in conversation with KhunCouve | feature
“Because we’re all looking for the answer”
As the rain pours over the city of London, on a Saturday morning, I find myself in the warmth of photographer KhunCouve’s home/studio. Teas and breakfast are savoured while Jorja Smith’s album Lost & Found is softly playing in the background. Unfortunately, the garden built by the artist in the courtyard leading up to his apartment, is being heavily showered on. His jungle isn’t your average garden, unless you have golden eggs hiding in plants, hanging in trees, a “men at work” road sign and a basketball hoop. Oh and do you grow tomatoes? But before the grilling process also known as an interview begins, my eyes cannot help but acknowledge the human-size canvas of a golden egg sitting on the kitchen table and a box of golden eggs staring at me.
This story will indeed confirm the existence of golden eggs. Instead of craving an omelette, I suggest you rather enjoy what they represent. “I like the idea that people are golden eggs looking for a place to hatch, which is kind of what happened to me when I came here [London],” shares the photographer.
KhunCouve, which means Mr. Couve in Thai, is a human being with an ultimate level of passion for music, who’s first name will not be revealed. “It’s always music first.” The photographer isn’t particularly interested in sharing with you his age or where he’s from. But he’s French in case you were wondering. He wants to share his love for music.
“I would come back every night from shows and talk with my flatmate,” he says. The urge to share what he was witnessing every night from London’s insanely talented music scene, is what led to the beginning of The Golden Eggs.
The Golden Eggs consists of two books, ‘4:20AM’ and ‘4:20PM’ where 36 portraits are featured with a thought, a memory.
In order to understand the logic behind the names of the books, the photographer explains his obsession with the number six. “So the reason it’s 36, it’s six times six, like the number of eggs in one basket you buy in shops.” Couve explains how “4:20 was a way to make a six without a six.” But aside from a mathematical thought, the number six is also a source of inspiration and a tool for the writer within him. He stated how the number helped him built the poems in his book. Each of the poems are made out of six words and in some of them, the six words of the poem, are made out of six letters.
So, these works aren’t your everyday literature but they’re not just your coffee table photo book either. Both books feature the same content, a portrait accompanied by the song which inspired the photograph and written work presented in calligrams. Two books were made as a representation of life’s duality, the good and the bad, and simply because why not. Each of them photographed on film, all 36 musicians were captured at Couve’s home, in his jungle.
“4:20PM is when I took most of the pictures outside. 4:20AM is when I wrote the book”
The thoughts expressed through pages in the book, were the summer thoughts put into words during winter days. But before poems were written, only photographs were taken and hidden as a treasure hunt for music. “I wanted people to walk around, take the eggs and just find music that way,” explains the photographer. Before the books came together, you could find a portrait of a musician exhibited with eggs protecting a song inside them in cafes, shops and other peculiar spots around East London.
“After I did that, I still had stuff to say,” states KhunCouve.
“It’s a story in itself. The whole golden egg, is a story. But it doesn’t have an ending, beginning, middle part and chapters,” he explains. Through the written words, the idea of freeing yourself artistically or however one does is explored. KhunCouve freed himself by expressing thoughts he has which he will pass down to his kids, whenever they will come.
“As a kid, there’s always a disconnect or there’s always something you don’t understand,” he shares. Imagine reading a book your father wrote in his early twenties to find answers to questions you don’t want to ask your parents directly. He opens up by saying how “everything I do now is for the kids I’ll one day have. Even if I never had kids, it’s for the people coming next.”
We’ve all evaluated how are lives are going based on what our legacy would be up to this point. But the photographer already deeply acknowledged the sacrifices made and the hard work from one particular man who, even though is no longer present, his essence still is. This man is his paternal grand-father. A passionated, risk-taker who brought comfort and reassurance is how the photographer described the man he once knew. Still learning about him and his life through stories, the man inspires him deeply. He was a man who always cared of the endeavours and dreams of his family members and especially the grandchildren, KhunCouve being one of them.
“It's the end of the first chapter I guess.”
Thanks to grandpa Couve, the photographer found his voice and is exploring this universe he’s building one camera click at a time. So while we wait for Drake to take a seat in his garden for his golden portrait, the odds of seeing KhunCouve at a gig are higher than you think.
Tip: look for the guy dressed in navy blue and white with the classic Nike Cortez, a navy blue beanie and a Canon AE-1 around his neck. If London is blessed by the sunshine’s presence, sunglasses will be worn.
“That’s what I want to look like in the eyes of people who don’t necessarily know me.”