Danish-American photographer Charlie Rubin takes photographic image-making into an expanded field of motifs, processes, and psychic feel. Working across classical portraiture, publishing, and painterly post-production, his work creatively reflects upon the changing notion of photography after its digital revolution, and asks how it relates to our contemporary social spirit. He recipient of the Foam Talent award from the Foam Museum in Amsterdam in 2013, which enabled him to publish Strange Paradise in 2014, a book of photographs and collages that “explored American anxiety and lethargy.” Currently preparing for an upcoming show John Doe Gallery in New York, we sit down with Rubin to discuss photo manipulation, meditation, and entropy.
How did you initially discover photography? Do you remember what attracted you to it?
it was the easiest and most direct way for me to express a certain composition.
What do you think is the status of photography today – after the digital turn?
It’s so boring! The technology is such that everyone is an amazing photographer, so it’s hard for any image to stand out to me anymore, it’s gotta be a special one.
Photography serves many functions – the documentaristic, the abstract, the promotional – how does this inform your practice?
Somehow these all get blended together and I use different aesthetics from either side of the aisle influencing the other depending on the commission or art piece.
Do you draw distinctions between your work?
Yes I consider everything that’s not my artwork “commercial work” or “commissions.” Even though my aesthetic comes through it’s always more of a collaboration with the subject/editor/stylist.
Tell me about the photo manipulation processes that serve as kind of layers on top of your motifs. How are they conceived? Do you move between the digital, the analogue, and how does post-production look like for you?
Yes I move between digital and analog fluidly. I use different inks on photographic negatives and prints and re-scan them, although I don’t think it’s important how they are formed, it takes away from the magic of the final result when one questions how they were made. I initially started painting on my photographs because they were beginning to lose their meaning and importance.
Initially I’ll have an image in my mind that I want to create, work from that mood. Once I have a couple of anchor images for a project I will use that to solidify my concept and work further on other pieces with similar sentiments.
I think I always return to a visualization of a change in culture / creating a fantasy / exploding and breaking down the reality of a photograph.
During the time I was making that book I was focused on the watershed moment of analog to digital.. An american complacency + anxiety. Now we live in a completely different world so naturally the images I’m making are transformed a bit. I suppose I’m using the same image making methods in alternative ways now.
Tell me about your upcoming show at John Doe. What will you be presenting?
It’s a two person show with the painter Michael Chandler curated by Grace Noh. It’s going to be mostly older work from 2012-2014, with a few new gems sprinkled in. I’m excited by the opportunity to share the work though because I’ve never showed it properly in New York. It’s also nice to be paired up with a painter because we’re working with some of the same themes of uneasiness, entropy, meditation, mystery but from two different angles.