these families as you photographed them?
UY: I think I photographed them for about 3 months. I could visit the town three time a week; but I couldn’t visit them at all in other weeks. Still, I would like to go back to see them.
F-Stop: What do you hope people experience or feel when they look at your photographs?
UY: Each viewer probably has a different reaction to it. It’s sort of something I can’t control. But I hope them to find the children in the photos are no different from their family, just as I felt about them.
F-Stop: What photographers or other artists inspire you?
UY: It’s the hardest question. I think it depends on the mood. I believe Renee C. Byer’s A Mother’s Journey is a classic. I was freaked out when I first saw Larry Sultan’s work. I should mention Tim Hetherington, Eugene Smith, Eugene Richard, Yunghi Kim, Barbara Davidson, Alex Soth, photographer friends of mine and many others. But sometimes I can find great looking snap photos on Facebook inspiring me.
F-Stop: Are you working on any other projects currently?
UY: I am currently trying to save money for the next project, picking up freelance works as a writer and a photojournalist. I am also working on a book translation. I don’t know what it is going to be about—I have too many ideas in my mind. But I would like to go to Uzbekistan or California first.
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