^ Narcissus in Love (Self-Portrait, 2014) © Oleg Dou
SRM: Oleg, many thanks for participating in this interview; it’s always a pleasure to feature your beautiful art. You come from a family of artists and growing up in that environment made you acutely aware of aesthetics, but it was the emotional depth in art that stirred your own passion for photography.
Could you describe that precise moment when you started to feel the need to express yourself artistically?
OLEG DOU: As you already know I was born into an artistic family. My mother used to be a painter and when I was little child I spent a lot of time with her and other artists in their studio.
We also visited different exhibitions often, so I was faced with art in the very beginning.
| All images © Oleg Dou
I have a younger brother and he has very good drawing skills. As a kid, I suffered a lot thinking he was much more talented than me. I wanted to create as long as I remember but that was the main reason why I wanted to prove to everybody that I could do it.
SRM: Most of the subjects in your photography are stripped off their eyebrows and eyelashes, have their skins airbrushed and whiten and even the colour of their eyes has been made similar. Whilst this process seems to lead to the discard of their personalities, all the opposite takes place: Their spirit, their soul and deep emotional world shines through with a strong and unique force.
How do you choose to create their digital manipulation or artistic motives? Do their individual expressions inspire you to create each particular motifs or theme after they’ve been ‘standardised’, or is that something you have in mind before you start the whole process?
OLEG DOU: I can tell you the story of how my style was born. I didn’t have any definite ideas of what to do when I bought my first camera. I was taking pictures of everything and everybody around me. Once, I decided to do a portrait of one of my friends. She had pale skin, which I’ve always loved. But I wanted her photo to look like out of a fashion magazine so I tried to ‘clean up’ the skin on the photo. I didn’t have any proper skills back then and ‘cleaned it too much’. It had an interesting effect of fragility and symbolism.
So I decided to work in that direction.
In those early years, it all used to be always an improvisation. I never knew what I would see at the end of my work. But that has changed; I now always have a clear idea in my head before starting the work.
SRM: Countless original ideas have sprang out by ‘accident’. What are the lights and shadows of your creative process, Oleg? Which is the moment that you most thoroughly enjoy and what do you find it to be the most stressful or challenging when working on a new project?
OLEG DOU: The best moment is when an idea is born and the most challenging is when I have to realize it. I’m quite a lazy person –(he smiles).
SRM: What is your favourite technique or preferred digital software?
OLEG DOU: I basically use a digital medium format camera and Photoshop.
SRM: So this is how Photoshop is meant to be used… Which of your projects has made you dig more profoundly into your own psyche, and what other artist or photographer makes you undergo a similar trip?
OLEG DOU: I’m not sure I can answer the first part… I think the current project always reflects what’s going on inside me. But I can definitely tell you that my favourite artist is Francis Bacon.
SRM: Do you prefer to work with music or in absolute silence?
OLEG DOU: It depends on my mood, but I usually listen to music. Although sometimes I get so deep in the process that don’t even notice if the music has finished.
SRM: Have you ever noticed any palpable difference in curiosity or type of reactions amongst the audiences that have seen your exhibited work in different countries? What plans do you have for the New Year?
OLEG DOU: I can’t really tell if I’ve noticed any special reactions in comparing different countries.
SRM: To Oleg Dou ‘human nature’ is…
OLEG DOU: That’s a very hard question to answer. I think it’s something related to our special role in the world.
SRM: It’s been a pleasure, Oleg. I hope we can all continue enjoying your art for many years to come.