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Concentrated observation: The photography of Erik Hagen

7 years ago

Erik Hagen is an American artist originally from Florida. His work has appeared in numerous group shows, both in the United States and internationally, and he was a selected participant in Review Santa Fe. Most recently, he has been recognized for his work documenting his time driving a taxi in Los Angeles; these images have been featured by Slate and Spiegel Online, among others. He is currently based in Wilmington, DE.


Hi Erik, thanks for chatting to us. Firstly, how did you get into photography?

I had always been into making art and had been in arts based schools since I was about ten. Most of my experience was in painting and drawing, particularly I loved to draw. By the time I started college I had become interested in photography, though I hadn’t practiced it much. When it came time to choose my major at RISD I was torn between photography and painting. I think someone gave me the idea that painters generally worked in the studio and photographers generally worked out in the world. That idea is overly simplistic, but I was sold on it regardless. I think that my prior experience in painting and drawing influenced my use of color and tone in photography, and helped me develop a concentration in looking at things carefully.


You say that your photography explores a central idea, that “humans pass through the world nearly as fast as the wind.” Tell us about this in more detail and how it informs your work

Yes, and along our brief journey we interact with other people, animals and the world around us. And, being humans with self-reflexive thought, we consider these interactions as we seek to understand life. My own practice of careful observation, through the medium of photography, is a method I use to seek understanding. Sometimes the photographs make me reconsider interactions, things, and places I saw and perhaps they can make others closely consider what I am showing them.


How do you approach each new project?  

Very organically. While I have ideas for projects that bounce around my head, I often stumble upon projects quite by accident. Then if I see something taking shape, I begin to pursue it in a more direct manner and grow the work.

Do you have a photographic philosophy?

Concentrated observation.


Where in the world are you and what's next for you?

I am currently located in Wilmington, DE. I am working on two book projects. One is of my project “Los Angeles,” it is a portrait of the city based largely on my experience driving a taxi there. I am trying to combine the images with a handful of short stories. I am also attempting to create a book of my Instagram images, combining the captions into the book. In both I am interested in how images and text can work together. Last, I am scanning a number of new negatives for a long-term project titled “Where I’m Calling From.”