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.

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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."

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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?"

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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."

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"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."

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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.

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"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

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