New York City based photographer, David Drebin is a very special photographer with a very special eye. His work is dreamy and imaginative, while often shrouded in a mysterious luminosity. Surrealist elements juxtaposed with familiar cityscapes, and the alluring mystery of his favourite subject — the feminine mystique.
The female form is one of the most common subjects of modern photography, yet David’s lens interprets this in a completely novel way, exhibiting his authentic understanding of shape, form, and colour. David often leaves his muses “anonymous” retaining an air of mystery, yet stylised with fantastical settings. In his latest exhibition entitled “Smoke and Mirrors” in the Hamburg-based Gallery Only Art Club, we explore David Drebin’s Femme fatale.
Could you tell us about your first experience with photography? How did your love for the craft begin?
I was in acting school at "The American Academy of Dramatic Arts" in New York City back in the summer of 1992. I was actually the worst actor in the class because I couldn't play someone else and follow the scripts. My roommate at the time, while I was going to university in Vancouver, was taking photography classes. I remember asking “why would you ever take a photography class?” Until one day, he came back to the apartment and showed me five black and white images of his co-workers; and their souls jumped off the paper! I thought to myself — wow THIS is magic. From that moment on, I became obsessed with photographer. I enrolled in photography school in Vancouver, dreaming of moving back to New York. The following year I was accepted into Parsons School of Design in NYC and the rest is history. I was obsessed, and still am, with the MAGIC of photography.
Your work has been described as dreamy, epic, imaginative and cinematic. We are interested to know how you would describe your own work?
I have minimal explanation for my work, as I prefer that the viewers to come up with their own meanings about how it makes them feel.
Female Sexuality is a constant theme in your work — with Femme fatale often being the subject of your photographs. Tell us how the feminine mystique inspires your work?
Mystery. All about mystery.You occasionally work with the repoussoir technique; a technique that is borrowed from art history. Tell us about this technique and how it translates to your photographs. I rarely think about technique. The only technical aspects I think about are lighting and composition. After the location, subject matter and the story that needs to be told is established.
You are now foraying into light boxes, neon installations, photo sculpture, and etchings on crystal fire glass. Where will you take your art next?
It is never planned. It just happens.
Tell us about Smoke and Mirrors - your latest exhibition at The Only Art Club in Hamburg?
It's all “smoke and mirrors”!
What was it like collaborating with Camera Work AG on this exhibition?
I’ve been collaborating with Camera Work in Berlin since 2005, when my art career took off. They guided me through many of my exhibitions across Europe; and they still play a significant role in the business as one of the world’s leading photography institutions. Though the work is shown in fine art and photography galleries all over the world.
Finally, what do you think are the elements to a great photograph?
As long as it makes you feel something!
Words by Hannah Tan