Dominic Rouse

Pigment print by Dominic Rouse titled Under Construction.


“Were it not for the pain to be found in the wider world I might not have sought sanctuary in the confinement of my own where I have discovered an endless supply of the raw materials needed to make the images I do.” (Dominic Rouse (born in 1959) – The Artist’s Journal, December 2005)

Of all the arts perhaps music and photography offer the richest opportunities for experimentation because of their dependence on machines. As Mozart’s violins, harpsichords, and pianos of classical music were supplemented with newer machines like electric guitars and synthesizers (and even amplification) the sound of music changed and so did the music itself. But the need to explore the human condition through music and the mind of the creative musician is still the foundation of music in spite of all the instrument and style changes over the centuries.

The same can be said for photography. Whether considering P H Emerson and his albumen prints or Edward Weston to Jerry Uelsmann with their work with gelatin silver or for that matter Dominic Rouse with his digitally montaged images, it’s the mind of the photographer and his exploration of the fundamental questions of life and death, love and loss, meaning and chaos that make photographic art captivating.

Dominic Rouse would be the first to admit that his use of the camera and the darkroom are unusual. Photography as a wide and varied community of folks is a very big tent indeed and his corner of photography has few fellow travelers. Contemporarily Jerry Uelsmann comes to mind. But when I think of his work I think more of the painters Bruegel, Hieronymus Bosch and René Magritte. Rouse does not photograph the world he makes photographs of his mind. Looking at his images is a profoundly different experience than looking at, say, an Ansel Adams photograph. With Adams one prepares for his photographs by reading John Muir. With Rouse one prepares by reading Lewis Carroll, or even Freud.

His images are challenging because the questions he asks in his images are challenging themselves. In my interview with him, he quotes Picasso who said that computers are useless because they only give you answers. Rouse’s photographs pose far more questions than they answer and I suspect that is precisely his intention.

–Brooks Jensen, 2007

Artist Statement

Life can be likened to a movie that is shown only once to a captive audience of one – a darkened auditorium in which the level of illumination is a decision for the solitary occupant.

The perfect prison is the one in which the inmates have been convinced that really they are free. Society is such a confinement, the result of a binding contract made between the government and the governed. I find myself attracted to neither camp. The guardians of society are troubled by their own shallows, the fears they have of others are the fears they have about themselves cunningly repackaged to increase their legal appeal.

The artist, on the other hand, is unafraid of his depths and if you offer him the chance to exchange the gift of his imagination for the mediocrity that passes for happiness in the lives of most others he will not make the trade. He will tell you that imagination is the instrument of self-knowledge.

The visionary is charged with the duty of exposing our many grievous faults and failures, with dredging up to the light of our dark and dangerous dreams for the purpose of improvement. To see the light we must first acknowledge that we are in the dark. Work which displays most accurately the deepest recesses of the human soul will, by default, display some rather unpleasant aspects of it. It is not the duty of Art to be acceptable to polite society and wherever he goes, the artist will find himself a stranger as he is the only legitimate citizen of the world which he inhabits. His lone, dissenting voice is society’s surest line of defense against its greatest enemy which is, of course, itself; and were it not for the pain to be found in the wider world I might not have sought sanctuary in the confinement of my own where I have discovered an endless supply of the raw materials needed to make the images I do.

Unless the truth be sinful, it should not be possible to find fault with a man who views the world through a camera’s lens though it is equally impossible in any given age to create work which is agreeable to everyone. Art often challenges existing assumptions rather than simply accommodating them; it is beyond good and evil, which are not the antitheses, but degrees of each other. I suspect that evil does not exist, at least not in the form in which it is presented to us, though there can be little closer to it than the hypocrisies of men and women who claim goodness for themselves. Morality is a disease peculiar to humans and at its worst human life is not tragic but unmeaning.

I am not seeking approval, as a sense of worth should be independent of the approbation of others. What I hope for is an acceptance of that unique quality which is the province of every soul, the discovery of which reveals the facet of creation reserved exclusively for us.

Art is not made by men and women who are wise, but by those in search of wisdom and to search at all is wisdom enough. Knowledge of ourselves is the most that we can know.

And saying so to some means nothing, for others it leaves nothing to be said.