For as long as she can remember, Director’s Choice winner Kristianne Koch has had an incredibly strong connection to the ocean. In 2000 she and her now-husband set sail from the San Diego area to voyage across the Pacific. The journey was unexpectedly rough, necessitating one of the pair to keep watch at all times. By the time they reached their destination, however, Koch had gained a deeper connection with the ocean. “I didn't consider how significant the ocean has always been for me as an artist until I sailed across the Pacific. Years ago I was embarrassed to have it influence my work because it's so cliché, but now it's such an integral part of who I am ‒ just like photography is ‒ and I'm proud of it.”
Growing up in a small surf town in California Koch honed her photography skills on the beach. Though she now appreciates growing up in a sleepy coastal town, Koch originally rejected her hometown, moving as far east as Colorado for a while. “I was turned around and couldn’t get my bearings – my inspiration went flat. The coastline is my baseline.” After having a child and eventually moving back to the Pacific coast, she grew to appreciate the culture and attitudes that her town embodies. She loves the familial feeling of the community, but even that is not close enough to the ocean for her. “The ultimate goal is to live on a boat that takes me from coastline to coastline all over the world – it fits in with my pursuit of freedom.”
Her winning image, Tiputa Pass Dive is part of a new artistic direction. Due to a chance accident on her sailing adventure she began to explore underwater photography. Their boat ran aground, and Koch photographed the damaged hull while and husband inspecting it. Six months later she arrived home, processed the film and discovered her favorite image from the entire trip was taken that day. The photograph was widely exhibited and has inspired most of her current water work. “It was the a-ha moment that I could merge my passions for the ocean and fine art photography.” This revelation has shaped her definition of success:
Director's Choice: Tiputa Pass Dive
I believe success in art is when you are honestly expressing who you really are and you are able to create authentic work consistently over the course of many, many years. Success is also allowing your mentors and your peers help guide you along your path. I feel truly successful that I have been able to stay passionate and true to myself as an artist over the course of 25 years and I have many wonderful people to thank for their guidance and support during all of that time.
While her aquatic environment is perhaps the largest influence in her work, Koch is drawn to a variety of genres and sustains a successful commercial career. On creating her own work, she says, “it comes down to expressing recurring concepts in a fresh way because I like to be challenged by a new process. Each time I work in a different genre it reveals another part of myself as an artist. The main themes in my work are holding on and letting go and being vulnerable yet capable.”
At the Edge
Voyages is on view through December 28, 2013.