Dialogue with Charlotte Dumas

Charlotte Dumas is a photographer based in Amsterdam. Her latest book,
Anima, features the burial horses of Arlington Cemetery.

Japan Exposures: First of all, congratulations to your personal “Japan Exposure” in IMA Magazine! Could you describe how the feature came about?

Charlotte Dumas: I think the first time one of my publications was featured in IMA was the issue previous to this one with the publication Repose. Then right after they contacted me again because of the publication ANIMA which I’ve done last year and shows 14 portraits of the burial horses of Arlington National Cemetery near Washington DC. I portrayed the horses at night in their stables as they were drifting to sleep. During the day they work pulling the caissons that carry the caskets of deceased soldiers of the US. Charlotte Cotton was asked for this issue to name some of her favorite books and included this one in her choice. I was very happy about that.

Japan Exposures: Can you please describe your photographic interest and background, including the relation to Japan (if any), and the some detail around the work that was featured?

Charlotte Dumas: I think I mentioned this above already a bit but I mainly take portraits of animals and have been doing so since 2001. My main focus is on animals that are of some significant importance to us either practically as well as symbolically. Because it’s becoming increasingly rare to use animals being used for labour (although some professions are gaining popularity) and their continuing disappearance in our daily life I try to find places and situations where they are still prevalent in a specific function such as police or army horses or search dogs (see Retrieved -on the search dogs of 9/11) or where they encounter us by their overlapping habitat, such is the case in my most recent project which will be published next month ‘The Widest Prairies’ (oodee publishing) which focuses on the wild horses of Nevada that roam the residential areas of the desert population.

Charlotte Dumas -- Ima Magazine spread

Japan Exposures: Do you think your work was of particular interest to a Japanese audience, and if so, can you explain why?

Charlotte Dumas: I wouldn’t be able to say for certain but I know that one of my earlier series (Day is Done resp.) did get some attention in Japan. This series involved lying down roman army horses and I think ANIMA is definitely a series that a Japanese audience can appreciate for it’s spiritual character. The vast and rich history of animals in mythology in Japanese (and in general) culture is in many ways a great inspiration to me as a photographer researching each of my subjects. There is always a strong connection to the history of each subject both in reality as in the depiction and place they have in art history.

Japan Exposures: Here at Japan Exposures, we get numerous requests from people asking for advice to get noticed in Japan, which you have obviously accomplished. What is your advice to achieve this?

Charlotte Dumas: I’ve been making (small) books since 2005 on my own behalf sometimes in close collaboration with different publishers. I think doing this is a great way to distribute ones work internationally and allowing it to be seen by people who can then in their turn recommend it to a larger crowd making the work more known. It’s a very democratic process that I am a big fan of. It is really nice to get the recognition from people who buy and celebrate your books.

Japan Exposures: Language barrier aside, we believe that the Japanese photo world is unique and extremely broad, photography and photographers seem abundant. What is your impression?

Charlotte Dumas: I think Japan has a great and excellent eager audience that loves art and photography and follows it very closely. There is a great public interest I think and worth investigating as well as (trying) to take part in. I am planning my first trip to Japan next spring to photograph and can’t wait to experience the culture myself.

Japan Exposures: Are you interested in Japanese photography and if so, can you elaborate what you like about certain work or artists?

Charlotte Dumas: One of the books and work that springs to mind immediately is that of artist Akito Tsuda and his book Street Cats, brilliantly done and beautiful direct work. I love the very personal approach that many Japanese photographers incorporate in their work and feel affinity with that for sure.

I appreciate greatly the work by Daido Moriyama and this I say not just because of the famous photo of the street dog. I just saw a fantastic show titled ‘With a Trace: photographs of absence’ curated from the Bidwell collection at the Akron museum of Art that included a wonderful work by Moriyama on the ungraspable factors and layers of life.