How Do You Reinvent Photography?

Bored with the same digitally produced photos bombarding him on every social media platform, artist Charlie Rubin decided to try something new.

Most Popular

Charlie Rubin's concern with the current state of photography, in two sentences:

"Everyone has a camera now, and it's almost like the photograph doesn't exist anymore. It's just an image on a screen that can be made in a number of different ways."

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

So, is his work photography?

"My work almost always starts with an image from a camera, and then I build off that. I was personally getting bored with my own imagery just because of the ubiquity of the photograph now. I had to ask, How can I make an image of mine important again?"

Most Popular

For his series "Strange Paradise" (2012-2014), published as a limited-edition book in 2014, Rubin shot images of nature, and then injected bright colors into the landscape. Brown forest fauna is dotted with bright purples, blues, and greens; rock faces are awash in a filter of strange colors.

"I started making that work a little before Instagram got really popular. It echoes this idea of filtering images, creating a nostalgia for something that was actually made today, but meant to look like it wasn't made in this era."

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

"At first glance, you might have even be able to notice the colors in all of the photos. It was a subtle way to force viewers to ask how the image was made."

"Adding colors and different layers meant I could change a photograph after it had been taken, which was always a challenge that I had with photography. You take a picture, and then it's kind of over, unlike painting or sculpture, which you can keep adding to."

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Rubin shares images from his latest work in progress, an attempt at creating a series of Cubist photographs.

"I'm doing a group portrait project now, mostly using friends. The impulse was to make a Cubist photograph, so I'm kind of using clothing and makeup and collage to abstract group portraits."

"These images are about escapism, creating a fantasy. If you look at my work next to a painting, I want you to be able to discuss it as you would a painting, rather than focusing on whether it's a photograph."

For the last two years, Rubin has produced a collaborative zine, Yo-NEWYORK!, that brings together work submitted via an open call.

Most Popular

"Yo-NEWYORK! is a collaborative project in which I choose disparate works from artists and writers, and put them together by cutting each in half."

"My earliest memory of using a camera was in high school. I thought it was the easiest and most direct way of expressing a certain composition."

Of course, Rubin is always looking to blend the boundaries between genres, and these are very painterly photo-based images.

Explore more of Charlie Rubin's experimental approach to photography at charlierubinstudio.com.

Read Next: