Shaped By The West is an ongoing photo-story series by Dino Kužnik which takes an intimate and close look at American life and its nostalgic symbols. “It is the America I got to know when growing up in Slovenia, Europe.” artist remarks. In what follows, Mr. Kužnik shares an overview of the series and his path to becoming a photographer.
My grandfather was quite influential for sparking the interest for photography in me. We would spend countless hours looking through his National Geographic collection: he subscribed in the late 50s or early 60s, so he had a lot of issues. I still remember a couple of shelves in his room were bright yellow from all the magazines up there.
I didn’t really start photographing seriously until my student days. I got my first DSLR and soon after that started working as a journalistic photographer, and studio assistant.
As a child, my dream was to be in California…
Slovenia declared independence in 1991 from Yugoslavia and became a republic. With that, the floodgates to the western world were opened and following surely behind the flood of westernization. I grew up watching movies, playing video games, listening to music and doing activities that were predominantly influenced or produced by the west.
As a child, my dream was to be in California – in our overly baggy pants we would be riding our skateboards and listening to punk rock music, going to shows, to the beach, desert and just have an amazing time. Such a carefree time, that was.
As luck would have it, I actually ended up in California. I moved there in 2013, not because of a punk rock band – but because life happened. I got a job as a Graphic Designer and moved into the tech mecca that is San Francisco. Living and travelling around California tremendously shaped my aesthetic vision and organically made me shoot in a different way Different than I would do it otherwise. By constantly taking photos I developed a style, that just came organically – but also in a big part subconsciously – It came from the past.
I have since moved to New York, but I still feel a big connection to the west of America. So much so, that I have been going back on road trips for the last 3 years. I am still very much attracted to the feeling of freedom I get whenever I return. I road trip by myself with my thoughts and a camera. This is a very therapeutic process for me and I think that shows. I put myself into my captures – my images are all me. A projection of my state of mind and a blast from a different era. Shaped all the way across the Atlantic.