Film or digital ? The principal duality of photography reside in the state of mind and the love of a particular process.
Dhagpo Lobsang thinks that pressing the shutter-release button of his camera is only the beginning of his creative gesture, not the completion.
They say that everything happens for a reason: we met up with Dhagpo on a sunny Sunday in the Parisian neighborhood of Le Marais next to the photography shop Lomography that sparked the desire amongst the new generation to come back to film photography. Funny huh…?
On this street of Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie, he had just done a photo exhibition on the walls of a closed optical shop. No need for glasses to recognize a baffling exemplar of beauty. We had set up the rendez-vous. We had to know more about him.
He welcomed us in his apartment and workshop in the middle of the XVème arrondissement and offered a cup of mint tea freshly picked off the balcony garden box while music was playing in the background.
Dhagpo could be called an itinerant artist, a hobo, a Dharma bum on a never-ending road: "I'm out here a thousand miles from my home - Walking a road other men have gone down - I'm seeing a new world of people and things" (Bob Dylan, Song to Woody, 1961).
He lives now between France and Italy and travels abroad four months throughout the year. With his film camera, he brings back a whole palette of sensations, colors and materials that are the landscapes and portraits from the countries he explores. Outer inspirations and DIY craft.
Very fond of the film photograph look, the young photographer uses the classical photo development process according to the ancestral practices.
The small room with tinted windows that he uses as a darkroom immediately caught our attention. “Every Photoshop tools are inside.” He says with irony. He learnt this development technique “on the field”, with other photographer friends who also show a greater interest for film photography instead of digital. This craftwork that requires patience and precision allows him to get, through a variation of baths and temperatures, the result he wished for. This leads Dhagpo to show us several drafts of the same picture for us to witness the evolution of the development of the image.
In many of his works reside a beautiful mystery comparable to moments when you meet someone who troubles you without really knowing why. His pictures are often engulfed with an aura of light like a light fog forcing us to stare at them more intently.
The artist is particularly attached to light. We quickly understand that beyond light, the look we lay on the subject is really what matters here. It is not only about seeing but really looking deeply at what we’re going to shoot.
The workshop also reminds us of a photography museum. The camera collection he owns would leave every antique fan speechless. Dhagpo likes to travel back in time and find items from the 1920’s to the 1970’s. Although they belong to a previous era, they still work: “All these cameras have excellent lenses.”
This type of approach on photography let us wonder about our own practices in the digital era where we pull up our cellphones to immortalize daily life moments on Instagram and other social networks. There are now countless photo editing applications becoming more efficient everyday.
However, although Dhagpo acknowledges the multiple potentials of digital photo, especially for a larger audience, he thinks it's more like a graphic design than photography. So he chooses a real artistic direction.
This choice also illustrates a reluctance in displaying his work online: “I don’t have an Instagram account nor a website; it's another job, not the one I like to work. It's a different language on computer ans it's not where close to the quality of real handmade prints".
Of course, you will always find skeptical people wondering: “All this work for a picture? I can easily get this on my smartphone.”
Dhagpo shows that there always will be another way to take pictures, a process that has been around for centuries and that is still used by photographers across the globe. A poetic process in which “sunlight is the only light that can tell you if a picture is a good picture.”
Thank you Dhagpo for your time and your kindness.
Thank you Etienne for the translation.
Dhagpo's work and others photos from talented photographers can be found in Heaven Photography : http://www.heaven-photography.com/