Bowen: Ideas on Curated Reality (photos + interview)

Meet Bowen Chen !

All photos by Bowen, click to enlarge.

What has been on your mind lately?

I finished reading Potted Meat by Stephen Dunn the other day. Incredibly raw stories. I wonder if I can channel the same primal energy in my writing. Probably not. I think about my elder sister Kyouka a lot. I often write letters to her, but she never replies. I don't blame her; she only exists in my head. Oh, and also Class of 2013 by Mitski.


Tell us about building an algorithm for anime faces as simply as you can?

You start out by training this network on a whole bunch of anime faces. Like ten thousand of them. So now this network has seen more anime faces than you (or I) will in a lifetime. Then there’s this second network that generates random noise to form an image. The first network judges the image on how close it is to passing as an anime face, and gives the second network feedback. And this happens over and over, until the second network gets pretty good at generating images that resembles an anime character. And of course, this sounds way simpler than it actually is. 


What’s your favorite anime btw?

Code Geass. I cried. 



Any movies that we should see? What do you like about them?

I recently watched Wong Kar-Wai’s As Tear’s Go By and Zhang Yimou’s To Live and they are both phenomenal. As Tears Go By is this 80’s gangster-romance flick that makes you want to scream at the flawed characters and their fateful decisions. You want more than anything for a happy ending despite knowing the story will ultimately end in tragedy. To Live follows the story of a family over a generation in China during the 30’s-60’s. They suffer one misfortune after another, but keep on living through it all. It strikes a personal chord, since the circumstances mirror the settings my father grew up in. When I was younger, he would tell me stories about growing up as a rice farmer during the Cultural Revolution, but the older I grew, the less stories he told, until he stopped altogether. Since then, I’ve never once asked him about his childhood. And I don’t think I will for a long, long time. 



Dream dessert?

Coffee and vanilla Ice Cream with a slice of Strawberry Rhubarb pie. 


In what way do you think you skew reality through photos?

I see a lot of experimental photography where objects seem to morph in the presence or lack of light and shadow. Suddenly flesh becomes these organic forms that separate the page. I really admire this type of work, and would love to delve into it in the future. When you think about it, your eyes are camera obscuras – your pupils being the pinhole that reflects an image onto your retina. With an actual camera, you are curating moments and scenes you encounter or create that you have decided are worth documenting. Isn’t that crazy? For me, in a sense, my life is a series of lulls, separated by the release of a shutter. Reality is twisted – how can I present unfiltered reality in my photos, when I only capture these moments of climax? It’s a curated reality, just like how your Instagram is a curated persona. 

How does going to art school broaden your artistic perspective? how do you feel it limits your artistic perspective? 

I’m not officially enrolled at RISD, but I do take classes there. There are several benefits to art school. It teaches you technical skills: how to work this and that camera, how to set up lighting, how to digitally edit your photos. It exposes you to a lot of art history, current and past photographer’s that have made stunning work that could inspire your own work. Most importantly, you’re surrounded by people who share similar interests that you can learn and grow alongside. However, you are limited by the burden of coursework and the restriction to a certain location for three quarters of the year (Providence is definitely no New York or LA). The hours and money you shovel into school seem like an investment, and often times you begin to question whether that investment will pay off in the long run. 

Nugget of wisdom you have learned recently that you want to pass on to us? 

Believe in yourself and your abilities. You have limitless potential as long as you keep fueling your desires to accomplish whatever small or huge thing it is you’re dreaming of. 

Last person you called?

My friend Katie. I enjoy hearing their voice opposed to texting. 


Thanks bowen!! ❤︎