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Parsons MFA Photography: Charlie Rubin

We speak to the MFA graduate about injecting colour into landscape images

Charlie Rubin’s natural prowess with a camera lends itself to the spontaneity of photography, but his images are just as mediated and complex as any painting, sketch or sculpture. For his graduate piece from Parsons The New School for Design’s MFA Photography program Rubin produced a series of work that investigated the tensions between the real and the virtual worlds we inhabit. To do this he took images of densely rich nature and injected vibrant and clashing colours that contradict the lushness of reality with their obvious falsity. Dazed Digital spoke to the photographer about his work and their diverse subject matter. 

I'm interested in the subject of fantasy, popular cultural cues, and transforming ordinary objects in to artifacts and sculptures and questioning how they got there

Dazed Digital: When did you first decide that you wanted to be a photographer and why did you decide on photography over any other artistic medium?
Charlie Rubin:
I’ve always been in to making images in general. I can remember drawing doodles and bubble letters on notebooks ever since I had to bring one to school. I think it was senior year of high school though, in my studio art class, where we were painting. I had an idea in my head of what I wanted the result to be, but it was never quite the same. I can remember thinking of photography during that time as a sort of painting in its self, just a quicker and more direct way of expressing a certain composition. However, I still use the influence of painting and drawing in my practice today.

DD: How would you describe your work process? 
Charlie Rubin:
I work from an archive of images I am constantly collecting. When I initially see something in the world I want to focus on, I'll go out and shoot it. It can be as simple as advertisement images of food and drinks on corner store windows. When I look over images recently taken, I make an edit to support a certain expression and re-contextualize my initial fascination. After that, I can use various presentation methods and painting techniques to push it one step further.

DD: Your photography grapples with various formats - from abstract concepts to fashion imagery - what subjects most interest you and why?
Charlie Rubin: I'm interested in the subject of fantasy, popular cultural cues, and transforming ordinary objects in to artifacts and sculptures and questioning how they got there. These things interest me because it forms the world I live in today, and affects the way people interact with each other and with their physical surroundings.

DD: What have you produced for this exhibition? And, what do you want viewers to take from it? Charlie Rubin: For this exhibition, I produced a small installation and a book ‘Strange Paradise’. Both parts explore the play between a real and virtual world, and a certain anxiety it produces. I love the idea of what's natural and what's artificial within the imagery. For this piece, like anything I make, I want each viewer to come away from the work with their own ideas as to what it's ‘about’. Every one can form their own connections and make it what they want.

DD: What's next?
Charlie Rubin:
I'm going to keep making work and push the ideas from my last exhibition and the idea of a Strange Paradise further. I want to take pictures of the way trash stacks up in the garbage cans in New York and make a book of the pictures. I'm also working on a look book for a friend's clothing company, McCrown.