We visited Emile H Dubuisson in Greenpoint, Brooklyn where he showed us images from his Siberia series, as well as his recent photography and video projects. We fell for his mysterious, black and white images that he took in Russia many years ago, when he thought he ruined the film during development.
Fifteen years later, he was able to carefully scan, salvage, and finally print these eerie images, taken in Siberia’s bleak landscape. His experience working as a cinematographer is clearly evident in all of his photography – the lighting, close compositions, and emotional impact of his portraiture combine to convey a story through each still image.
NNNY: Describe your studio practice.
Emile: The images from Siberia were my first; they were taken a long time ago. When I was young and starting out working in the movie industry, I stayed in Russia for six months while working on a documentary. I bought my first camera there, and there was only one kind of black and white film available. When I processed the film, it was in the winter, so the water from the sink was very cold; half the film didn’t turn out. The negatives were very thin and underdeveloped. I was so depressed. The film was practically blank, so I put it away for fifteen years.
It’s a two-part project, since I started it a long time ago. The editing is very important to me. Back then, I wouldn’t be able to see the meaning in the images. There is a connection between the Russian work and my work now. As a cinematographer, I always am interested in creating a specific image with a specific meaning. Now I am doing a fashion study; I am doing a series of black and white portraits, using TriX film, which I over-process.
When I went back to Paris, I worked on movies for ten years as a cinematographer; I wasn’t doing still photography. I came to New York in 2006 to go to the ICP (International Center for Photography) because I wanted to do something for myself. I was fed up with the movie industry so I completely switched. It was a one-year program, where I shot a lot of film. Since I had access to a good scanner, I decided to work on the Russian film again. I did very careful scans, cleaned up the images a bit in Photoshop, and was finally able to make prints from them.
NNNY: What is the evolution of you becoming an artist?
Emile: To be honest, I don’t know what an artist is. I really enjoy telling stories. That’s my goal. I work on things in an instinctive way. Becoming an artist is a very long process in my mind. I’m interested in what is happening in everyday life, I’m reading a lot, I don’t watch TV, but I watch people. It’s a constantly fluid way of thinking.
I’m in the middle of two bodies of work. One is black and white portraiture, close-up head-shots and portraits, sort of a fashion study, but very warm. I want to show the subjects how they are. The other one is a video project, looking at the shifting of emotion across the face in crisis. I capture in between the state of crying and not crying; the moment just after someone stops crying. I’m finding actors since it’s not easy for non-actors to cry on demand.
NNNY: What successes and difficulties have you had as a foreign-born artist in New York?
Emile: I stay here because I feel that anything is possible here. I think it’s mix of a lot of things. As a foreigner, after a full-time educational program, you can stay here one year on a training/working visa. When I graduated, I didn’t planned on staying here. After I finished at ICP, I went back to visit Paris, and I knew immediately I wanted to stay in New York. I’m most impressed by the difference between European thinking, and New York/American thinking. People’s reactions, thinking, emotions, it’s so different. Here people respect differences and are so friendly. In Paris, we have a hard time with that; people are stressed, are angry and fight a lot. They’re scared of others – not just foreigners, but even their own neighbors.
NNNY: How has moving to the United States influenced your art?
Emile: New York inspires me every second. People especially. It’s not a specific project. But it’s a part of the process, even if I’m not photographing on the street, New York is always in the background. Even if I’m shooting portraits on white seamless, New York is in there.
For more information on Emile H Dubuisson please visit his website:
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