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Emile Hyperion Dubuisson

Siberia, the Far North

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I went to Siberia without a camera. I bought it there. I was eighteen. Before being there, I never photographed. After shooting these images, I did not photograph again for more than ten years. For my first experience, I was assistant director on a long-term documentary film project shot in Russia. After few months of traveling all over the country, we landed in Siberia. The film was hard to make because of the weather conditions, and I started exploring the landscape by myself. I am here in this unreal set, on the north part of the polar circle and practically no light; it’s the middle of the winter, the coldest time ever. No one strolls for pleasure. Excursions are limited to the necessary. A few furtive silhouettes stirred in the dim light around the wind-swept encampments half-buried in snow. What did I shoot? I don’t even remember. I was not a photographer and survival took all my attention. These frames now appear to me to hold a deep intensity. Is it the reminiscing to that long-ago time when photographing was for me a totally instinctive and free act?

A few weeks later, we went back to Moscow and I started to process the film… My lack of experience and the absence of notice on the film, made the development very random. Half of my films were blank, the other half almost translucent. I decided to store the negatives. I left photography. Right after, I went back to Paris and start working as an assistant and then a cinematographer on feature length films for ten years. It’s only after coming in New York to study photography at the International Center of Photography in 2006 that I decided to look at the negatives again. The curiosity and the new technology help me to discover what was behind. Very quickly, the images from Siberia kept my attention and I realized how they were important for me. They signify the beginning of my photographic endeavor and that first step onto which I could build. A random chemical process, an unconsciousness of the image, and a lot of chance came together to create a series that is at once constructed and magical, consistent and surreal. To my now professional eye, these images of Siberia resonate. Diving back into this work from the past, I am rediscovering a part of my innocence. While structuring these images I have discovered unexpected meaning.



Emile H Dubuisson was born in Paris. He attended the International Center of Photography in 2007, furthering his knowledge of photography. Prior to that he studied cinema at Universite Paris 8 in France. His work reflects disciplines of both fields. Dubuisson is currently working as cinematographer on a feature length film.


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Emile H. Dubuisson


79 thoughts on “emile hyperion dubuisson – siberia, the far north”

  1. Whoa
    Emile, congratulations for being published here. I’m happy for you that these images resonate and have meaning for you. However, for the first time ever, I’m at a complete loss as to why they are featured here.

  2. Oh cool! Jim’s back! Wait that’s not Jim.

    Jim is that you?

    I like this, completely naive and timeless. Without the camera in the one photo I’d have no idea what era this is from. Looks like snapshots from an 18-year old in a new, exciting situation, I love those kinds of pictures. No pretense.

  3. I didn’t know what I was doing then one day sorted it out in photoshop does not sound like the best artist’s statement I’ve read but I guess it has the bonus of being true.

    I love the outdoor photos real sense of place with no sense of time, beautiful. The pictures of women work but I would lose the indoor pictures of the men.

  4. HARRY…

    i agree with you on the artists statement, but i think this happens a lot here on Burn when English is not the artists first language…..


    i figured you would not like this one…however, i do feel it is important sometimes to take the “photography” out of PHOTOGRAPHY….there is of course a whole very large movement in this direction and sometimes this effort can become even more pretentious than the revolution it represents, but i thought this work was as close to the bone and honest as one could find…try to look at it without knowing all that you know about “good pictures”….just might give you a new sense of freedom….might not..just a thought….

    cheers, david

  5. Wow! Being your first time shooting these images are amazing.
    Forgetting that, the outdoor ones keep being for me! :)
    Congratulations Emile!

  6. I find some of these–mostly the outdoors ones–to be nothing short of hypnotic. James Fee spoke eloquently and passionately about the need to infuse the photo-image with the truth inherent in a snapshot, and how too much intent can kill. Good advice, I’m thinking. Congratulations, Emile.

  7. I can hear and feel these. Maybe there is a secret here about innocence/freedom of creation: when you work in a spontaneous open way you involve a holistic spectrum of self and sense.

  8. I enjoyed this one. The essay combines the quality of found photographs with the exposition of a distant, unknown location that we would otherwise never see. And it helps that the photographer had a naturally good eye. Helps a lot.

  9. David

    I trust your and Antons’ vision. When I don’t get something you’ve presented here on Burn, I know I must be missing something. I’m trying to dig deep here.

    I do agree that there are some interesting images here. Like an archeological dig, when looking through old photo albums, photofinishing lab reject bins, or pictures found on the street, there are bound to be gems. Naive photography, like primitive painting, clearly has a whole seperate aesthetic attatched to it, which I appreciate and enjoy.

    I have spent virtually all of my adult life making photographs. It does certainly create a mind-set. Having said that, I am a great champion of the snapshot. I love looking at peoples photo albums, especially older ones. I think part of the reason older snapshots come off so differently, aside from the naivity of the snapper, is that the early cameras had such terrible viewfinders, magnifying the randomness of the results. This is one of the reasons why Holga photography is so much fun. Just like Crackerjack popcorn, a surprise in every package.

    Probably my biggest difficulty in viewing this essay is the grim photographic quality. I have harped on this many times before before. Muddy fuzzy images, full of scratches, dirt and fingerprints, I just can’t abide. It has become a cliche, suggesting that the distance from, and the deliberate dis-regard for traditional expectations, somehow makes the images are more artistic or meaningful. Further, that they are even more special and meaningful having been saved from oblivion, proudly scarred like old artifacts. I’m not buying it yet. I have trouble with contemporary work that goes this route as well, like Sally Manns’ very badly done wet collodian work. (love her earlier stuff)

  10. simple
    each image seems to have its own narrative,
    within itself….
    can feel the movement…

  11. GORDON…

    thanks for your honest response….and i hear your skepticism of the fake artifact…i simply took this artist at face value believing how he said this work came about and while fake scratches and dust etc have become almost cliche, there are times when one does find the real thing…i think this is one of those times….

  12. All photographs have meaning. Even the most amateurish or inocuous ones. There may not have ever been one bad shot taken since the medium was invited, come to think of it.

    Not all, but photos, for recording concrete aspects of the world in front of us rather instantly, and being looked at as instantly, can actually demand some time, years, to be really “seen” (the seen of meaning).

  13. Being a wanderer of the Far North, I have spent many hours sitting in people’s homes looking through their old scrapbooks and I get the same kind of feeling from these that I do from some of those. There is much in here that looks very familiar to me.

    I enjoyed your “first look” through a camera. When I am not so tired and exhausted as I am right now, and when I have my reading glasses again, I must look up some of your new work.

  14. Yes, sometimes taking the “photography” out of photography is when the magic happens.

    Fascinating in many different ways, both the photography and the decision by BURN to publish it.

  15. Emile:

    Congratulations on the publication! I am familiar with this work; I read your interview on Shots Magazine months ago. I will say the nature of that publication, the thin paperweight, the sub-optimal printing, gave your photographs a more ethereal quality that I very much appreciated.

    This may be tangential, but I went to your website hoping to view your new work to get an idea of how much you’ve progressed a a photographer in the decade since you took these initial shots. As someone who is just getting started in photography, and who hopes to attend ICP this upcoming fall, I thought perhaps it may be illuminating. But I was somewhat disheartened to find that this essay comprises the bulk of your photographic work, and that your new material isn’t that radically different in tone and feel from this initial foray (absent the scratches, smudges, etc. on the negatives). So in that regard I’m somewhat scratching my head. Upon rediscovering these photographs, did you come to the conclusion that this was your aesthetic all along?

  16. Emile… amazing your film didn’t crack.. I certainly would of.. brittle as glass i’d be.. well done in persevering out there in conditions I couldn’t imagine anything being more intolerable..
    Like your images very much, the fingerprints and dirt dust marks are a real give away to your passion to take the images and see the results at any count. I’ve suffered the same results again and again purely because I just can’t wait to see the results getting my film processed wherever I can… Love it..

  17. … the death of the author, death of the editor, death of the professional, everyone is an artist (even first-time 18-year-olds), and anything is art as long as at least one person says so. let us all admire the emperor’s new clothes; next up – Auntie Dierdre’s snaps from Bognor. oh, we’re all so very post-modern and so very broad-based and so utterly cool about it all.
    if you dont stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. with respect to emile, this set of pics seems a sad waste of this very valuable space.

  18. “this set of pics seems a sad waste of this very valuable space”…….. Many will say that the images are “more real”in depicting the environment than idealised travel shots which disregard the grime /mediocrity that also goes with the scene.
    Plus there will be those who say the same about your photoshop studio shots on your site as being no more than cheap “party shots” of no substance.

    We all have to be careful when we openly criticise as opposed to critique…… I fall into that trap too often for my liking

  19. Imants, my pictures are not on show here (nor would I present them) and so i find your comment puerile and meaningless. Its like criticizing the food I am served in a restaurant and the chef saying, “Well lets see if you can do any better!”
    What I do has absolutely no bearing on the value (one way or another) of the images presented here. But for the record, I do know exactly who my clients are, what they expect of me and what they pay for; its a J.O.B.
    So with that out of the way thank you very much, what are these pictures for? what do they bring to the table? which table, any table? yes, one could spend a lot of time ‘critiquing’ each and every image but there is no ‘right answer’ to a ‘wrong question’.

  20. my pictures are not on show here (nor would I present them)

    You want the burn audience to see your images otherwise you would not have you have linked your site to burn. So they are on show for this audience…….. better unlink if you want to practice what you preach here

  21. David, I’m all for a good critique.. so what exctly would your critique be for these pictures to be a waste of space? Can you explain why? Don’t think it has to do with being the photographer 18 years old? What are you missing? What would you want?

  22. These sure work for me. It gives me a feel for the place and the people and, to my way of thinking, that’s what photography is all about. The scratches, smudges, fingerprints are as real as the subjects they cover. Even on this hot day in July I feel the chill of the far north when I look through this essay. Interesting work, Emile, and interesting addition to Burn, David and Anton.


  23. Michal Daniel

    Once upon a time, long ago, I used to run a custom b&w lab. Pristine, properly processed negatives kept me and my kid alive for over a decade. I say this only to underscore how much I care about perfection, when it comes to the darkroom. That said, there was a time my gal and I taught photography to street kids. Some of them are now pro photographers but I digress, again. During that class, just as I was vehemently stressing care, cleanliness, and all that is necessary to make a perfect negative, one of the kids spit on his neg, lit it on fire, dunked in in water, then stuck in in the enlarger and printed the result. Quite stunning, actually. I’ll never forget it. Since then, all that white glove stuff sort of faded into some unused corner of my mind. All these useless words later, what I mean to say here is this work resonates with me, warts and all.

  24. To the team at Burn, and to Emile, I say Bravo on this essay. It really stuck with me all day yesterday, I saw the images first thing in the morning before heading out the door for a long day away from my computer. At that point, there was only one comment–Gordon’s–about being at at loss as to why the essay was published on Burn. And so I was happy to see later on when I came back that Harvey had chimed in. He is spot-on when he says we must forget what we know about “good” photography (surely that’s something DAH has become a master of while working with so many young photographers).

    Personally I get a little weary of the 24-hour news cycle world where it’s always “go out, shoot, edit, post pictures online, repeat.” Sometimes it’s to the point where I already know what images will look like from a given story before I click the “start” button on a slide show. So I was touched by these first pictures by Emile, and I felt for the first time in a long time the pleasure of being surprised.

  25. Eva, thank you for asking. My short take on the state of the industry (ie decline of the industry) is the rapidly disappearing notion of professionalism, however defined – whether you shoot art, PJ, advertising whatever. In a word, that is what is missing for me.
    Professionalism by now is almost a dirty word – elitist and exclusive. and yet, without it you end up with an ‘anything goes’ world where no one has a clue whats good or bad and no star to steer by. Picture buyers unable to differentiate between VII and Flickr (I exaggerate, a bit) because everything is equal, everything valid in the great post-modern morass of internet imagery.
    McLuhan said at least 2 interesting things; the less quoted one is this: ‘mass participation produces mass mediocrity” (i quote imprecisely). when my career began, anyone wanting to call himself a photographer had a pretty clear idea of what the benchmark was. how good you had to be to get in the game. the best thing you could hope for was a bloody-minded editor with no qulams about letting you know if you were shooting crap. now, everyone gets in the game, even 18 year olds who have just bought a camera. let everyone play, make up the rules as we go and move the goal posts as necessary.
    it all sounds very democratic and benign and inclusive and why not? because it immediately devalues the very thing we are trying to elevate.
    i recently did a one-to-one workshop with a complete beginner – and yet this person was already planning out his career path to the near future when he could charge money to give workshops. and i’m thinking, dont you think there’s a few hoops you should jump through before you get there? no, of course he doesn’t think of that – its ‘arrive first, travel later’. and that’s what i see in a set of pictures like this being presented in this space.

  26. I framed when I was 18, and created this story recently. I edited the images during two years to get a sense of what it means for me. I have been help a lot too. I am not sure I would have been able to tell the same story at the time because I had no idea of what a picture and series of images could mean. After being on a movie set for years and also because I feel very concern on the purpose, and the way we express our photographic intention, this series should talk about that too.
    The series has 49 images in total. 49 pictures of Siberia.
    My new work is still in progress. I have been researching my pencil, now that I have the grammar.
    Thank you for comments! Emile

  27. David S., thanks for replying. Can you imagine to see the essay for the first time, without having read the statement? Withoug knowing it was born out of intuition more than knowledge? Would you think the same?

    I do’t know much about professionalism (or lack of), but I think that if the work ‘sings’ proper education (or lack of) doesn’t matter. I mean the photographer didn’t pretend anything, he’s quite candid with his words.

  28. bryanformhals

    Nice comment Cary. I echo your sentiments.

    And nice work Emil.

    When I first saw this work on Tiny Vices there was no statement, so it’s kind of strange to now read about the details.

    But when I did first see it, the thought that the work came from someone who had never picked up a camera before, never entered my mind. I honestly thought (probably because of Tiny Vices) it was from a photographer who was working in the lo-fi, snapshot, dirty, gritty, grainy vernacular.

    I’m not sure how I feel about the statement, probably needs some work and I don’t think the experience of the photographer should really enter into the equation. I’m more interested in the emotions/ideas/instincts that compelled him to make the images.

    Mr. Sutherland: Have you seen The Photo Brigade? Promoting editorial photography from up and comers and seasoned veterans alike.


  29. Nasos Leontaridis

    Two years ago I met in a workshop a Russian fellow photographer that he presented to us a portfolio from Siberia. It was also interesting to hear how he went there after traveling from Moscow for 3-4 days with any means. Anyway, the season was different (no snow) but after looking your work as well, I felt almost the same thing. On top of that, it’s also the innocent view written in previous posts.
    Congratulations for your first time contact with photography.


  30. bryanformhals

    Gordon Lafleur: “Welcome to the Nay Team. A small band of hardy veterans trying to hold back the forces of evil.”

    Sweet. Paint a whole generation of creative, passionate, ambitious photographers as evil simply because you don’t embrace their style or aesthetic.

  31. bryan, i think it was meant ironicly. at least thats the way i took it and i laughed. how could anyone object to ‘creative, passionate, ambitious’ … but is that really what you see in the above?

  32. Emile, your images do have composition and texture that I like, but yes, D. Sutherland has a valid point about professional quality and the slow decline of that threshold.

    I would suggest that if I view your work as fine art, I can have a positive appreciation for your effort. But this is what makes BURN so great… we are made to think. The consequence of being published here is to encouraged dialog, no matter where it takes us.

    Time will tell Emile, if your published effort supports your vision. Like David, I must support myself by my craft. Nobody who hires me would accept finger print impressions on final prints, but in some way that does not see to be the point.

  33. bryanformhals

    “but is that really what you see in the above?”


    This work first appeared on Tim Barber’s tinyvices.com. Tim’s one of the more respected young curator/editors, and now it’s on Burn, where DAH is one of the most respected veteran photographer/editor/curators.

    It’s also appeared on Conscientious.

    Dossier Journal

    Culture Hall

    That’s an impressive list, each edited/curated by some highly respected people.

    My point being, it’s not just the young, lo fi inclined that find this work engaging.

    The problem I see is that some people are going to drag this into the ‘good photographs’ gutter, where it becomes an “I have good taste,” “no, I have good taste,” debate/argument.

    For me, that’s a non-starter.

    I admire anyone whose made a career out of photography. Respect, but I wish I’d see less grousing about the state of contemporary photography (especially online), and more IDEAS, more inspiration, more wisdom.

    What sort of impression do you think you’re sending young photographers who come to Burn to be inspired and learn?

  34. Bryan, couldn’t find the icon for tongue firmly in cheek. Could’a used a smiley((: Umm, the evil bit was not meant to be taken seriously. I absolutely applaud and adore young creative ambitious young photographers.
    I’ll try to sound wiser in future, as opposed to a wise-guy.

  35. “it all sounds very democratic and benign and inclusive and why not? because it immediately devalues the very thing we are trying to elevate.”
    The statement smacks of industry control and places photography into a realm mediocrity based on a preconceived regulation.
    Mr Sutherland is taking unrealistic travel images ethical? does it elevate photography to greater heights? Who is the we you are referring to, advertisers, editors of magazines? They are not representatives of all, aspects of economy maybe but not societies that make up our world.
    Maybe you just feel that your pocket is being invaded by others and there is less of the pie for you. Sounds like you need a job that pays more after all you did say that it was just a job.

  36. Bryan, perhaps a willingness to publish work on-line is where the bar is being set. I have not done the research but does Emile get paid for his submissions on the sites you linked to? If so, I stand corrected, but if not, it seems like a virtual version of a coffee shop show. On-line anything can be engaging and attract a following, but don’t photographers want to be paid for their efforts?

    I’m assuming that Emile was paid by BURN for this work so I think it is fair to reflect and comment on where the business may be heading.

  37. I teach kids photography both digital and film/darkroom based on a regular basis, sure they can make a mess of negs, paper etc but the same goes for digital work, blowing out highlights, stuffing up colour balance etc,..but enthusiasm to create overrides any of these factors.

    As a teacher/tutor I am not there to create hoops and barriers my role is to mentor, foster both creativity and development the individuals own direction not impose my take on the world or some insane ideal “this is the way things have to be because that is the way things should be”

  38. bryanformhals

    @pomara: No, he’s not getting paid, because those publications don’t make any money.

    But to equate those publications to a coffee shop show isn’t really accurate IMO. Conscientious and tinyvices are viewed by art buyers, editors, and curators at the highest levels in the industry. That’s the type of ‘exposure’ you want to be receiving because it builds your reputation and puts you in contact with the people that MAY be able to help your career.

    I think it’s great contributors are getting paid by Burn. That’s why this is one of the most forward thinking endeavors.

    As for where the business is heading, anyone’s guess is as good as mine, but from my observation photography is becoming a commodity, much like written content. That doesn’t bode well for editorial photography.

    Within the art photography world, it’s viscously competitive, and the number of dedicated photography collectors is very small relative to the rest of the art market.

    The economics are always going to be tough, but really, hasn’t that always been the case?

    The economics of every industry are pretty brutal right now.

    What every photographer needs is for people to stop spending money on crappy movies, cars, furniture, expensive meals, vacations, clothes, tools, lawn gnomes, cosmetics, video games, liposuction and therapy.

    Then, they’ll have more money to spend on photography prints and books.

    Supply and demand, a surplus of quality photography, not enough viewers/consumers/fans who appreciate it.

    It’s tough when you’re competing with dogs in Lobster costumes.


  39. I can understand that this essay isn’t for everyone, what I cannot understand are the reasons of it.

    Professionalism = money = success = professionalism.. as in doing what others want you to do?

    Or can professionalism also be (and I don’t even say it is the case here, depends on how Emile will use his pencil in future) that you do your thing and you get recognition for just that, your very personal vision and take of things? Which, to me, would be the preferred way of being a photographer, or any other kind of artist for that matter..

  40. Imants, do you even read what i’ve said before launching your personal attacks? I’ve scarcely said anything about the images themselves. I’m talking about an attitude behind the pictures and a prevailing attitude apparent in their presentation and acceptance as some example of ‘good’ or even ‘interesting’ photography.
    What is missing for me – and i’m repeating this just for you – is any concept of professionalism; something that is very present in most of the excellent work that gets published at BURN. Define it as you may but to me it encompasses a certain dedication to ‘process’, a desire to master your chosen craft. This, i believe is the only basis any arts-based industry can rely on; anything else is dilletantism at best and fraudulent at worst.

    And as you seem to insist on commenting on my work – which is blatantly NOT the subject here – I will say that I have always admired YOUR work and if you ever have a one-man show in London I’ll be front of the queue, no fear. But perhaps you’ve been teaching for so long that you’ve forgotten what a ‘client’ is? Or a ‘brief’? quaint notions from a bygone age. You see Imants, different ‘clients’ require different kinds of images. that’s why we dont all take the same pictures. Is there any part of that you dont get? stop me if i’m going too fast.
    Also, as you’ve kindly expressed some concern for the condition of my pockets, they’re in good shape thank you; photography has been very good to me. Hands up who else would like to have a career where you can actually pay your bills, get a mortgage … have a life maybe? anyone? or we’re all such radical free spirits we just make images that nobody wants to publish and we do it all for love?

  41. if you dont stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. with respect to emile, this set of pics seems a sad waste of this very valuable space.
    That comment above was made by you about the images here ………. a sad waste of space that is quite scathing and personal.

    Your work was the antithesis of what is presented and indicates where you come from so that is why I use them as examples.

    No I haven’t forgotten what a client but I have no intentions of standing still and being a follower.
    I find the following statement by you belittling ” Is there any part of that you dont get? stop me if i’m going too fast.” and you expect me to be nice to you.
    All I have done is respond to what you have stated about the work

  42. David Sutherland …. i dont understand how you can mix being unpolished with being unprofessional … IMHO most of the interesting art is unpolished … this can be easily seen wit respect to films (i watch way more movies than photo essays )…. there are many directors who just are their best in the first film they ever make …ie when they have no practical experience of cinematography or how to make proper use of the boom mike or the set design etc etc … danny boyle graciously discusses this is in an intrvw after slumdog … one of the reasons for him to make a movie on a city like bombay was that he had never ever visited Bombay which allowed him to be a bit clueless about what is going around him during the entire shoot … regardless shallow grave remains a master piece and slumdog just an oscar wining film …

    i personally know some passionate story tellers who borrowed their uncle camcorders over the weekend and made an interesting short film and later just loose it all in trying to be “film makers” .

  43. why would i expect you to be nice to me? i could care less. but willful misunderstanding is very frustrating. and you misquote me; i did not say ‘a sad waste of space’, i said “a sad waste of THIS VERY VALUABLE SPACE” – which i stand by. scathing maybe (for those of thin-skin; pace emil) but not personal in the least.
    What is BURN about: “an evolving journal for emerging photographers.” Someone explain to me in what way an 18 year old who has just bought his first camera, has no experience of photography (at the time these were taken) and demonstrates (to my eye) not the slightest understanding of the process is in any way ’emerging’? Emerging from what? the class of people who dont yet own cameras? It is my humble opinion that ‘this very valuable space’ would be better served by photographers who have emerged a bit further, for example many of the participants to this discussion.

  44. Imants, you are not speaking for all of us here when you “disinvite” people who are merely posting their opinions. From my reading, it was you who chose to turn the discussion personal.

    David S., you are most welcome here and your perspective — as does Imants’ — adds to the discussion.


  45. David S.: Although I couldn’t disagree with you more I do appreciate your getting the party started. I guess this topic still needs discussing.

    Imants: Regarding your teaching comments. Well stated, sir. The world could use many more of you.

  46. …remember Mr Sutherland stated that the essay was a better get it right…….“a sad waste of THIS VERY VALUABLE SPACE” not me

  47. Emile, Congrats for making it here.

    I think its always good to see where we’ve come from both technically and artistically. As such this work is an honest retrospective on yourself. If any of us look back on images taken a number of years ago, then maybe we wouldn’t quite think we are the wonderful people that we are (honestly…. we are – lol!) :/ The old adage of the best camera is the one you have with you is indeed true – be that a mobile phone, a disposable film, or your 5dmkII. Do I like your essay? Well, i’d be luke warm on it to be honest. It does represent something but not much to me. I did like the opening image though and you presentation does make an interesting point of shooting with freedom (to paraphrase).

    Cheers and best.

  48. I find it interesting, the idea of “this very valuable space” that is Burn. I think some of us, at least occasionally, fall into the fallacy of believing that it is somehow our space, but it is not, it is David and Anton’s space and they can do with it what they like, and if we don’t like it, we can go elsewhere or start our own online magazines. I’m not saying anybody shouldn’t comment on the content, just that nothing is gained by feeling inappropriately proprietary. Personally, one of the best things I like about Burn is that so much gets published that I would never choose if I were making the choices. It’s those selections that I learn the most from. Learn about photography. Learn about the world. Learn about myself. But since bryanformhals brought it to our attention, I do find myself questioning why you all would publish something that’s already been published in at least four other online magazines. You don’t feel that Burn merits first-run work? I might consider it a slight that it was even submitted with those kinds of priors. And how often do we hear that there is a better edit available somewhere else? Or that the artist knows his statement is a bunch of crap but that’s the way these things work? Top print magazines would never put up with that shit. Should Burn?

  49. I still miss your point, David S. By publishing Emile’s essay nobody has been cancelled from a list, it’s not ‘or him or the other’.. I’ll still be interested what your reaction would have been if there was no background information. Being just 18 years old, using for the first time a camera, first time processing film, what if you wouldn’t have known? Does that matter more than the work itself? Is making money THE thing that counts for you, to judge work? When is ’emerging’ about enough? German language has about 15 different words for the one English ‘to emerge’..

  50. Eva, its not remotely about money. maybe this helps:
    A good friend of mine is a hugely talented painter but the usual drill applies: struggling to get shows, rarely selling her work, doing a job she hates to fund the thing she loves. But in spite of her lack of ‘success’, she embodies a complete dedication to the art of painting – diligently sourcing rare pigments, mixing her own paint, making her own frames, stretches her own canvasses, endlessly exploring different techniques, being hyper-critical of everything she does if she knows it could have been done better. I firmly believe it is precisely that dedication that makes her an artist – not the paintings, which are only the by-product of her dedication and her love of what she does. And I further believe that the dedication is apparent in her work. Her vision is totally modern but the work is grounded in a centuries old tradition. it is the ‘doing of it’ and the seriousness she imbues it with, for which there are no short cuts – that is the important thing.
    (Disclaimer: this is not the way I work, nor do i expect anyone to make their own cameras. what i’m trying to sketch is the way an attitude to process informs the end product. i am not an artist and so i have spoken instead about professionalism, which i believe to be a part of the same continuum).
    To answer your question, what if i hadn’t known the circumstances – I can tell you that i saw the pictures first and read the statement after and it only confirmed what i already felt; that these were pictures by someone who simply hadn’t a clue. i found the whole thing profoundly anti-photographic for the simple reason that the images demonstrate no understanding of the medium.
    You say “nobody has been cancelled from a list, it’s not ‘or him or the other’” – which is true, but not really what concerns me. What concerns me here is the construction of the ‘worthy image’ – in this case, worthy of being published by the inestimable DAH and coming with his nod of approval. If dilletantism is to be rewarded at this level – and in my opinion both the process and the product in this case are profoundly dilletantish – then that erodes the value of far more deserving work. It contributes to a climate where photography is seen as something that anyone can do and anything goes.
    I dont think i can make myself any clearer. If anyone has got anything out of this – as seems to be the case from the numerous PMs i’ve had – then great. If anyone feels offended, in particular Emile or Imants, then please accept my apologies.
    Now i bow out.

  51. Dear DAH,

    When this essay was posted I thought it was a joke and then realized no that isn’t how this site works. Or is it? Then I remembered that you had announced that all essays posted here would receive payment for the work. That was rather shocking to think money was paid for this work. Most of the work here teaches me something and with the comments made on the essays I sometimes learn even more. However, this work leaves me cold, freezing, pun intended.

    #1 is the only one that has any clarity and contrast and composition and would qualify in my mind as a decent black and white image.
    #2 the fish and the woman had potential if the quality of the photo was better
    #12 is that a dog?
    #16 Reindeer slaughter would have been interesting if the quality was such that I could see what was going on. Even on full screen it was hard to make out the head of that one sticking up to finally figure it out.
    #17 Is a repeat of #2 and both are bad images of an interesting scene
    #18 What is it?
    #19 The man in the snow is just a man in the snow or is he standing up and you are looking up at him?
    #20 Lights in the snow and scratches? What is this one all about?
    #21 Grass made it through the snow

    Emile, sorry to have to say that but I know how important it is to get good feedback on your work. I would hope that your work has progressed past this point. Congratulations on being posted on Burn….

  52. This essay is not about an 18 years old boy with its first camera. It’ about how my experienced eyes decided that these images are strong enough to be a story! How I spent all this time to edit, build, frame, find the texture , pick up the image.

  53. and for those who are interested to see the all series you can see it online on Tiny Vices’s Portfolio. Tim Barber was the first who decided to publish this work and at the time I sent him the all series (something that I don’t do anymore). I am very happy to be here on Burn and I more than pleased to see that these images are creating a little debate.


  54. Michal Daniel

    A bit of context: Jacques Henri Lartigue started when he was 6 years old. The images he made from day one are classics of modern photography. He never took a class. He was not a pro. Some people are born photographers.

  55. Emile, thanks for the link.. as often I prefer the light background, and there are some gems in there :)

  56. David S.,

    Intention imbued into work is one thing, and possible, but not very easy to accomplish. To say he no intention in taking these pictures is patently false, it just not have been the same intention you have when taking pictures, which is to create “professional”-looking images for publication…

    At the end of the day the images by themselves are divorced from any intention, and I like what I see.

  57. Lately I’ve been waking at around 5am to the sound of birds in the trees outside my window. It induces in me a very strong deja vu for SE Asia. It’s a really uncanny, almost dreamlike feeling. I can’t place any exact when or where on it – just a compilation of those many times waking early to catch a bus, train, plane, go out shooting, not feeling well, or just waking to feel that feeling of being halfway around the world and the birds are singing and the motorbikes and heat haven’t started up yet. Now why I get that feeling of Vietnam, Thailand, etc in drizzly cold Seattle just from the sound of birds at that particular time of the morning is strange, but it’s there and I can’t shake it.

    To me that’s what these photos are about. So lets stop talking about “briefs” and “professionalism” and more about how photography can impart feelings. Whether they bring across those feelings to the viewer is often a matter of personal taste. Some of the essays on here do it for me and others don’t – and each of us will have their own take away from each essay. So it may be a “waste of space” to some but not to others, so best to keep the proverbial mouth shut of comments like that. Just know it doesn’t have an impact on you then move on, or offer up some advice that possibly could help the photographer move the work forward in the future (ie tips on sequencing, or an image that throws you out of the mood, etc etc) but isn’t just a blanket condemnation. Too often the internet now empowers individuals to be judge and jury when there’s actually no trial taking place.

  58. Michael Webster’s comment above has it about right. Burn should be the place to come to see essays that are complete. That are the best the photographer has to offer. All the images in the essay are the best, most relevant to the project. There aren’t other versions out there that have better pacing or more interesting images that help tell the story more completely. And the artist’s statement should have something more than just a passing resemblance to the images.

  59. I am a believer that essays should be completed to the extent that there should be minor tweaks only. But it probably isn’t practical as people are producing more and more long term projects as they see it being the way to get their work seen. Bottom of the cocky cage photography (news) has changed and career paths are diminishing so the essay will stay with us for a while especially on the www world as it suit the media carrier.
    I stated before that the first essay I had posted was completed but the second was part of an on going project(more like an ad for my book) and it was a uncoordinated disaster. Since that time the book has changed though conceptually there are now 3 completed, image sequences etc. I never got anything positive from posting it on burn except the knowledge that it was a dumb thing to do on my part.
    I echo Michael K’s comment this is a completed essay and satisfying for most viewers

  60. Emile, thank you for allowing your work to open this conversation here. I know it may
    not be how you thought the comments would go, but having your work presented
    here has opened a wonderful time to talk about Art and Commerce.

    No matter the aesthetic approach, the greatest appreciation of any
    work executed is fair compensation. The dialog your work has opened up
    is so important. How do you value what you’ve created? Have you thought
    about the value of what you have created? Is acceptance enough? Should this
    even be discussed?

    We all begin by responding to the results of our efforts. Eventually we will
    share with others. When we get positive response we are rewarded and
    continue seeking approval… we’ve connected. Now comes the hard part,
    coming to the realization that others connect with our efforts and perhaps
    want to possess what connects with them. How do you come to terms with

    We’re now at the point where somebody appreciates what we do enough to
    compensate us for our creativity… yikes! You think, “I could do this for a living!”

    I want to leave it there. Thank you again Emile, DAH, Anton and David S for
    allowing the display of Emile’s work to generate such an important conversation.

    What not to Love -CIVI

  61. Jamie Maxtone-Graham

    An interesting opportunity here for a not-uncomplicated debate – not conducted often enough, I feel.

    The merit of this work is obvious enough to some and the ‘amateur’ nature of it clear to all. The contemporary meaning of amateur is ‘unpaid’ and ‘inept’ and these both perhaps apply here. The original French and Latin derivation of the word is ‘lover’ or ‘to love’ and that is clearly the spark of this work.

    I disagree with Emile who states just above that this isn’t about the 18 year old who took the images but about the experienced eyes (his own, years later) which decided this work was – to Mr. Sutherland’s disagreeing taste – professional enough to become a series. I think it is very specifically about the 18 year old, very obviously about the first-time experience, very beautifully about the purity of ‘looking’ and the truly charming things which that kind of ‘ineptitude’ allows us, as first-timers, to find important, to find meaning in. There are too-numerous precedents in outsider art, in folk art, in snapshot photography, in contemporary art in general for this not to resonate.

    The fact that Emile could revisit his own first work with more mature (experienced) eyes and see the germ of what he has become is so valuable – both for himself and for all who practice an art whether it be the photographic one or any other. The purity of the original impulse is enviable and nearly forever lost on the professional, on the expert, on the experienced. It’s so obviously the point of the exhibition of this work here that the debate seems nearly pointless. But clearly it isn’t entirely without need because there has been such heat generated here.

    I think it is an object lesson to everyone to keep the amateur – the lover – alive in us all.

  62. First – Given all the criticism and debate I went back to take a second look – this time, with my reading glasses as I had just returned home from Greenland. Of course, I well-remembered the poor processing, the dust, scratches and such and, given the harsh critiques by some, was prepared to see a set of photos that upon closer examination looked worse to me than my earlier viewing – the one without my reading.

    But no. This time, despite the horrid technical flaws, many of the images just struck me as wonderful, powerful and very evocative of the Far North in winter. I look at the images and I can feel it; I feel it in my nostrils, in my lungs and on my skin.

    So I think that, feeling wise, it was a great first shoot. Technically, it was awful, but my own feeling about photography is that the feeling it captures is far more important than the technical aspects. I sometimes visit other sites and see photographers blasting images that have a little bit of noise or whatever, yet they have feeling, and see them praise images that are plastic smooth and plastic in content and feeling.

    No plastic here.

    Second – Peter Grant, your comment:

    “Emile… amazing your film didn’t crack.. ”

    This is a very true worry. I have had film break on me several times and sometimes I have had to create makeshift darkrooms on ice or tundra just to safely remove that film and replace it with a new roll. Yet, because extreme cold is always dry cold, what would happen more often is that static electricity would create little “lightning” bursts on the frame or the shutter would slow down and go off sink so that half of the image was overposed and the other half under – if that half was exposed at all.

    I find the newer high-end digital cameras – for me, the Canon IDs III, to be much better in cold weather than film was. You just have to have a couple of batteries per camera and always keep one tucked into your parka so that it can stay warm.

    Third – My name links to my blog, but as I started it right after I suffered a bad injury that limited what I could do physically for quite a long time, I have done any real cold weather shooting for the blog. Maybe that will change this winter. I once started to build a website but got sidetracked and never finished it. Now, it is just an embarrassment to me and when I find time I intend to start from scratch and build a new one, but it opens in cold weather, though not the extreme of darkest winter, and there is a bit of cold weather in it, so anyone who might be curious could see it here:


  63. one of the great things about listening to a record is the crackle, bump, crackle, bump, at the beginning and end of the track.. people sample it these days.. gives a certain atmosphere..

    were these a set of dumbly composed, (photos like this are EVERYWHERE), or derivative, (photos like this are EVERYWHERE), efforts which had been ´distressed´, (photos like this are EVERYWHERE), i would hate them..
    they are not and i do not..
    some of the photos work better than others – that´ll all ways be the way – yet they are original.. ´honest´ someone said.. utterly worthy whether crisp and clean classical, (which i think would also work for many of them), or f**ked up and punk.

    photography is about feeling remember – as is music.. and any methodology which provokes a feeling is acceptable.. valid.. wonderful.. RARE.. from the crackle n bump of a record to the crisp clean tone of a cd.. work needs to be judged much more in this regard than with regards to false projections of professionalism, monetary value or place in the changing market.

    i could´nt care less what any of our perceptions of professionalism, money and blah-blah are if the work lends us a mood.. this work speaks louder than the commentators below and our egos.

    i´m not going to read the statement..

    much love

  64. please use ironey properly.. it is sarcasm, not rain on your wedding day.
    the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning: the irony of her reply, “How nice!” when I said I had to work all weekend.

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  66. I’ve always loved these series. Had I realized earlier it was up I’d have chipped in its favour. The first time that I saw Emile’s images they didn’t have any captions or text, and they were terribly intriguing. I didn’t know even if the photographer had taken the images or if he had found them somewhere, nor what the photographs where of. I kept on revisiting them in my head time and time over again. Sometimes over composed and perfect photography is so abundant that you just can’t tell one image from another, but something of Emile’s pictures just stuck from their sincerity and little imperfection. It was like opening somebody else’s teenage diaries.

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