Artist DuBois on photography

MONIQUE SMITH, Staff Writer

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On Thursday, Sept. 7 students and professors alike gathered in the Kamerick Art Building to hear a lecture given by New York photographer, Doug DuBois. UNI is currently holding an exhibition for his three main bodies of work in the UNI Gallery of Art.

DuBois is an associate professor at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York, so he is well practiced in giving lectures. However, what allowed him to hold his audience’s attention was the way he divulged the intimate details of his photographs and what inspired him in creating them.

“To make a picture is not to understand a picture,” DuBois said.

DuBois spent the course of the lecture discussing his three main bodies of work. He began by discussing “All the Days and Nights,” a memoir and dedication to his family, which was shot over two decades.

Then he moved on to talk about “Avella,” which featured scenes from a mining town in Pennsylvania, from where his grandmother originateed.

Finally, he discussed in the greatest detail, “My Last Day at Seventeen.” This book was developed from portraits of working-class Irish youth in the aftermath of the Celtic Tiger.

DuBois said that when he began creating “All the Days and Nights,” he lacked camera knowledge. 

“When I made that picture, I didn’t really know what I was doing,” DuBois said in regard to an iconic picture of his father packing a suitcase. “I just said, ‘Dad do something in the light.’”

This was a popular technique for him in his early years of photography and is something he continuously worked on over the course of his career.

DuBois talked about how “All the Days and Nights” was largely influenced by his father’s near fatal accident and how this is reflected in each very personal image. However, some elements of the book are embellished.

“We’re all very unreliable narrators,” DuBois said. “This book about my family is a memoir, which means things are embellished.”

“All the Days and Nights” is split into two parts, based on the before and after of his parents’ divorce.

“It’s a way to reconcile things, it’s all repressed and comes out in weird ways,” DuBois said. 

DuBois moved on from discussing his first book to talking about his interest in photographing a mining community in Pennsylvania, where his family originated. His grandmother took him to the town and this inspired him to make a series of portraits, which eventually turned into “Avella.”

“This was the first time I set photos up,” DuBois said.

In the final half of the lecture, DuBois discussed his work in Cobh, Ireland, where he photographed youths for five summers.

“I wanted to photograph what it meant to be coming of age in Ireland,” DuBois said.

DuBois became interested in a rough area of Ireland known as Russel Heights, and the images he took of the neighbourhood kids there inspired him to write his latest book, “My Last Day at Seventeen.”

Darrell Taylor, director of the UNI Gallery of Art, is largely responsible for the presence of DuBois’s work in the UNI Gallery of Art.

“I was approached by the Aperture Foundation, maybe even two years ago, and they wanted to offer us an exhibition here in our space,” Taylor said. “And so we began a negotiation with them. Based on that initial negotiation, we started working with our photography professor and we looked at a range of exhibitions that we could bring here. When we looked through this set of exhibitions, we knew exactly who we wanted to bring here and that was the Doug DuBois exhibition.”

Throughout his lecture, the audience appeared interested in what DuBois had to say, with many sticking around at the end to ask questions.

“We’ve talked about Dubois in class and I’m interested in him because I’m an art major,” said Allison Bentzen, freshman graphic design major. 

Many students also took the time to explore the exhibition beforehand and had positive feedback.

“He was really interesting, it was great to see the artwork of his family,” said Taylor Hansen, sophomore art education major.

When asked his motivation for offering a lecture about his work, DuBois joked that it was for the money.

“I got paid to be here…that’s honest,” DuBois said.

He added that he offered the lecture because he likes doing it and because he was honored UNI offered to take his work and put it up in an exhibition.

“The exhibition is here and I also teach…I don’t take the commitment lightly, or the money it costs to bring it here and put it up,” DuBois said.

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