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Art & Life with James Kao

Today we’d like to introduce you to James Kao.

James, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
My journey as a photographer began with a breaching whale. Back in 2007, I took a trip to the Galapagos Islands, and our boat was cruising between islands when the captain shouted: “whale off starboard bow!”. I had a small digital point-and-shoot and aimed it wherever I saw the whale suddenly launch out of the sea, but it was too slow to capture anything, leaving me with only maybe a tail or splash of water as evidence. The guy next to me had the latest DSLR and was firing away, later showing me his great shots…that did it, I had to get a better camera and learn how to use it. I was always artistic and creative but just never got into photography in the age of film as I didn’t like breathing chemical fumes or sending out and waiting for film development. Once I finally bought my first DSLR, a Canon 50D, I was hooked, and photography became an all-encompassing passion, first as a hobby then as my second career.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
When I started in photography, I quickly gravitated towards shooting travel and sports as those were the things I have always been most passionate about. I also used my lens for social and environmental good by documenting projects for several NGOs, such as a turtle conservation project in Costa Rica. For my travel work, I like to tell stories of people and the places they go as well as drawing attention to the impacts of humans on the natural environment. I hope my images inspire people to get out and explore our world, to open their minds and hearts to other cultures different from their own, and to protect those things that are quickly vanishing from the planet. For my sports work, I like to focus on the character of the athletes that I am portraying. I want viewers to feel the emotions and challenges faced by the athletes who give it their all to succeed and win.

What responsibility, if any, do you think artists have to use their art to help alleviate problems faced by others? Has your art been affected by issues you’ve concerned about?
Artists have always been free thinkers and have something to say about the world that they live in. I think now that artists have a greater responsibility as information transfer is instantaneous, and artists can wield great power in their ability to influence how people think, especially with social media. I think this is why artists are always the ones that are first suppressed by autocratic governments. My work is not political in nature, so I feel free to express myself through it, but the events and issues of today do have an effect. I travel extensively abroad but avoid zones of conflict or am prevented from visiting certain places by my own government for political reasons or safety concerns. I would like to use my art more to affect positive change and have given permission to several environmental nonprofits to use my work free of charge.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
I have a website, jameskaofoto.com. I also am active on Instagram, @jameskaofoto. Occasionally I will exhibit work at local shows and am always looking for opportunities to display my work. People can support my work by following me on Instagram and also purchasing my images. I sell work through my website and also can print anything that one sees there. Additionally, I am a contributor to a number of magazines such as Trail Runner and Locale and have been featured in Triathlete. As a photographer, I also can create custom work for clients for their personal branding or business marketing.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Tomasz Jakubowski – Personal photo
James Kao

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