Karl Dmitri Bishop – the Unconscious, the Absurd and the Fantastic
Are these photos from this world? This question rises looking at Karl Dmitri Bishop’s works. His images take us back into the spheres of Surrealism. And further.
Bishop seems to pick up several techniques from 1920s Surrealists to create certain pictures in his black and white images that leave our common surroundings behind. Overlays and double exposures evoke dreamlike impressions. The photos origin lies clearly in today’s world, but by creating his collages Bishop opens up an entire new space, not only in his images but also for the spectator’s view. Looking at his photos feels like making a journey. Layer by Layer: you enter a whole different — yes a rather surreal — world. Our common understanding seems to be left behind. And even though his compositions question todays’ status quo one thing is revealed: Life is more than just an image with one dimension, one country or one feeling.
This diversity is also visible in his colour photographs. The people in these works are surrounded by auras created through colour or blurs opening the images for the viewer’s interpretation. What are we seeing? What are we not seeing? And more important what are we thinking when looking at these images? Bishop’s colour photos absorb you but do not reveal their whole meaning easily. At first glance they catch you with colourful vividness, beauty and happiness of life calling for you. But what lures into looking deep is the question what is behind the blurs, the haze and colour shades. It’s the Unconscious, the Absurd and the Fantastic. It’s a (sur)real world out there.
Do you still use an analog camera? Or do you photograph digital?
I use both. I like to experiment with both cameras and seeing what different effects I can create when I put together. I love handling old cameras, it’s like an old book with that feel and smell. There is a beauty in using analog, like the satisfying sound of an old record.
When did you start taking pictures? Did you study photography?
My grandma use to take me mushroom picking through the woodlands when I was a kid. She would let me take photos of the mushrooms with her camera.
At school I took some black and white photos in an old derelict farm house for a project. In the barn there was a circle made of stones which I believed to be occult related. I remember my teacher showing the class a photo I took of a tree growing through an old car. He told the class how powerful nature is and in the end nature would claim us all back. That really stuck with me.
Do you think it’s important to study photography?
Somebody once told me “If you want to be a photographer, you have to go to university”. That really upset me and made me even more determined to prove them wrong. Creativity comes from within, I believe my work mirrors my untapped thoughts and desires.
I taught myself through trial and error, developing my own sense of style. I don’t take photos the professional way. I’m a bit more DIY, that’s what makes me different.
How much time do you spend selecting and retouching your images?
It varies. I am very critical about my work, it has to feel right. I also have to be in a particular mood before I can start working on my images. Sometimes I know instantly what results I want, other times it evolves into something better than expected.
How do you find your subjects?
Many of my subjects are close friends who I’ve known for a long time. Taking photos is a very personal thing. With friends it’s a relaxed environment where we connect and there is a natural flow. Lately I have been working with musicians and other artists which is pushing me out of my comfort zone. The outcome is taking me to new and exciting places.
Do you think you need a philosophy to create your photographs?
There is always a thought process behind my photos, an overarching theme of nature. It’s not always intentional, it comes from within. It’s ingrained into my being.
What message(s) do you want to communicate through your pictures?
I feel we have lost our sense of belonging in this modern mechanical age. Lost our connection with nature. We came from nature after all, why not look after it?
How did you develop your own style?
When I first started taking photos I had no idea what I was doing. I was more focused on the final image I wanted to capture and not the way it was captured. I process my work in a particular way which I think has given my work a signature style. My work is very personal and there are a lot of raw emotions behind the images you see. The journey I’ve taken so far has made me the artist I am today and I think that shows through my work.
What influences you / what are you’re sources of inspiration?
I dream about the past and all it’s mystery. I’m fascinated with people from different cultures and spend many months a year in India. India has a special place in my heart. I spent many years working with the human anatomy and physiology, understanding what makes you human makes it easier to make something less human.
What are you currently working on?
Some beautiful images I took in India last year. The work is based on the sanskrit word ‘samsara’ meaning going or wondering through. It’s about the hindu belief of rebirth and the circle of life.
Do you sell your photography? What were the last exhibitions you participated in? Are you represented by a gallery?
You can purchase my work through varies sites. I’m currently working on a shop that will be on my website soon. If anyone is interested in purchasing prints feel free to contact me. I don’t bite!
The last exhibitions I had were in the UK and India. One in Camden, London at the Camden Image Gallery and the other at 1 Shanthi Road in Bangalore, India. The show in Bangalore was special to me as it was the first time I showed my work in India. On the opening night I filled the gallery with smoke and candle light. It was very ambient to say the least!
I’m currently not represented by any galleries. It would be lovely if I was, I’m open to any offers…
How did you get your first assignment/job/magazine feature/ exhibition?
My work was noticed by Varsity Press in Cambridge. Shortly after that I received a email from a publishing company in the US who wanted to use an images for a book cover. That got the wheel churning and gave me confidence, before that I kept my work hidden.
What was the best advise you ever received and/or what would you like to tell prospective/aspiring photographers?
Remain a mystery and never give away your secrets. Today I still don’t give away much detail about my thought process or how the work is created. The great thing about my work is that everyone see different things personal to them in my images. I take great pleasure in hearing peoples different perspectives, it opens up a window to their soul.
If you had the chance to meet a person of your wish – dead or alive- and ask one single question who would it be? And what would you ask?
I would have to ask Norman Parkinson to take me back in time to when he shot Floating With Flowers in Kashmir, India for Vogue in 1956. I have never fallen so hard in love with a photo.
How would you describe your photographic look / your style in five words?
Otherworldly, both dark and light.
Thanks Karl for this great interview, take care!
Of course you’re hooked, have a look at his inspiring website and social channels.
All images created and © Karl Dmitri Bishop 2015