by Polina Shubkina

Dušan Kochol by Welin infront of W. Ego Journals

Tell us about your approach to photography. How it all started? What are your memories of your first shots?

Dušan Kochol (DK): I observe the world around me and absorb it like a sponge. The perceptions and feelings of individuals and situations, the reaction of people to urban environments and culture… Then I reproduce it all in a form of artwork.

Before I started studying photography at University, I took private lessons with one of the icons of Slovak photography, Oľga Bleyová. She opened the world of photography to me, and I have never left it since. 

Is there any other contemporary artist or photographer, even if young and emerging, who influenced you in some way?

DK: While living in London, I became really passionate about visiting exhibitions of all kinds, as it is not only photography that inspires me. The work I admire is quite diverse, and I tend to pick different feelings or emotions from different artists. From the boldness of Henri Matisse cut-outs to the tranquillity of Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood paintings.

To name some photographic masters that inspired me the most in the past, I have to mention the mysterious twilight of Gregory Crewdson, the psychological depth of Diane Arbus or the witty narratives of Guy Bourdin. I could go on. From the more contemporary perspective, I have a great admiration of Viviane Sassen. 

© Guy Bourdin Charles Jourdan, Spring 1978

Can you tell us something about your educational background and how it has influenced your creative evolution? 

DK: I graduated in Promotional Art Design from the School of Applied Arts in Bratislava, attended photography courses at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and London College of Fashion. My Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees were completed at the Institute of Creative Photography, Silesian University in the Czech Republic.

After studying art for 14 years, one turns into the encyclopedia of references, appropriations, and reinterpretations. Many times I wondered what it would feel like to create art with an entirely clear mind, without projecting the whole history of art into it.

Lot’s of your work deals with the idea of self-exploration, real and false personal memories. Is there any particular psychological school of thought that influences and inspires you?  

DK: I think it is life itself and the whole process of learning, who you are and where are you going as you are getting older. It is fascinating. I often re-interpret all these fragments by creating self-analysing characters. I use my work as some form of art therapy, the way to deal with my own mental development. The human mind and the psychological processes within are the most intriguing phenomenon. 

Could you tell us about your W. Ego Journals project?

DK: Walter Ego is a fictional character. I created him for my alter ego’s diary of visual observations. The journal is divided into chapters capturing the real life experiences in which my feelings merge with my inner fiction. In a concise manner, I could say that the whole project served as an experiment. I used the medium of portrait photography and applied on it the principles of self-analysis and self-healing. 

Chapter One - “Flight AF447 from Rio to Paris was renumbered to AF445 shortly after the fatal incident in June 2009. Before boarding 445 on October 2009, I received tragic news about my father being in the hospital dying of cancer. About halfway to Paris the craft lost control and we started descending rapidly. The whole cabin made a common gasp for air. Even though the plane had stabilized its position, I kept on falling into the dark waters of the ocean.

One month later I obtained a health insurance document about my own death. A mix up caused by sharing my father's name.

In November 2009 the same service made a mayday call due to severe turbulence at a similar place and time to where 447 disappeared. The parallels between the accidents prompted the media to speculate about a “black hole” of hostile flight conditions above the Atlantic.

Now, while waiting for my biopsy results, I am putting my emotions together as pixels, creating an image. I feel that every small detail tells its story when you finally see the bigger picture.”

The relationship between text and image assumes certain significance in your work. Why?  

DK: I don’t see myself only and strictly as a photographer. I do video art, installations and also exploring other medias linked with creativity. The text is and always has been a very strong vehicle for my expression. I like to play with words and put them in the specific order to enhance the emotions they convey, in the same way as when I compose and stage my photographs. Then when I combine these two together, I believe that one intensifies the other, and the impact they make together is more powerful.

© Dušan Kochol from the series 'Land of Man'

How did you come up with an idea to found the OFF_festival Bratislava? What is this year's theme?  

DK: The OFF_festival Bratislava is held simultaneously with the Month of Photography and it acquires its uniqueness by being a platform for fresh talents from the photography scene. Since its inception, the aim of the event has been to create optimum conditions for the promotion and support of young artists working with the photographic medium.

There were a lot of exhibitions popping up in November, during the Month of Photography festival in Bratislava, that were not included in the exhibition program for many different reasons. The majority of the members of the OFF_festival team are active artists themselves, who belong to the young creative movement. The only thing we did at the beginning, seven years ago, was to recognize it and then give it a shape and a voice which became stronger than we could ever imagine.

The festival became an international affair and for this year’s edition, we chose the theme titled Tomorrow’s Archive. If we were about to create new archives for future generations what they should contain? Which areas should we cover, what we shouldn’t forget and why?

Other than being an artist and a founder of the photographic festival in Slovakia, you also work as a chief editor of the FORM Magazine. What do you think about printed magazines in the era of digital and social networking?

DK: The majority of people still prefer to read from print on paper. The printed reproductions of photographs also have a very different quality than the ones on a computer screen. The other factor is the physical touch, to hold something in your hand and also the possibility to physically store things and rediscover them again.

Printed magazines have to work in close collaboration with the online versions and vice versa; they depend on each other in many ways. If the advertising is set aside, what is found in the printed version, you can explore further online and from the myriad of examples, you find online only the chosen pieces make it to the print. The printed magazine has, therefore, in effect, made the selection for you.

Form Magazine, Orient Issue

Plans for the future? 

DK: I am working on a three different personal projects at the same time and slowly moving between them. It allows me to look at them from a distance and get some needed perspective. All the projects are significantly different but also they affect each other during the process.

After the summer, it will be mostly about directing the festival and magazine. At this moment, I am about to leave to Lodz in Poland for the Fotofestiwal Portfolio Review where I am one of the reviewers and the next month I will be doing the same in Arles. I am also planning an exhibition of my latest project in Washington D.C., so yes, I like to keep myself busy!


Dušan Kochol