Every now and then, when perusing Flickr you run across an image that makes you stop dead in your tracks. That’s what happened to me the first time I saw an image by Damian De Souza, and the second, and the third. He seamlessly incorporates disparate parts and pieces to form twisted, torn and unsettling imagery that’s impossible to ignore. De Souza’s work expertly crosses the threshold of genuine fine art and I’m so pleased to have had the opportunity to converse with him while creating this interview for you to enjoy.
Would you tell us more about your art background and transition (if appropriate) to working with mobile hardware, i.e. iPhone, iPad, tablets.
I took a few basic painting, drawing and photography courses in the 70’s, and had my own darkroom on several different occasions during the following decades. There were also sporadic, but intense engagements with Polaroid SX-70 and Polaroid B&W film. In the 90’s, besides making my own 4×5 pinhole camera, I adapted my 35mm camera and ripped the lens from one of my bellowed Polaroid cameras for the same purpose.
During the first years of this century I did some exploring with Photoshop. Then in October of 2011 I read a brief mention in a newspaper of something called Hipstamatic, ‘It’s hip to be square,’ it said. I said, ‘What’? I didn’t own a cell phone and had no clue about apps. I googled Hipstamatic and thought it sounded interesting, so I asked my wife if I could use her iPhone 4 to download it along with Panorama 360 and Camera+. Instant obsession! She was generous enough to allow me to monopolize her phone for a full year while I waited for the iPhone 5 to appear. I’ve never been able to make calls on my iPhone; no carrier, not interested; I acquired it strictly for creative purposes.
Self Portrait – ©Damian De Souza
Please describe your style of art and your portrayals. It seems there is a Francis Bacon influence in your work, is that the case? If so, how do you feel that your work is similar or how it differs?
Many of my images are vigorously worked over self-portraits. I feel naturally inclined to the fractured, distorted architecture employed to construct so many of them, and take satisfaction in the emotions and sense of interior life that is then allowed to emerge.
I’ve heard the Francis Bacon reference before, and though I’ve always loved his work, any similarity people might see in what I’m doing is certainly not the result of any conscious deliberation or effort on my part. That being said, the influence would obviously have been absorbed and not in need of my conscious participation in order to show itself. When working on a piece I’m more likely to be reminded of other forms of surrealism, fantasy and the horror genre in film. But then Bacons work is surrealistic, horrifying and grotesque.
I wouldn’t presume to say there’s any similarity to his work in what I’m doing, except that I like many people, distort and deconstruct the human face and figure.
Just an interesting side note; the great British psychoanalyst, D. W. Winnicott, once said of Bacon, “I know nothing of this artist’s private life, and I bring him in only because he forces his way into any present day discussion of the face and the self. In looking at faces he seems to me to be painfully striving towards being seen, which is at the basis of creative looking.”
To see this statement in context, those interested can go to page 3 …… http://web.mit.edu/allanmc/www/winnicott2.pdf
How are you inspired, motivated and nourished in your work?
By art works of every kind, all manner of visual expression, objects both interesting and mundane, the entire visual field, people, and the way light drapes itself over all of it. By the essential and unrelenting mystery of it all.
‘Bus Stop’ – ©Damian De Souza
How often do you create images? Do you feel under pressure to produce more and more or do you not subscribe to this? If yes, does this sense of urgency help you in your creation process?
I used to work on images every day for hours, driven by sheer pleasure and obsession, a purely internal pressure. This isn’t something you can subscribe to or not, it’s a mad wave that sweeps you up and carries you along, something that so many of us experience. All that energy and intensity can’t help but positively imbue the work. Recently I’ve actually been trying to pull back, other things in life beckon and need to be attended to. But I’m still doing some work on images and snapping some photos of material for future use.
‘Panhandler’ – ©Damian De Souza
Do you adapt a similar ‘routine’ to creating your images or do you change and vary your process depending on the piece?
I think I’m pretty consistent in how I go about it. I begin with a photo that looks like it could become something interesting if the right elements were added, and then I attempt to find and then add them.
Image Blender is my workhorse, and that’s where I almost always begin. Depending on the image, I might also use Superimpose or iColorama for masking as well, both of which, because of their more sophisticated masking tools are very effective in helping to shape the dense, chaotic backgrounds I sometimes like to employ, as well as the same for parts of some figures. A series of images I did last year altered their color favorably in one or two of the filters of Photocopier, so I pay that app regular visits. It’s Filterstorm for cloning and a couple of other types of adjustments, and Snapseed for a few as well. So that very generally describes my usual itinerary as I move through an image.
‘Why Don’t You Love Me Edgar Degas?’ – ©Damian De Souza
Do you have a particular methodology in your work? Do you allow a specific time frame to complete an image? Do you need to work in a certain creative environment?
Creative activity has always given me the impression of being simultaneously in a playground and a laboratory. Play and experimentation, the preferred activities of four-year-olds the world over, with our devices and the numerous, brilliant, available apps lending themselves ideally to this type of engagement. I don’t begin with a goal in mind, or with a view to say or express something in particular. I bring photos and parts of photos together, and then react to the result, then react to that reaction, and so on. Throughout the process, possible meanings, often very indeterminate, float in and out of my awareness, persisting yet in the finished work. I prefer this permanent state of not knowing and the way it energizes a creative work. It’s been said of painting that if you know what you’re doing, then you’re not really painting.
I don’t allot a specific time for finishing works. They can sit for months or years, by which time I often find I have a different and better notion of what to do with them. Besides, even when ‘completed’, creative works continuously mutate, are renovated and recreated each time someone new looks at them; a different sensibility and nervous system.
The ultimate creative environment is inside of you. I work wherever I am. Isn’t the ability to do that one of the things we love so much about these devices?
‘The Man in the Toad Suit’ – ©Damian De Souza
Do photographic images feature in your work, what form do these take?
All my images are constructed from photographs taken with my iPhone and sometimes my iPad. These are self-portraits and photos of various objects, people, tableaux and scenes in the environment, manmade and natural.
‘Untitled’ – ©Damian De Souza
Do you use any additional hardware to help you create your art, such as a stylus? Can you also tell us about any other hardware you use including, software, accessories including batteries, chargers, lenses, and storage? Do you have a favorite tool?
I use the Olloclip macro lens but have yet to make use of the other lenses in that kit. I have a GorillaPod Stand but virtually never employ it, though I keep meaning to. My favorite tool is the forefinger of my right hand. If by storage you mean external drives, yes, I use a couple, and have way too much stuff on them. When upsizing, I use Perfect Resize.
‘Strange Crossing’ – ©Damian De Souza
Where do you share your images within social media channels? How do you manage social media, sharing, learning, competitions etc. vs. creating art?
I post on Flickr, including of course, to TheAppWhisperer’s Group, and also submit work to Knox Bronson’s curated site, P1xels. Otherwise, I’m not on social media, not Facebook, not Twitter, etc. I don’t feel I have the time or inclination. Life is full enough. The digital world and its information glut are too much with me. I wish I could devote more energy to Flickr. For learning there are the many excellent tutorials found at The AppWhisperer and at iPhoneography Central as well as other sources. Of course much learning happens by opening an app and wandering about in it. I don’t bother much with competitions. So, the majority of my time goes into the creation, which is also learning.
Are you motivated by competitions/competitiveness or does your satisfaction come from within? How do you involve yourself in competitions, shows, challenges and what are your reasons for doing so?
Since I virtually never enter competitions, (just a few that I can recall); I’m not much motivated by them. While it’s true that I have a certain amount of competitive feeling, I wouldn’t say it motivates me. The stimulation, challenge and satisfaction generated within the process is a motivation, self-contained in a way, and separate from how I feel about what someone else is doing. That being said, it’s certainly satisfying to be recognized. I had work in iPhoneart’s huge exhibit in Santa Monica in 2012. I was happy to attend and meet a number of fellow iphoneographers. Other than that I’ve been in a few exhibits put on by Knox Bronson through P1xels and in a show in Paul Toussaint’s gallery last year. Generally I haven’t been too motivated to get myself into many shows. I don’t participate in challenges since I never begin working with a specific goal in mind unless it’s an image that has previously and spontaneously popped into my head, and which inevitably mutates during the process anyway.
‘The Captive’ – ©Damian De Souza
What causes you to pause and take stock of your existing work? How has mobile technology and connectivity changed the way you see? This can be both literally how you see, and how you see yourself and your work. creative people were more isolated, in the past, and had to deal with less intuitive tools, digitally and in natural media.
I believe I’m continuously taking stock and re-assessing as a result of a chronic self-doubting and questioning of what it is that I’m actually doing. Just making the work generates this type of self-reflection. Add to that the questioning inspired by viewing the work of others, mobile and otherwise.
Everything in my surrounding environment that I photograph is seen by me as complete unto itself, yet filled with the potential to mutate and become a part of something else, each photo, or certain elements in it, being just a single building block for some unknown, future structure. In a sense I feel that I’m always photographing in the future tense, rather than in the present one. Although I still enjoy taking and looking at other people’s single-layered photos, if that’s all I was allowed to do I would certainly feel frustrated and a little bereft. Not a sentiment I experienced before working with an iPhone.
Obviously the ability to globally share creative work and to view that of others, as well as to participate in, and feel part of an expansive community, is a gift to us all.
‘My Snake Shall Lay Many Eggs’ – ©Damian De Souza
How has TheAppWhisperer.com helped you with your art?
The AppWhisperer provides a continuous flow of education, information, tutorials, interviews, columns, Flickr groups, community and more, most of it directed at mobile photographers which altogether has been an important aid in my work and I’m sure for many others.
Thank you, Joanne, for your ongoing dedication to the community, and thank you, Bobbi, for inviting me to do this.
‘The Incarcerated’ – ©Damian De Souza