Interview

Darren Holmes


Let your dream devour your life, not your life devour your dream... these words by Antoine de Saint-Exupery embody the spirit of the work of Darren Holmes. A life devoured by a dream, and the result is photography where emotion rules. Technique and material concerns have little place in this world, Darren's works deal with other, simpler matters: those of the soul.

Issue 17 (3/2006) • december 31, 2006 • wersja polska »»


Darren Holmes

Darren Holmes. Photo by conga76

Darren Holmes
Born in 1969 in North Bay, Canada.

This artist developed very quickly a passion for the immediacy of expression that photography allows.

The subjects he portrays are often enveloped in light and texture which seem to evoke ageless voices from times past, interplay between space and subject being an omnipresent quality in his works. Lines which we normally rely on blur and disappear. Both femininity and masculinity, light and dark, the beautiful and the repellent... these are works of contradiction which make them, somehow, more coherent.

The body of work of this artist remains difficult to define and well beyond words. I would say that emotion is the only thing that has motivated me to do anything affirms Darren Holmes, reminding us that his work should be simply felt rather than studied or described. Shhh.

by Alyz Tale

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Darren Holmes online:

Let your dream devour your life


Interview: Darren Holmes


By Hongkyu Yang

How did you start out as a photographic artist?

My work began quite likely in the way it often begins with those who use photography as a means of expression, as a simple curiosity about the strange cameras at family gatherings that could flash and then produce an image in a minute or so. It was just such a fascinating thing, and it added to my curiosity that the adults wouldn't often let me use them other than waving the paper package that the photograph came out of the camera to dry in. I will then blame my obsession on them.

When did you first want to be an artist?

I grew up painting and drawing so I always felt a pull in some sort of direction toward visual art. It's not something I could ever imagine not doing. It's probably fundamental to all of us in some way or another. The same urge that compels us to scratch our names into a tree is the same one that leads inevitably to paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Did you go to an art school?

No, I've never been drawn to the idea of learning about expression in a school environment. This I will admit is partly out of my belief that visual expression isn't something that can be taught as much as learned, and partly because of my inherent laziness when it comes to the thought of studying. Seriously, I believe that listening to the quiet inner voice which tells us what just feels right is best done in a solitary manner.

Darren, I really love the textures that you use in your work. Is there a good working method digitally to create such textures?

I don't think of much of my work as having "texture". Perhaps it's an approach to light and colour that leads some to conclude that. I am inspired by painters, there is a calming solidity in the light in some painted work which I can't really explain. It could be more about the subject and setting and how it's treated. Photography can often be about the literal rather than the idealistic, which is a great thing sometimes, but painting has always allowed us to see more with our minds, rather than with our eyes.

The melodramatic mood you set in your artwork seem to be prominent in all your pieces, how do you drive this mood throughout your work and what are some of the basic poses and or lightings that create this mood?

I think rather than having a specific itinerary for creating my images, I tend to work on just a basic intuition about it. It's a hard thing to force, and when I try the results reveal it so much. Often it is not until I get images that just appear to me, or something I see, in the inspiring work of others or even in certain places when the light is just right. It's the light of a place or in a room that inspires me the most.

You mention the work of others. What artists inspire you?

Mia Friedrich creates sparse scenes built from photographic images that have an unsettling (and very compelling) atmosphere for me. Andrew Polushkin is the creator of fantastic, shadowy worlds. Marcela Loayza is an expressive self-portraitist, creating darkly sensual, emotive work. Anne McAulay is a friend of mine and has inspired me with her very from-the-hip street and scene photographic approach. Bogdan Zwir creates such playful and colourful images, very dreamlike. Shadi Ghadirian, Sergey Belov, Snjezana Josipovic, Laerke Posselt, Daniele Cascone, Sergeeva Lena, Maggie Taylor, Ryan Widger, Katarzyna Widmanska, and Fredrik Ödman are some others that I can think of at the moment.

I understand your work is extremely inspiring but how did your work and name get to be known throughout places was it just through words or through promotion?

I have not approached things with much of a plan in that way. I simply enjoy doing what I do and it's a pleasant surprise to receive messages from people who have found my work somewhere and feel the desire to write me.

Darren, It's always hard to determine when the artwork is finished, where do you draw the line as a finished piece?

I think the answer is that a piece is probably never finished. You could keep working on something-trying different variations-for a long time. Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in your gut. You just know when a photograph has reached its highest level of potential in your hands and that any more work to it would really not do it any more justice or possibly even degrade it. Then you have to let it go and move on. Sometimes you need to neglect it in order to know if it is truly finished. Revisiting a photograph after some time tends to answer that question.

Lighting is a big issue when taking photograph of a model, are most of your work taken in your studio or somewhere else?

I have never worked in a studio environment with lighting equipment and that sort of thing. I have spaces that I might use but since my light is almost always natural, each day in the same room looks different from the last. In working in a studio I would be too afraid that it might be too easy, too comfortable...that the solution to a problem might be simply to rely on the habit of what I had created before. I like the so-called 'problems' that a space throws at me. Always creating a situation that I must react differently to from the previous experience. That is not to say I am immune to falling prey to habitual behaviour, but it is one less opportunity for it.

It seems as though you work mostly digitally, have you ever considered using traditional photography method as a medium? Why or why not?

I have film and digital cameras, I don't see much difference between the product of the two methods as much as in how the images are gathered. I tend to not worry about the process as much as the expression when it comes to images, whether it's film or digital photography or any other medium.

Besides the people in your inspiration page, do you have any traditional black and white photographers or any artist that you are inspired by? If so how do they inspire you, in what ways?

Some of the artists I mentioned earlier do use film but for me it is more about the expression than the method, and certainly one method doesn't make capturing that feeling (which is different from capturing just an image) any easier over the other in my experience.

I know you have a definite focus in your style but have you considered changing your style or mood of your work?

It's interesting because I had read a comment someone had written of my work where it had been suggested that my images were too diverse to be shown in one portfolio. Others, such as you have suggested, feel that the work is very focused and of a certain specific vision. From this I have learned that one never knows how others will interpret their work, and so an artist should think as little as possible and just do. I don't think expression should be a conscious choice, it's the images that just happen in our minds which we should chase.

I thank you Darren for letting me have an interview with you, it would be nice if I got to see you in person. It would've been nice if I knew about you when you came to MICA last year but I'm still glad that I've got to see your awesome work at least now.

Thank you very much for your time Hongkyu, I will look forward to meeting you the next time I'm in Maryland. I enjoyed speaking at MICA and meeting other artists and welcome the opportunity to visit again.

© Darren Holmes