Dounia Chemsseddoha / interview

Wednesday 6th of April 2016


Exclusive interview of Dounia Chemsseddoha (Photographer / filmmaker)


Yann : Hello Dounia, could tell us few words about you first ?

Dounia : Hello Yann !

I am 35, photographer, filmmaker, living in Toulouse since my adolescence. I mainly create record covers and make video clips for musicians. I also undertake photography with a personal approach. I Basically like everything related to something visual.




What is your background and what do you do at the moment ?

I am fascinated by art since my childhood. After a plastic arts baccalaureate, I entered the fine arts school in Lorient, where I stayed for two years. I learned a lot but I did not get the diploma.

After that, I worked for ten years as a video editor. I worked on documentaries, short movies, mostly for big companies. Idem here, I did not do any specific studies related to it, I learned by myself. Next to that, I kept on taking pictures that I use to keep for me… In 2011, I started to make the first video clips for some musician friends. I am rather slow and contemplative. Thus, it took me ages to uderstand that video editing was not sufficient to blossom artistically, even more within big corporate companies. I felt myself withering away.  I finally decided to switch towards artistical activities on the first plan. 

I consider myself as a half self taught person. It is by doing clips and record covers that I got more confident about my own legitimacy as being an artist. People invites me to work on their projects, and it makes me happy. I dedicate myself entirely to artistical activities by now. 



Since when do you take pictures ?  How did you start ?

I started pretty much like many people, borrowing my father’s analog camera, a Canon AE1. I did not know anything about taking pictures and I made many mistakes… many films went right to the bin.

Then, at the fine arts school, I learned the basis of shooting, and the basics of photo development in a lab, with black and white photo printing.

Since then I started to buy some old analog 24x36 and 6x9 cameras and made my own small and personal lab. I took pictures of streets, landscapes, parties, travels, all by instinct and I spent entire nights under the red light, listening to my favorite movie soundtracks.



Who are your favorite photographers and where do you get some inspiration ?

It is always complicated to summarize influences, and strangely, it is not really from photographers that I find inspirations.

Many fields inspires me. Cinema more thant everything else, literature, some scientific articles, art philosophy, classical paintings. I can pick up from contemporary art, fashion, musique and also quite a bit in mythology from all horizons... All this feeds my imagination.

Well, I can still quote some names for whom I like the work such as Goethe, Andreï Tarkovsky, plastic artist Nick Cave, Anthony Hegarty (ANOHNI), Lee Alexander McQueen…

These days, for exemple, following a friend advice, I read « La lecture des Pierres » from Roger Caillois.




 How would you describe your style ?

I don’t know If I can talk about a style, but rather themes or questionings.

I mainly take pictures of what we would call landscapes, but neither in geographical terms, nor documentary. Human is by the way never present here.

Throughout wild landscapes and sometimes post or periurban ones, I try to work on signs and bring up figures and symbols out of them.

Photo’s subject, coming from nature or from human hand, like a trunck, a rock, a mountain, an emblem, or even a construction, is at the same time material and symbolic. The snapshot subject becomes a fetish, a totem.

It is for me an exploration game of unconscious minds, of symbolisms and myths.




Which gears do you use for your pictures ?

I feel very attached to analog cameras as I started to work with this and I never stopped. I often have this physical need. But I do not follow any obligation and therefore never forbid myself to use digital cameras to serve my words. Also when my experimentations requires it. I try to use at best the caracteristics of each camera. It is rather my sense of time which is not really the same. With analog cameras, I like the idea to forget what I shoot before redescovering it when developping the films. Some films have a wide range of crazy colors I love. With digital cameras, it is about immediacy, it is quick, and I can experiment things in a different way. It happens often to me to mix both. I actually work with a Canon 5D Mark 2 as digital camera. These days I often use 6x6 films using a Kiev 88, soviet copy of the Hasselblad 1000F which works very well.

However, I am not that attached to have the rolls-Royce of all cameras. I can utilize my camera, a disposable camera, a toy or old compac automatic from te 80’s, 90’s. I am not addicted to technology, the results and words stays more important than the means for me.




What are your actual and upcoming projects ?

I actually work on the artwork of a new album from a singer called Laure Briard, for whom I already created the artwork of her former album and also three video clips. The album will be released in spring at Midnight Special Records. It should be edited on vinyl format which is a very nice medium to create something mixing photography, graphism and make a real object.

Moreover, I prepare the filming of a video clip for Julien Barbagallo (Tame Impala drumer) who is preparing his second solo album. The video clip should arrive this spring as well.

I also prepare, finally, my first pictures exhibition. All personal work. It should be for july. It will be a small one, but I am already quite nervous about it !




Could you finally tell us few words about the pictures you dedicated to this collaboration with Colorblind Apparel ?

As it was for the spring & summer collection, I tried to work on the idea of southern landscapes and sun, with some kind of lost sceneries, suburbian, almost abandonned.

I shot a black and white film, with quite some grain. As Colorblind Apparel has graphical aesthetique line, I played and added some circular and colored shapes. One faded pink/red and one turquoise/green.

I tried to evoke Malibu, Malibu with past splendour, imaginary and without glitter flakes.   


Thanks a million Dounia !

Do not forget to follow Dounia's work on her website and Facebook pages !