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Interview

Dorje de Burgh: "My relationship to photography is centred around time and memory"

text:
Futures Photography
Date:
February 25, 2020
Meet Dorje De Burgh, nominated for Futures in 2019 by PhotoIreland Festival.⁠ Dorje is Dublin-born and based photographic artist practicing since 2012. ⁠

“My relationship to photography is centred around time and memory.” His work is engaged in a dialogue with the dark poetics and reflexive potential of the photographic quotidian via oblique documentary, collage, writing and video.

In this interview, he talks about his inspirations and career:

The documentary photographer Adam Broomberg mentored five Futures Talents over the three months running up to Unseen Amsterdam 2019
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Can you explain us a little bit about your creative process? What inspires you?

This is kind of a tricky question to answer in relation to my current work. My usual practice would involve photographing a lot, sifting through the wreckage for some kind of thread of meaning, and building the work from there. What I’m working on right now conversely came from a time when I'd more or less decided to not make pictures other than for myself, as the nature of the situation was so strange and emotionally heavy - that being my mum’s sickness and death. But after Sherie died I found a whole archive of her work, and images of her before I’d known her, and this shifted entirely my thinking around the photographs I’d been making.    

How do you see your relationship with photography? Why did you choose this medium?

This probably seems like an obvious answer but my relationship to photography is centred around time and memory. I don’t have a great ability to place things in my past in any kind of comprehensible chronology, it’s all a bit of a soup. So, on some deep pathological level I would imagine my compulsion to photograph is in part born from this - some attempt to create order, impose a form on the messiness of life. But aside from that, after quite a long while making pictures, I still find photographs the most endlessly fascinating things - even in their most simple, baseline form. Aesthetically, culturally, phenomenologically, mechanically.

Can you tell us a bit about projects that you have been working with?

Well I’m now on a pretty single-minded trajectory into the mysteries of my strange family history. Everyone’s family is full of secrets, and mine is no different. The work around my mum and her side of my family has quite naturally - through a series of strangely serendipitous events - segued into that of my father’s - a person I’ve never really known, but for whom I bear absolutely no ill will, and who by all accounts has lived a pretty fascinating life. In between I’ve been making a bunch of collages drawing from some kind of fantasmatic pre-internet nostalgia. This is however most likely in lieu of being able to afford proper therapy.

How has been the experience of being a talent selected for Futures?

It’s been great, I’ve met some incredible people and learnt a lot - most importantly how open the world is. Sometimes in Ireland, at the very edge of Europe, everything can feel very far away. Although often I wonder if that’s just me.

Can you share with us a little bit about your plans for the future after being part of the platform? Do you have any new project in mind?

My plan is to combine the current work and the next into a hopefully quite expansive photobook. And then make a project that has absolutely nothing to do with me whatsoever, like about an old empty factory closing down or something.

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