“Photography is one of countless ways to construct a visual narrative. It can make copies of our life experiences while at the same time offer the opportunity to shape new realities.”
Philip Dembinski. Born in 1983, Philip Dembinski is a contemporary photographer currently based in Chicago, Illinois (USA). He holds a BFA in photography from Columbia College Chicago.
“The purpose of the photography I make is to orchestrate visual narratives through static documents. I am interested in finding and creating scenarios rich with both cinematic gesture and quietude. Images that I respond to often include fleeting moments, rich color palates and traces of human interaction. My artistic inspiration stems greatly from 20th century American realist paintings as well as cinema in general. I love the ambiguity that photography is able to posses, and through it leaving the viewer in control of their own conclusions.”
Interview with Philip Dembinski
Philip, what was your first camera and photographic experience?
As a young child I can remember taking snap shots with a point and shoot disposable camera, mostly of family holidays and vacations. The first time I seriously thought about making images was when I took a photography class in the 12th grade. I was mesmerized (and still am) by the architecture and landscapes of Detroit. Exploring unknown landscapes is one of life’s great satisfactions.
Why did you become a photographer?
I became a photographer because I wanted to take the parts of the world that I liked best and show them to those who I cared about.
What does photography mean to you?
Photography is one of countless ways to construct a visual narrative. It can make copies of our life experiences while at the same time offer the opportunity to shape new realities.
Which photographer has inspired you most?
There are two photographers that inspire me from different perspectives. The first is Stephen Shore, whom I draw my way of seeing landscapes. His methods of framing and using color are unparalleled. On the other end is Gregory Crewdson who is a master of the constructed photograph. I love his dark subject matter and use of artificial lighting.
“My father was a psycho-analyst and I think that fact was very influential on my development as an artist. Trying to search beneath the surface of things for an unexpected sense of mystery.”
Your favorite photography quote?
Can’t say I have a favorite, but this is a good one by Joel Sternfeld:
No individual photo explains anything. That’s what makes photography such a wonderful and problematic medium. It is the photographer’s job to get this medium to say what you need it to say. Because photography has a certain verisimilitude, it has gained a currency as truthful – but photographs have always been convincing lies.
How would you describe your photographic language?
I would describe my style as being cinematic and minimal. I draw many of my ideas from reading fiction and watching films.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic voice?
I think you just have to make what feels important to yourself. Honesty is not transparent.
What do you consider to be the axis of your work?
Technically it would probably be my color palate and wider angle lenses. Conceptually I try to stay as ambiguous as possible while leaving traces of drama.
What qualities does a good photographer need?
A good photographer needs to be detail oriented and flexible to merge intention with what is presented at any given moment.
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes?
For me there needs to be some element of mystery in a great photograph. I want to feel like there is some feeling of comfort just around the corner.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
Fictional novels and film.
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
I use a Mamiya 7 medium format camera with Kodak Portra film. I also have a Fuji x100 that I use for on the fly image making.
What’s your favorite website on photography?
I love Flak Photo, Andy’s taste is incredible.
What photography book would you recommend?
Maybe not on photography, but I really love Simon Robert’s “Motherland”.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a professional photographer?
Just keep going.