Dominik Tarabanski is a photographer based in New York, London, and Paris.
First, I'd like to say that I am an optimist, which is why, maybe, color plays such an important role in my work. I was born in Poland, where I completed my MA in Photography at the Department of Cinematography at the National Film School in Łódź, Poland. All my interests and inspirations revolve around visual arts, but photography is the ultimate form or tool of my work.
My conceptual work always begins and ends with color, no matter the subject I am exploring or the reason I am taking pictures. I pay a great deal of attention to color whether I am starting a conversation, or describing a song, or choosing ingredients to cook with, or even just trying to articulate a concept. And so often my memories are activated by the colors I see somewhere else later on.
Color and emotion
Before I became a photographer, I studied computer science and had a background in physics, so I understand how color is generated by our brains. Still, this technical aspect is the least interesting to me. Instead, I always try to focus on the emotional, personal, and subjective aspects of color.
Color is strictly, unbreakably related to emotion. The same subject might be addressed completely differently depending on how I feel: if I am sleepy and sad and the weather is grey, or if I feel totally happy. Sometimes I am surprised that I have a particular spectrum of color in my mind. And today it might be completely different than tomorrow, because every day we are slightly different people. Every experience changes us, and color becomes a very natural consequence of emotion.
Any individual color brings up such a wide capacity for interpretation. Red could be the most beautiful tone from an exotic fruit, or it could be related to something dark, sad, and heavy like blood - but still beautiful. What makes me excited about color is that if you say red, we each have a particular red in our mind. And if there are a hundred people in the room, there are a hundred shades of red in their minds. I think red, and I always try to imagine, ok, what's the red that you're seeing, and in turn, I try to bring a slightly uncommon variant or tone into the image I'm making, making it more personal, making it mine. Ultimately, I want you to be surprised - there is no precise or obvious association or context with this color that you can put your finger on. I am not trying to discover color anew, but asking people to pay attention.
On color and passion
I often find myself asking why I am crazy about a certain color - and I can't find the answer. It's just that it's the color I am passionate about. I was so focused on red recently that I had to stop thinking about it. I forced myself to focus for the next few projects on blue and green instead. So, I looked at hundreds if not thousands of paintings and did this crazy selection of every variant of green I liked, trying to find something very uncommon, very unexpected, and totally different than the first green you think of. Then I combined this color with a blue, very far from what you immediately think of when you say blue and green together. And that was all because I'm tired of red, even if I still love it.
On natural color
Nowadays everything can be both synthetic and organic at the same time. This difference isn't so interesting to me. What I would say is that color is unnatural only when it doesn't belong. What matters in the end is what this color does to us. If we are looking at a painting, an object, or a chair - what is the impression its color has on us? Does the color work or not? Does it increase the feeling of something, does it shape the impression of that thing or not?
A working process
I always try to have the set up for an image be as close to the final result of the picture I'm after. This of course depends on a lot of factors, from the atmosphere, time of year, ability to travel to budget. Color is then another tool at my disposal, and like every different tool I use, I try to use this one in a conscious way. It could be lighting, or the type of camera, film, lens, material, paint, or surface finish. Putting all of these elements together establishes a very particular environment. Photography is almost the last part - I am simply documenting what I've imagined before.
And I do prints myself, always in the same space, with my color checker in very neutral 5000K temperature light. I judge colors and contrast and adjust. I love this part, because in this exact moment I fine tune and shape the impression I would love to bring to the audience, and complete the entire process in very physical form on paper.
Creating a library of color
I am always collecting colors. I walk my dog, and I take pictures with my cell phone constantly: sometimes a part of a wall, sometimes the light - and I am crazy organized with all of these images. I have my favorite blues, but I also have my favorite images and paintings related to water - more about being wet than being blue. Then I have a collection of my favorite paintings, which I reference very often. Abstract, minimalist painters like Wojciech Fangor, one of my favorite Polish artists, and Mark Rothko, Milton Avery, Jerzy Nowosielski, Henri Matisse, Antoni Starowieyski, Ellsworth Kelly, Andrzej Wroblewski mention just a few, but also Kazimierz Malewicz Claude Monete, Josef Albers, Wassily Kandinsky. Within these collections is a very wide spectrum of almost every color I can imagine. And they help me answer what colors am I the most excited about right now, but also make me question: why am I not a painter!