An absurd story of a little rabbit inspired by dead children. Surely this isn't something you would ever imagine reading. Maybe you let out a little chuckle just a second ago, or a soft gasp. This is actually a simple, accumulated introduction about the young, upcoming Russian photographer Oleg Dou (1983). A man who actually isn't considered a photographer, or an artist. He is despised by both due to the indescribably abstract nature of his work.
His obsession with faces and distain for beauty is the epicentre of his work. Editing his photographs to the point that they are surreal, untouchable and almost painful is a prominent characteristic because it reflects Dou's disinterest in beauty and lust for feeling freakishly scared. This distinct style was developed through trial and error.
More error than trial.
After photographing a friend, pale-skinned and fragile, the temptation to edit was unavoidable. Whilst removing all blemishes and irregularities, the portrait lost its human element, the skin turned flawless and developed into a 19th century painting rather than a contemporary photograph, unless we dive into photoshop and fashion photography of course. Which is actually one of the reasons why he despises editing his photographs, because it creates characters who don't actually exist in our universe, with their perfect skin and bodies.
This mentality reflects his existence between photographers and artists.
Regardless of the fact that his profession lacks a description, Dou is extremely successful. Having developed a unique style, which he reflects upon with the title 'computer generated images', he hasn't established a profession that fits into a box. Photographers, in the simplest form, don't see him as part of their community due to the amount of editing his images go through. Many artists feel that Dou doesn't have a strong message to portray because the underlying stories are completely unrelated to politics. Instead he reflects his own memories and traumas in his work.
The sad little rabbit was Oleg Dou himself.
Prancing around the pine tree in a costume forced upon him by his mother for new years eve, was not one of his fondest moments but definitely a source of inspiration for his work. Cubs, a popular series of work, reminisces back to this traumatic period in his life. Remembering himself in a rabbit costume, one in a million children, but the only one with tears in his eyes. The alien-like children portrayed in Cubs are all unhappy, partially because of the sad nature of his memories but also because he is visually inspired by a strange European tradition. In the middle of the 19th century it was not uncommon to photograph dead children. This may sound quite absurd, but when a child died they would be sat up straight on a chair or couch, holding a bouquet of flowers, for a photo shoot which acted as a way to remember them. The photographs showed emptiness, they are 21 grams lighter; considered to be the weight of ones soul. Although Cubs doesn't feature dead children, they are ill and upset, which is a depiction of himself when he was a child. Dou would never be found smiling in a picture, partly because he didn't like being photographed but also because dressing-up was a torturous moment in his childhood.
Do any of his series reflect how he feels today?
Yes, not that one series will remain a true depiction of him, but as Dou changes and develops as a person so does his work. Another Face is a good example; it happens to be his newest series and reflects the idea that we all wear an invisible mask. Whether it is related to plastic surgery, or just the fact that we pretend to be someone we aren't; Dou is playing along with social rules and boundaries that have been set for us.
The Man Who Laughs, a movie from the 70s, was a huge source of inspiration for Another Face. The main character was tortured as a child, his face covered in scars, one of which ran from one ear to another, across his face making it look like he was continuously smiling, even when he cried. Oleg Dou was so inspired that he drew this grin on every portrait he came across; in the newspaper, magazines, photographs etc.
His obsession with beauty versus ugliness is directly translated in his work. The need to provoke the fine line between the two is extremely fascinating and forces the viewer to feel and think, a reaction that he keeps in the back of his mind when working. Not being able to express his stories and ideas in relation to societal issues in words, means he does it with visuals. Almost like cinematography.
Dou wants to make people feel and question who they are, what their destiny is and what the core essence of human nature is.