The term “Americana” conjures visions of dusty pickup trucks, black velvet Elvis paintings, and backwoods diners with weak coffee and homemade apple pie. Americans from the US, though, tend to forget the entire Western hemisphere is technically “American,” though the popularity of apple pie may vary throughout. Photographer Lukas Horch, who lives and works on western Canada’s tiny Mayne Island, wants to reclaim a piece of the Americana pie using his contemporary brand of “road trip” photography.
Horch, who goes by Muli and Hase professionally, values honesty and avoids everything phony. “I try to capture characters, scenes, and ‘still lifes’ that are authentically against the norm or that sparkle with gritty magic,” he says of his work. Documenting everything from tree planters in biodiverse British Columbia to festival-goers on Norway’s rocky coastal islands, Horch strives for a new visual encyclopedia of self-discovery. While there are plenty of wide-angle landscape shots and portraits of red-eyed diner patrons, Horch’s view is broader than what he can see from his dashboard.
“My work is a mashup of people, places, and things,” he writes in his artist statement. “Trying to find the grungy magic in the in-between places and the in-between people, showing the authentic characters while simultaneously exposing the artificial.” Joy rides are part of the journey, but Horch also infuses his work with small, intimate moments that feel uncomfortably personal, as though we’ve stumbled on a penetrating conversation between two friends. At the same time, his work tackles the modern concerns of everyday people. There’s alcoholism, debt, and the faded remnants of some kind of dream, American or otherwise. But there’s also eco-anxiety, urban decay, and true connection in the midst of 21st century alienation.
Horch acknowledges these connections are fleeting, and treasures them all the more for it.“Ideally I try to find a story unfolding, capture it, and never resolve it, leaving amidst the action,” he notes. “I like to wonder what happens to these people afterwards, but I enjoy not knowing. I want to share, through my photography, the lifelong treasure hunt of these moments.”
In Today’s Q+Art Interview…
Lukas Horch of Muli and Hase discusses the trials and tribulations of operating your own business, daring to play when modern life seems mundane, and the influence of travel on his work.
What's your biggest barrier to being an artist?
M&H: My biggest barrier is finding the time to travel, meet people, and take photographs while owning and operating my own business to make money for those very things. In the end, I’m my own biggest barrier, not making enough time.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
M&H: I don’t.
What does success mean to you as an artist?
M&H: Success in a non-monetary sense is to look at my photography in a truthful sense. Getting photos back from the developers, and I not only captured the moment but also up to my quality standards. A lot of people put work out that they may not even believe in, but still put it out there for the show.
What role does the artist have in society?
M&H: I always hope that artists can retain the playfulness that people outgrow, and become a counterpart to the mundane modern life.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
M&H: From working as a pizza delivery boy to factory work on a conveyor belt at a printing press to night shifts in a hostel, I always find something great about the jobs I’ve worked, even if the work wasn’t glorious. Of course every job has their shitty parts, but the people I meet along the way always make it worth it. It's a mentality thing.
Have you ever turned down an opportunity? Why?
M&H: The biggest opportunity I turned down was while traveling in Panama. I met a man doing yacht deliveries and he asked if I’d like to sail with him on his catamaran down to Australia. I turned it down to go back to Germany to finish my bachelors degree. I think about that decision a lot and where I might’ve ended up if I had gone.
What are you working on that you’re excited about right now?
M&H: Currently I’m working on restoring a 1980 AMC Eagle car. It's a bit of a four-wheel-drive, Mad Max mashup, but in the end it’ll be a nice rat rod that I can take on trips. Im looking forward to continuing my hitchhiking portrait project and meeting more new people in this car.
What do you do to maintain your mental health?
M&H: A 12-pack of cold Coronas, a good playlist, and working on my Eagle.
What do you dislike about the art world? How would you change it if you could?
M&H: My biggest dislike about the art world is how inflational it is. It seems that everyone is an artist in one way or another. But more and more often, I find people are focused on the status or achieving the persona of an artist and less on honing in on their craft. I’ve also experienced a lot of narcissism, but to change these things in the art world, you’d have to change people, and I find the only way to do that is to have a positive effect on people.
How does your geographical location affect your work and/or success?
M&H: Living on a small island is tough for me in a photography sense. Here, I'm surrounded by nature which is great, but only gives me so much in terms of creativity. I feel the most inspired when exploring urban areas, finding magic amongst the bustle, and when meeting people. On Mayne Island it's impossible to be anonymous, which can hinder the way I take photographs. My goal is to use this place as a home base and travel out from here as often as I can.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. All photos published with permission of the artist.
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