" We are from everywhere and yet nowhere at all. So whenever people ask me the question 'what are you?', it was hard to answer when you’re a mix of a lot of things, especially when you don’t even know where to call home."
KE Zhang: Would you like to share with us how or if you bring your diverse family background and personal identity into your works?
Kai Hough: Sure! I would love to! My family’s background is as you say, “complicated” and a bit funny because we either lived or visited almost everywhere. To keep it clear-cut, as a person of multi-cultural background and being half-American, I was born in Killeen, Texas before it became how it is today to a mixed American father and a mixed British mother from Grenada, both of whose backgrounds are already so vast. Them meeting each other made the complex community of our family grow more and produced my younger brothers and me! We are from everywhere and yet nowhere at all. So whenever people ask me the question “what are you?”, it was hard to answer when you’re a mix of a lot of things, especially when you don’t even know where to call home. Fitting in and feeling homesick was never something I could properly understand, but the constant moving around to different places made me attached to film and seeing the world. To be honest, in my works, I like to tell a story not just about my personal identity, but also about the definition of home and identity that are shared not only by me but also by multiple individuals that are also unsure of the meaning of home in hand with questions of their own identity and their desire to find a place where they belong and transform it to wanderlust and have the experience to capture themselves living within the work grasping that sense of wonder and belonging.
Connected, Photography & Graphic Design
KE Zhang: As digital artists, how do you define the term “connect” in the late pandemic period?
Kai Hough: I love the term “Connect”, I feel that it is a term that’s tangible and yet unquantifiable due to the late pandemic period. From the physical perspective, it’s timeless. Being able to connect and reconnect with others, a place you’ve visited before or even everyday occurrences as we look back in the mirror in the physical form, the experience gives that memory substance. From a digital perspective, it’s possible with social media to help us be able to connect with other people nearby and around the world. And it’s funny because we never stop to think about how achievable it is for us to communicate! By waking up the black mirrors we carry, we pass the barriers of distance, and now with the advent of auto-translate, language, as we scroll through the content that is exposed to us and we digest it to get lost within it. As a digital media artist, it always puts a smile on my face to communicate and connect with other artists and admirers of the medium and create priceless memories that can be treasured and through them, it’s funny to say it, but I begin to experience the beauty of the world through a different lens of their eyes.
Great Expectation, Photography
KE Zhang: You graduated from SAIC last semester. Do you encounter any difficulties when you make your pass from school to society? What’s the result or the solution you made?
Kai Hough: Oh boy, this is a fun question! Hahahaha After graduation, the transition from college to society, especially during the current status of this pandemic, I wasn’t entirely ready for it and it staying honest, it has made a number of challenges, including work, and travel, but the most difficult challenge is finding inspiration when facing those difficulties. After graduation, I went on to work in New York City and Long Island to do film and post-production editorial work before I returned to Chicago. The result of my move to New York, made me realize my boundaries and my morals regarding what content I am comfortable making because I wasn’t happy, so the solution I made to combat this that was to stay true to myself and see the challenge clearly to find a different way to keep moving forward. Màs o menos, you can say that it steered the pathway of my career as an artist and the search of finding a place to call home to come back to Chicago!
KE Zhang: Would you like to share with us the story behind the very impressive photography project “Rabbit”?
Kai Hough: This project has quite a cute story behind it! It actually happened when helped my family move to Maryland, I noticed that we had a family of rabbits in our yard. No matter how many times our dog tries to go play with them, they’ll run away to hide and thought it’ll be cute to photograph the baby rabbits and it strangely started from there. When I moved back to Chicago from NYC, I missed listening to the waves of the water I was photographing on the beaches of the city. My colleague asked if they could join me and bring their pet. I assumed it was a dog or maybe a cat, but when they brought a rabbit instead! I was surprised and I couldn’t help but laugh, because the pure absurdity of seeing something so simple yet wonderful moving along with the pastel colors of the waterfront and sand towards me to pick it up, made me smile. After that, I started diving deeper into reading and doing research on the meaning of rabbits. In some cultures, they are tricksters known for their luck and curiosity, while following them you will find yourself in the middle of extraordinary situations. My experience of randomly being in wondrous moments from traveling around made me think deeper about the definition of where home could be for me and the experiences I could share and being born from a lucky situation of two extraordinary people in being able to connect with each other holds a sanctuary within their hearts. From this, it sparked my interest in further developing the project Rabbit.
KE Zhang: Do you want to tell us more about media utilization and your comprehension of the difference between intuitive impulse and well-thoughtful actions during your making process?
Kai Hough: When it comes to photography it’s a mixture of both the intuitive impulse in order to capture the moments of time, but it does take a well-thoughtful action in order to see everything that you’ve taken and be able to connect the dots and when there are chances that are in the moment your mind finds it connecting to your idea unexpectedly and/ or it may create new ones and so forth and it leads into my making process method. Within my making process, I do a variety of different methods, but out of all of them, I always write down everything that I digest from films, books, and thoughts I have and go back to look at them later. Whenever I do my photography, I see it the same as how I watch and make films and write down the question I put next to my ideas “is my idea a topic or a story?” Able to write or even type down your ideas helps make the process so much easier because, at the end of the day, it all comes from having an idea and a dream to make the project possible and being able to go back to see where it has begun to where it leads to end result, even if the idea is good or bad is worth it.
INTERVIEWER: KE ZHANG
CURATOR: KE ZHANG, WANTONG YAO
EDITOR: WANTONG YAO, KE ZHANG
GRAPHIC DESIGNER: YUXUAN WEI
Kai Hough is a British-American contemporary cinema-photographer, filmmaker, and travel research-based artist. He received his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2021) with a merit scholarship, specialising in Photography and Film. His work is rooted in his passion and research in filmmaking and advertisement and combining the relationship between cinematography and photography into an intertwined system that's shown within his body of work that challenges the difficulties of love, technology and the representation of self and belonging.