I was a dream of myself

Reality vs. unreality in US photographer, Barrett Emke's latest project

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I Was A Dream Of Myself
Sue (As Rogue) Barrett Emke

Barrett Emke’s pictures capture the photographer’s everyday life – his friends, his surroundings, his daily experiences. They seem like spontaneous snapshots, representations and echoes of the reality Emke lives in. His methods vary; in some photographs he uses a flash that draws sharp shadows, at other times soft daylight creates a natural, sometimes magical feel. As a viewer one gets the impression that Emke is not only capturing his environment but is also very much part of it. The relationship to his subjects seems close, certain photos show intimate incidents.

The US-based photographer, who first became interested in photography when he saw the cover of Velvet Underground’s self-titled album, will publish his first book, I Was A Dream Of Myself in January next year.

Planning to self-publish through Kickstarter, here, Dazed speaks to Emke about I Was A Dream Of Myself, how he tries to stay away from references from the outside and the ambivalence between inscrutability and familiarity.

Dazed Digital: Fill us in on your photography background - where did you study? How did you first get into photography?

Barrett Emke: I went to college at the University of Kansas and hold a degree in photography, but I've been taking pictures ever since I discovered the darkroom and black and white film when I was a teenager. I remember looking at the Velvet Underground's self-titled album and the photos of the band on the front and back covers, and thinking I wanted to take pictures like that. Even before, I was always fascinated by little disposable cameras and Polaroids as a kid.

DD: What are your main inspirations?

Barrett Emke: I certainly find inspiration in the work of other photographers and art of all kinds, but really as of late I've been mostly trying to keep my work informed by itself and the world around me, rather than outside influences or references. Ideas for a photograph can come from many places. Or sometimes pictures are made totally spontaneously.

Photographs that are born of the real world and the everyday take on magical and ethereal qualities when removed from that context and stripped of specifics

DD: What's I Was a Dream of Myself all about? What are the central themes around this selection?

Barrett Emke: I Was A Dream Of Myself is about the photographs and their relationship to reality, or 'unreality'. The project came together as I began to see a common thread in my work, a quality or state of being that I was interested in trying to express: the ambivalence between inscrutability and familiarity. Photographs that are born of the real world and the everyday take on magical and ethereal qualities when removed from that context and stripped of specifics, and by nature of being a record or representation of what you see with your eyes. This is why photographs are so wonderful. The book mostly alternates between portraits and landscapes, collapsing time and place into a universe that exists solely within these pages. Hopefully, the pictures overarchingly convey a feeling and something of a story, however non-linear and transitory.

DD: Tell us a bit more about the Kickstarter side of things?

Barrett Emke: As I'm self-publishing the book. Kickstarter made sense. The campaign functions similar to a pre-order, as any donation of $30 and above gets you a copy of the book, which will be printed in an edition of 200. I'm also offering other original items in exchange for the various levels of donations – special edition postcards, limited prints, and some t-shirts with an original photograph printed on them. I really wanted to ensure that people who support the project would get something worthwhile and cool in return for their generosity.

Find out more through Emke's Kickstarter page.

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