Life is a wild ride. You can go from one thing to the other in a snap of a finger. That's how film photographer and artist Andrew Dupuy began his career making images. Starting off as a sound engineer, he discovered the analogue process and not long after he got bit by the analogue bug. Andrew jumped from audio equipment to film rolls in his work. Naturally curious and imaginative, Andrew then started photographing things he found interesting. His photographic work consists of a heavy mix of vintage Americana and modern-day surrealist heaven. Lucky for us, we got him to talk about his work and that his images aren't hard to miss.
Hi, Andrew and welcome to the Lomography Magazine! What do you do and what got you started with film photography?
Hello! A road trip from New Orleans to Chicago six years ago got me started in photography. A friend urged me to take photos of Graceland and some stops along the upper half of Route 66. Up until that point, I had been pursuing a degree in sound engineering and I hadn’t really had much experience with photography, digital or otherwise. But something on that road trip clicked and that was the first time I realized I could use a camera to tell a story and it felt very powerful.
Ultimately sound engineering was not something I was very good at but many of my classes involved editing and recording on older reel to reel equipment. At the time it was impressed upon me by professors that learning the basics of audio editing on analogue machines was the best way to understand the fundamentals of recording. So, of course, when I decided I wanted to learn photography instead, shooting film and working in a darkroom made sense.
How does photography fit into your life? What do you like most about it?
Photography is the one artistic pursuit where I’ve felt like I have a natural inclination to succeed. I’ve tried so many means of expression but none have stuck with me. So, of course, I find photography all-consuming. And also, only six years in and I feel like I’m eternally learning. I’m never bored with it.
How would you define your style in photography? How did you develop it?
Whimsical is a word I feel comfortable using. I like to have fun in my photography work and I think humor and irony are a big part of it. Although my drives and road trips are ritualistic and my photography is partly an archeological experience, I’m more interested in capturing an alternative reality that isn’t related to time and place.
Initially, I wanted to shoot a series of color-saturated square images that would mimic photos from vintage vacation brochures so I invested in a Rolleicord medium format camera. I really love the detail of medium format film but ultimately found most of my learning and shooting was done on two cheap rangefinder cameras. I shot with these cameras for about a year before switching to a Nikon FM3A. The FM3A is my perfect camera. All manual. No bells and whistles. In a normal shooting scenario, I utilize two FM3A’s because I like having the ability to shoot with more than one type of film at a time.
Your travel shots can sometimes look like they're straight out of a surrealist wonderland. What draws you into those kinds of photographs?
"Surrealist wonderland" is a description I really like! I’m drawn to anything that has a fairytale quality including dioramas and statuary. When I was a kid, I dreamed of running away with the carnival. Traveling from town to town with all those games and rides seemed like the perfect life to a 10-year old! To me, there is nothing more surreal than the densely packed colors of a carnival midway. On top of that, I shoot mostly with wide-angle lenses. I like getting close and filling the frame.
We also noticed that you take a lot of photos of subjects that have this vintage Americana vibe. What's the story behind those photos?
I live in New Orleans but the majority of my photography work involves drives and trips to more rural areas. You can really play with a sense of isolation in those places. My work reflects that isolation and exists in those places where nature and man-made meet. Rural roadside America is rich with subjects. It’s probably why the American Southwest is one of my favorite places to photograph. I love vintage postcards so the images from my project Big Country are meant to resemble American travel postcards.
Any unforgettable experiences on the road? What was your favorite destination?
One experience that was really special to me was visiting a stretch of desolate badlands in New Mexico this past year. The area was several miles of dramatic white and grey rock formations that felt like an uninhabited planet. I spent the entire day there exploring and it was the first time I found myself shooting straightforward landscape photos. The strange rocks were an inspiring subject.
Another thing that we can't help but mention is the cinematic look of some of your shots. They look like they can be part of a movie storyboard. Was that a particular style you were going for?
Cinema plays a huge influence on how I frame an image. When I was a teenager I spent every free moment watching films. Whether it was renting a stack of DVDs from the video store or double features at the theater, I watched everything. But I particularly loved the work of directors John Waters and Pedro Almodovar. And years later, I worked in the San Francisco drag community, so that only helped reinforce my love for bright colors and melodrama. I think it reflects in my work.
In this day and age, why choose film?
I think that any method you choose as a photographer is valid but shooting with film is a process that works well for me. I’d have a harder time getting the results I want shooting digitally. There are many reasons why I prefer film over digital but it all boils down to the look and feel. Digital photography can mimic the grain and the color of film but it’s never quite the same. I also love the tactile nature of film. One of the frustrations I found with shooting digital was feeling the need to take 50 shots and then edit down to just the right one. It’s not a process that works well for me. I do minimal editing.
What do you do when you're not on the road and taking photographs?
I cook and clean. It never ends!
Do you have upcoming projects? Please share them with our readers.
Most of the projects I’m currently working on are ongoing. I shoot images for Big Country in the southwest twice a year. I shoot carnival midways in September and October. And when I have a day off from work I shoot rural Southern Louisiana for Sleeping Waters. All the driving and traveling keeps me busy and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
We would like to thank Andrew for letting us feature his images in the Magazine. If you're interested in his work, you can follow him on Instagram to see more.