With his new series entitled New York Dream, Xavier Dumoulin manages to place a rather unusual view on one of the world’s most photographed cities. Bordering on abstraction, his images lead the spectator on a ghostlike and dreamlike journey through a megacity which is lofty, vertical and brimming with perspectives. Interview.
New York Dream is the first series that you have done outside France. What made you decide on New York?
Xavier Dumoulin : Certain circumstances decided that. The trip had been on the cards for a long time. From the moment It was confirmed I started to think about how I would approach it photographically. The subject suited me perfectly, as much for the strong symbolism in todays world as from an architectural photography standpoint which is what I do everyday. And also I have been fantasizing about this town for about 40 years.
This town has been extensively photographed, and certain shots have become legendary. Isn’t the subject a bit intimidating for a photographer?
Xavier Dumoulin : To make a much photographed subject like New York original I figured I needed to make it my own, to internalise it to give it meaning on a personal, intimate level. For several months I contemplated what this city meant to me: the fantasy, the dreams, the childhood imaginings that emerged. To express this dream, capture the essence of the panoramas I decided to blur the image by a voluntary movement, vertically. My hope was that this method could convey the images in my mind. Next I followed the tourist trail from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Empire State building taking in the iconic yellow cabs along the way with my childhood memories in both my heart and my eyes. Everyone has already seen these places but not like in my dreams...
Your work normally conveys a environmental message. This series however seems to explore another avenue, less militant and more focused on just the pictures...
Xavier Dumoulin : Childhood dreams meets adult analysis. New York, especially at the moment, represents the opposite of sustainable development, of sharing, of humanism. Manhattan consumes more energy than the entire African continent, it is the capital of capitalism, a prime example of one of man’s accomplishments where man has lost himself... The symbolism of this town is suffocating.
In taking on this subject I do not think I am far off my basic concerns about man’s place in the environment, as a reflection of his place in society. I chose the dream to treat the subject, but this dream can be interpreted on several levels : materialistic dreams, power dreams but also the illusion of immediacy, of individualism, of just plain money. As the series develops it becomes more and more abstract, to underline a comprehension of this non reality, of this magic dust which captivates us but also wrongs us. Another way of destroying the symbol by the abstraction, as is the economy, globalization and all these rules which have nothing to do with man.
In the text you wrote, you said : “ I was fascinated and fearful, between laughter and tears, without ever being aware of really being present, like in a film, a photo, as a real spectator, on the other side of the mirror in the projection that I was making of it and already in the souvenir that I will have of it. “ Why the distancing?
Xavier Dumoulin : It’s like the postcard effect. You see yourself somewhere without being aware of really being there. Like being part of a postcard, like you’re day-dreaming... I am still not sure that I was really there. ;-)
Limited edition prints of the series ’New York Dream’ by Xavier Dumoulin are available on Artistics.com.