We are reposting our interview with Denis Roussel, our 2017 Rfotofolio Grant recipient.
Rfotofolio would like to thank France Scully Osterman for her time and input as our first guest juror. This year Rfotofolio was inspired to ask photographers, “What is beauty to you?”
We will be sharing the work of eight photographers that France chose as her favorites. Today Rfotofolio is happy to present the work of Denis Roussel who truly makes art with what is at hand. We look forward to seeing more work from him in the future.
Would you please tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in France and lived there before moving to the U.S. in 2000. I have been a photographer for the past decade or so, concentrating mainly on still life photography. Over the past few years, I have become increasingly interested in historical processes and have experimented with wet-plate collodion, cyanotypes and salt prints.
How did you get started photography?
Most of my formative years (teenage years and early adulthood) were spent studying the sciences and specifically, chemistry. For me creating photographs was a way to bring balance into my life and keep my sanity. It’s only when I moved to the U.S. after completing my undergraduate studies in France that I pursued photography seriously. In 2000, I was accepted into the graduate program at the University of Iowa, where for 5 years I had the incredible opportunity to concentrate on my art. Free to experiment, I could figure out what type of images I wanted to create.
Which photographers and other artists work do you admire? And what about their work inspires you?
A few months back, I had the opportunity to hear Duane Michals talk about his work and life, during his brief visit to Denver, CO. He was incredibly entertaining and very thoughtful at the same time. I have a renewed appreciation for his wit, boldness, and unwavering creativity.
In 2003, I saw a mid-career retrospective of Edward Burtynsky’s work at The Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. I was amazed by the vivid beauty of his photographs and the lusciousness of his large format prints. To this day, this visit remains one of the most powerful art experiences I’ve had.
I deeply appreciate the cleverness of Andrzej Maciewjewski’s photography. His series “Garden of Eden” is a great example of how a simple idea, when well executed, can have profound ramifications and bring to light important issues.
Please tell us about your process and what the perfect day of photography is for you.
To create my lumen prints, I collected elements from my kitchen compost bins and placed them directly onto B&W photographic paper, creating simple compositions. A glass plate is set on top and this “sandwich” is left exposed to sunlight for several minutes to several hours. From B&W photo paper, color photographs are obtained! The images are both the result of shadows cast by the vegetables and fruits on the paper, and chemical reactions between the organic matter and the chemicals contained in the emulsion of the photographic support. They offer a metaphor to composting, where the process involves numerous chemical and physical reactions.
I rarely manage to set aside an entire day for photography, so the perfect day would just be that: be able to spend all hours of daylight making photographs that showcase the intrinsic beauty of the most mundane objects.
What challenges do you face as a photographer?
To be honest, the biggest challenge is reconciling the passion I have for photography and the realization that it needs to eventually be a financially viable endeavor.
With the rapid changes in how people make and view a photograph how do you view this time in the history of photography?
Because of the proliferation of digital images and the ease of sharing them quickly and broadly, in a way photography as a whole has never been so objective. Considering any topic or current issue, I have access to photographs from all different points of view, giving me a broader and more complete “image” than anytime before.
How do you over come a creative block?
Patience. Going through a period of creative funk is incredibly frustrating and difficult to live though, but I have learnt to recognize that it is a normal – and vital – phase of my artistic process. I am lucky enough to work at my own pace, so I wait it out. Eventually the frustration builds up so much that something has to happen. I experiment, fail and go from there.
How does your art effect the way you see the world?
To answer this question properly I would have to imagine how I would see the world if I didn’t make photographs. I cannot really tell. What I can say is that my art doesn’t just affect the way I see the world, it influences the way I experience the world, the way I think about it and the way I live my life.
Is there another type of photography or subject matter you would like tackle?
For a few years I worked as an ophthalmic photographer, taking pictures of the inside of the eye for diagnostic purposes, and during grad school I started exploring scientific imagery of the human body. I have been meaning to continue this investigation, and would like to create a series of photographs at the junction of scientific and artistic representations of the body, mixing historical processes and contemporary scientific advances.
Thank you Denis for sharing your work with us.
To learn more about the work of Denis Roussel please visit his page at Denis Roussel