There remains a constant debate between analogue and digital — an eternal question of which has more artistic merit; but artist Drew Nikonowicz has already merged the very divided world with pixels and prints to create his one-of-a-kind vision of the world and its heavenly bodies.
Take a seat and read our insightful talk with Drew here in Lomography Magazine.
Hi Drew! Firstly, welcome to Lomography! As we start, the series we’ll be talking about today is a fusion of analogue and digital processes. Tell us, where did you get the idea of the series “This World and Others Like It?”
Thank you! There wasn’t really an ‘aha moment’ for the series. The ideas I present in the project and its statement are things I truly believe. I completed the project as an undergrad at the University of Missouri – Columbia. I was slowly realizing the project while I was learning how to be visually literate. I always had these feelings and ideas about our relationship to technology; photography and art school simply allowed me to become cognizant of them.
Growing up I always had access to a computer and the internet. Technology was embedded in my relationship to the world, and my experiences have always been influenced by this relationship. Revisiting a world I explored inside a video game as a child brings back memories that are just as strong as revisiting my childhood home, for example.
The series plays around the theme of outer space and the universe. May you tell us, does this series pretty much captures how you view the heavenly bodies?
I am incredibly optimistic about this universe and the ones we are continuing to think up and create. In that sense, yes, I would say it captures my views. I believe that this tangible and terrestrial world is very precious, but I share those feelings with the worlds found in video game software and virtual role-playing for example. For me, they exist on a level playing field – one is not greater than the other.
What are the things/elements you usually imagine when thinking of outer space?
Pragmatically, I imagine a lot of emptiness. However, atoms – the building blocks of our world – are 99.999…% empty space and yet the world doesn’t seem very empty.
When I’m a bit more optimistic and sincere, I dream about zipping from planet to planet and quietly witnessing what I can only imagine as “real world” procedural generation. I also think of the scene in Interstellar when Romilly is listening to a distant thunderstorm on his headphones and looking out at the universe passing by.
If you can go to space right now, what camera equipment would you bring and what’s the first thing would you be photographing?
There are so many unresolved variables with this that it is hard to say. There is an incredible premium on payloads reaching space, so I imagine I would be bringing a digital camera. It doesn’t seem likely or practical that I would have a darkroom module inside the ISS waiting for me.
As for what I would photograph first, probably whatever is right in front of me. When I make photos I am very omnivorous. In This World and Others Like It for example, there are photographs of everything from mountains all the way to a brick used as a doorstop. I wouldn’t be surprised if the possibilities of photographing in zero G kept me entertained for a while.
Back to your methods of fusing analogue and digital, is this your way of making both processes at peace? What’s your stand with this continuous debate between analogue and digital?
I think it’s a silly debate. They are both incredibly powerful and useful tools. Both are great for a lot of jobs, and sometimes one is better than the other for a specific job. The bottom line is that they are just tools. And different tools at that. I don’t imagine anyone is arguing about whether a lathe or a table saw is the superior power tool. They both shape wood, but in very different ways.
There are two different kinds of images in the series; analogue 4×5 film photographs and computer generated photographs. They are made to be equals in the series. If I made one more important or better than the other in the series it would be incongruous with my honest opinions.
When making this series, what was the most difficult/challenging part for you?
The hardest part of any project I think is starting. A huge number of images in the final series were made in the last few months I was actively working on it. Before that it took me at least a year and a half to arrive at something that was even starting to look coherent.
The project went through several titles and statements before it landed soundly where it is now. Getting the ball rolling at the beginning is always the hardest part.
How about the most enjoyable?
As a human I am happiest when I really get into a groove of just making things – typically photographs. The rhythm of coming up with ideas and executing them and repeating just feels right. I also think this is where I am most productive and successful. This is usually the moment where you can start to see things falling into place and the work really starts to make sense.
Whom are your creative muses/heroes?
My top three photographers for a while now have been Taryn Simon, Joan Fontcuberta, and Andreas Gursky. These three always stay with me for a lot of reasons, but one thing they all definitely share is the exploration of impossible, unreachable, non existent, or otherwise fabricated worlds through photography.
Do you think analogue photography still has a role in the realm of photography today?
Absolutely. I think that as long as photography exists, film will be around.
Lastly, what’s next for you? Do you have on-going projects at hand?
Right now I’m an artist in residence at the Fabrica Research Centre in Treviso, Italy. I am working on a short project here which is tentatively titled Notes from Anywhere. I will finish this short project in the next few months as I reach the end of my residency in March 2017. As for what comes after March, all I would like to say is that I plan to go looking for something we lost.
If you’ve enjoyed our conversation with Drew, head over to our artist feature article or visit his website, or follow him on Tumblr, Instagram and Twitter. All images used are with permission from Drew Nikonowicz.