Artist Feature: Sam Prekop
For our third "Artist Feature" we have the pleasure of speaking to Chicago-based musician/photographer, Sam Prekop. Sam is what I would call an urban-based documentary photographer with a particular focus on capturing mundane or intimate city blocks, which are mostly void of people. And musically he is an electronic/analog synth based producer whose body of work is very abstract. Here is his latest record and our conversation:
As some one who has published photo books do you find there is any similarity in the sequencing process between a photo book and a record? And is your sequencing in both cases concerned more with narrative or with intuition? In other words, are you trying to tell a story or create some thing more abstract and interpretive?
SP: Sequencing is important to both mediums, but I try not to over work it and hope that the "best" sequence arrives somehow, perhaps mysteriously. I am always hoping the sequencing feels somewhat effortless. I'd say I am guided primarily by intuition, and developing or illustrating a narrative is not my interest. However, I am not opposed to someone reading into the work as though there could be a narrative and I feel the best work hints at that possibility.
Listening to your music and looking at your photographic works it is clear that there is a strong analog presence. Has this always been the case? And what role does that play in both your music and photography?
SP: I am afraid of coming off as some sort of "analog" purist, but in both mediums analog just feels right. However, the modular synthesizer I use involves a fair amount of digital control and sound elements. For me the most important facet of "analog" is the tactile aspect of the instrument. In my photography I have shot a fair amount digitally and it's excellent in certain situations, but somehow the digital photos just don't quite look right or natural to me. Color is an important subject to me and film just seems to expose and organize it more beautifully.
You seem to have a passion for documenting the neighborhoods and settings in Chicago. With such a documentary style do you find it challenging creating a narrative between images to tell a story?
SP: I wouldn't say I am a "documentary" photographer in any classic sense. I admit that I treat Chicago more as a framework to focus my ideas and aesthetic. The documentary aspect is more a by-product of the medium and not exactly my goal. However, I'm also not really interested in transforming what's in front of the camera and appreciate a clear "documentary" style. I am mostly interested in the challenge of organizing and making choices within the frame when considering all the possibilities. I've always thought of myself as an abstract painter who takes photos. It's a matter of developing a specific visual language while having it be expressive. I was raised in Chicago so its visual presence is part of my DNA and I feel I am able to make my best work here. Hopefully I am so familiar with my environment that I'm able to expose aspects of it that no one else would see.
Has balancing your musical and photographic creations come naturally or do you find you spend part of the year on one medium and the other part on the other?
SP: I naturally move back and forth between the two but there is some overlap. I started making photographs while on tour and of course still do. Performing live and taking photos on tour is really different from writing and making a record. And the same could be said for working on a concentrated body of photographs. So I'd say it's a lot easier!
What role does the city of Chicago play in both your music and your photography besides setting?
SP: I've been here so long I feel I'm unable to really comprehend what my creative life would be without Chicago. Basically I would make different work if I wasn't here. It's as simple as that.
Do you have any projects that combine your music and photography talents? And if not, any plans to combine the two in some way?
SP: Well my first book came with a CD, but it was somewhat of an afterthought and the two weren't really conceived at the same time. I think it worked out ok but I was worried about diminishing the nuance of the book by attempting to integrate music. However, not too long ago I did a talk and slide show of photos followed by a modular synth performance and I think the the lecture/performance illuminated qualities of each of my pursuits that wouldn't have been recognized any other way. Perhaps I could further develop a "multi-media" performance some day.
Thank you Sam for sharing your work with us. It was fascinating to hear some of what your process is like balancing your music and photography. If you want to see more of Sam's photography on his instagram: @1Sampre
-David Rothschild 2016