A conversation with Dennis Auburn

We tend to forget all the bruises, scars, tears, and heartaches that occur during our chase towards our passions and dreams. While our eyes are focused on what awaits in the future, Dennis Auburn’s eyes have been on our cuts and scraps this entire time. Born in Mons, Belgium and grew up in Missouri, USA, he currently resides in Houston, Texas where he is a freelance photographer, who allows his wanderlust to take him where it pleases. His photographs highlight the small yet vivid details of daily emotions to remind himself just how exquisite, surreal, and destructive this human life can be. Here at Atwood, we are grateful and eager to see where his artistic insight will take him and what he has yet to remind us about ourselves that we almost forgot.

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Tell me about yourself.

My name is Dennis Auburn and, I am 22 years-old. I am an analog and digital photographer traveling around Texas and wherever else my mind takes me.

Why portraits?
I guess I take portraits because it gives me insight about a person. It has been one of the best methods for me to meet new acquaintances and friends as well.

What about human beings fascinates you the most?
The human body is so beautiful to me. There’s always a story to tell from every scar, stretch, curve, impression, or beauty mark. It’s funny because my father always told me growing up that he disliked humans; on the other hand, once I picked up a camera, he told me that it is probably the best reason to take photos of them.

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What do you hope to accomplish with your art that you feel you have not conquered?
I only hope that I keep moving forward. I never want to get to the point where taking photos becomes a hassle. It’s always been a ride to new experiences and, it continues to thrill me till this day. I don’t think I’ve given my full potential just yet but that might only be because I’m still trying to find myself; however, I’m young. I have time.

Your artwork is so intriguing; it is full of delicateness and, it is very amiable, which can lead a viewer to feel and many different, soft emotions. What do you hope to convey to your audience through your photographs?
I don’t ever try to convey a particular message with my work. When I take photos, it sparks some sort of feeling, and I hope that same feeling comes across through my work.

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Looking at your photographs, I find myself struck by a sense of adolescent beauty and femininity. In particular, I really loved some of your photographs with a young girl and guy in nature and covered by a transparent cloth. What were your intentions behind the shoot?
I enjoy youth in general, and I love to present different ways that youth live in this century. From what love and connections mean, what struggles hurt us or make us stronger, how we deal with such stress that we start to either lose it or live carefree, or just somewhere in between it all.

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It seems you are very fascinated by the humanness in us, such as love, connections, and suffering, that we fail to see due to all the distractions this world has to offer. How do you correlate this into your photography? Do you hope to portray a message about humanness to your audience?

I’ve always been an observer. People watching is really enjoyable because you can tell a lot about a person just from simple body language. I work a 9 to 5 job sitting at a computer all day, and I realized that I lose a lot of insight on what living really has to offer. Sure, I have free time to experience love, connections, and sufferings, but I start to drift away from it all the more I stick to such a mundane routine.  I think that’s why I try to express as much of these experiences through my photos, for it will always remind me, especially as I grow older, that you can always work hard but always play harder.

In our issue, Contrast, your series Border Line is very captivating and distinctive. The series demonstrates soft colors and lighting that creates a dreamlike, ornate world. What were you wishing to achieve during the editing process of these photographs? Overall, what inspired you to create this specific series?
At the time, I was widely influenced by King Krule. I daydream a lot and once his new album came out, I was not only daydreaming, but I almost felt as if he put me in a trance. When I worked with Sara, the model of the series, on this editorial, we were really just experimenting, such as laying around with our projector and images we had, all while listening to King Krule. I guess I wasn’t thinking of a significant meaning. Instead, I was lost in thought working with my best friend and just enjoying the moment. I named the series, “Border Line,” for Atwood because this is a track name from King Krules album and, I wanted to dedicate it to him. Overall, I named the series, “Aura,” because the way Sara moved gave me clarity of not only herself, but her energy and the atmosphere, which all worked in her favor. I think after this shoot Sara and I became a lot closer. (see CONTRAST here.)

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What is your perspective on living?
Wow, such a complex question. I guess a lot of times I feel like I’m not fully living quite just yet. I think I get stuck in my comfort zone way too often so, I do try and burst out every once in a while; however, I wanna take that great leap of no return. Not sure if that make sense but, I guess, as a 22 year old, I view living as a constant adventure and challenge.

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What collection of yours is your favorite and why?
I think my favorite collection of mine is everything I’ve shot in West Tejas. This is the farthest west I’ve ever been in the United States; every place I’ve explored in that area, with friends by my side, felt like a whole new world.  I can’t wait to venture further out West and hopefully make my way to the West Coast, preferably Oregon and Washington. I’m a sucker for rainy days.

Tell me who you admire the most (dead or alive). Why are they significant to you and if you had a chance to speak with them what would you ask?
I look up to Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso a lot.  I was introduced to these two by father at a young age and surrealism has always been a huge interest of mine growing up. Just imagining the unimaginable and creating something out of thin air still amazes me to this day. I’m honestly not one to talk about how an artist works or what their process is; I’d rather wonder how they think, what their daily activities are, and where most of their inspiration comes from. These qualities are the best way to express them and not just by their respective medium. I also look up to my favorite photographer, Tamara Lichtenstein, and I’m really glad I can call her a good friend as well. I often ask for advice but most of the time we’re too busy cracking up about the weirdest things, and those are the times I enjoy a lot more than talking about each other’s work.

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What are your remedies for when your creativity is dry?
I’ve been dealing with this a lot lately. I try to figure out why I have a creative block and assess the situation. It’s mainly been stress that’s been keeping my mind cloudy. I usually just keep my mind preoccupied with good vibes like hanging out with people I’m comfortable with and try to get back in the spirit of creating something new.

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What do you enjoy doing outside of photography?
I love eating. I would give up photography if someone paid me a million dollars to just taste test food all day. My taste buds have a true love for tacos. Bring me tacos and my heart is yours.

You have accomplished so much at such a young age. What are some future goals or plans?
I appreciate the compliment, but I really don’t think I’ve accomplished much. Right now, I’m just trying to figure out the next chapter in my life. Though it seems risky, I know I’ll enjoy every struggle and opportunity that comes along.

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See more of Dennis’ work on his website and Facebook page.

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Alexis is a lover of flowers, mornings, nature, and dogs. She spends her waking life dreaming and writing. If she isn't doing one of the two, she's usually studying for her B.A. in English.