Words by Julia Eskins
Photos courtesy of David Drebin
At Art Toronto, Canada’s international fair for modern and contemporary art, it’s easy to get pleasantly lost in the dizzying display of works from over 100 galleries. But walk by David Drebin’s photo sculptures and you just might stop in your tracks and stay awhile.
In recent years, the Canadian-born, New York City-based master photographer has evolved into a multi-disciplinary artist. His newest medium uses the technology of 3D printing to bring 2D images to life, while still incorporating his recognizable cinematic style. The sculptures are treated with glitter and encased in acrylic, creating a dreamy quality that explores voyeurism and fantasy elements.
Drebin debuted his photo sculptures at Art Miami during Art Basel in 2015. Now he’s showing them in Canada for the first time at Art Toronto, running Oct. 28 to Oct. 31 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
It’s been an exciting year for the renowned photographer, who released his fifth coffee table book, Dreamscapes, in September 2016. The new project features a curated collection of breathtaking cities and landscapes he’s shot during his travels. Globetrotting is all part of a day’s work for Drebin. Since graduating Parsons School for Design in New York, he’s collaborated with fashion, sports and entertainment A-listers and shown his work at art fairs in Paris, New York, Miami, Istanbul, Amsterdam, Berlin, London and beyond.
We caught up with the internationally acclaimed photographer and artist to talk about his one-of-a-kind photo sculptures, career trajectory and his favourite subject to ever photograph.
Julia Eskins: When and how did you first realize that you wanted to pursue a career in photography?
David Drebin: I still ask myself all the time how I got myself into this. I always say it found me. It’s what I was meant to do. Originally, I wanted to be an actor but wasn’t very good at it. I had a friend that was a photographer, which I thought was the most ridiculous thing to be. One day he showed me photos of people he had taken and their souls jumped out at me. It was like magic. So first came the love of that magic. Photography is magic and who doesn't love magic?
JE: Elton John purchased photographs at your first show in 2004. How did that sale come about and what kind of impact did it have on your career at that time?
DD: I had my first of three shows at Fahey Klein Gallery in Los Angeles and the gallery director told me a week after the show opened that Elton John had purchased half of the photographs in the show. That was an external validation moment that validated my internal validation and made me realize that internal validation leads to external validation and not the reverse. The works have been sold and collected all over the world since then.
JE: To date, who has been your most interesting subject to photograph and why?
DD: I have photographed movie stars, politicians, sports icons, music legends and so many beautiful people inside and out but ultimately my favorite subject I ever photographed was my mom. That meant the most to me because if it weren’t for her I wouldn’t even be here!
JE: Has your photography style evolved through the year? If so, how?
DD: My photography style has led me to other art forms that we produce including lightboxes, neon light installations, photo sculptures, and my latest obsession: etchings on glass. What’s most important is that the work, whatever the medium, makes the viewer ‘feel’ something.
JE: Your new book Dreamscapes features landscapes you've seen on your travels. How did you choose the locations that you wanted to feature?
DD: Wherever there is a dream. Mostly, they choose me and then I have to figure out a way to get there.
JE: What inspires you on a day-to-day basis?
DD: Healing people and bringing out the truth in myself and others. Catering to my imagination that is constantly demanding and not neglecting it. I often try to bring out other people's imaginations and creative sides that are so often squashed by what "the world" subconsciously tells us what to do with our lives.
JE: How did the concept for your photo sculptures unfold?
DD: I was introduced to a new technology (3D printing) that intrigued me and made me want to explore a new medium of my original craft. I just had to explore the concept and evolution of turning 2D images (photographs) into 3D photo sculptures that were based on my photographic style. It’s a fascinating process where photos are taken with over 150 cameras simultaneously around the model. We then treat the 3D photographs with glimmering elegance and house them in acrylic forms.
JE: What advice would you give to an aspiring photographer?
DD: Love expressing your authentic self and making photographs more than you love being cool and saying you’re a photographer. It has to come from an internal passion and desire, not an external validation.
JE: What do you have planned next?
DD: We are currently showing with two galleries at Art Toronto (Galerie de Bellefeuille and Sandra Ainsley Gallery) and have Art Miami at Art Basel coming up early December. We are in the midst of several collaborations with high profile and luxury brands, and recently have being doing a lot of private commissions for people who want personal art masterpieces for their collections.
Jerusalem - Dreamscapes
All of a Sudden - Dreamscapes
Balloons over New York - Dreamscapes
Portrait David Drebin - Photo credit Babar Khan
Falling in Love
Lips and Love
Under the Surface