Dominick Ducote in Conversation with Brendon Holt, on “Clarity.”
ED. Note: You can view all of "Clarity and Fog” here on Frozenwaste.land under the “Places” section.
Brendon Holt (BH): So, Dominick, we’re here to talk about your recent project, Clarity. The title seems like as good a place to start as any. Why, “Clarity”?
Dominick Ducote (DD): The full title is Clarity & Fog, an important distinction because the title reflects the duality in both the images, and the emotions I felt while shooting these images. For example, the images taken in the Tetons are all very clean and crisp, and this was the location where I felt mostly comfortable and content. The Yellowstone photographs however, have a radiated haze to them, much like how my mentality was at that point in the trip.
BH: Ah, I see. What drew you to Yellowstone and Grand Teton for this project? Aside from their breathtaking beauty, that is.
DD: My grandparents took me to tons of beautiful places as a child, Yellowstone and Grand Teton included. I plan on revisiting all the places we went to, because I still remember all the beauty I’ve seen traveling with them, it’s just that now I’m finally able to capture it the way it deserves.
BH: That’s great. My relationship with Montana has a similar story. I spent many summers growing up hiking in Glacier National Park and other areas around Montana with my grandparents and it instilled a love of those places that has lasted. Have you devoted any work to other areas already? And do you have any future locations planned at the moment?
DD: The only other location I’ve shot at so far is Scofield, Utah, a little ghost town where my grandparents built their house years ago. Only 20 or so people live there now, so it’s got a really quiet and forgotten atmosphere. It feels like you’re on the set of an episode of the Twilight Zone out there.
As for future locations, I’d love to revisit Sitka, Alaska, but I haven’t made any moves towards that yet. Unfortunately, I think it’ll be a few years before I can make my way north again.
BH: Alaska seems like an incredible place, from what I’ve seen. It’s one of those “bucket list” places for me personally. My grandma’s descriptions of it don’t quell my desire to visit either. You noted that the impetus behind the project was, in some sense, about being able to capture the beauty that you remember experiencing with your grandparents. Would you say that the work tends more toward the documentary side of things?
DD: It’s a wild place for sure, definitely one for the bucket list. And to answer your question, I think I was a lot more focused with solely capturing beauty on the Yellowstone/Teton trip, rather than taking a documentarian perspective.
That’ll probably change when I travel to Alaska though.
BH: Interesting. I generally see the project of capturing natural beauty that informs a lot of landscape photography as more documentary than art oriented, personally. I mean, what we’re doing is essentially just framing the beauty that we find already existing prior to the act of making a photograph. In your mind what distinguishes a documentary approach from a non-documentary one?
DD: A documentarian approach is meant to give information to the viewer, to present a narrative, and I don’t really care to do that with landscape photography. There may be a narrative driving me to shoot but I don’t usually present it with, or in my images because all that matters to me is that they look beautiful. And you’re right when you say we’re just framing the beauty we find already existing, but I think you need an incredibly artistic eye in order to see that beauty among the rest of the world and isolate the perfect composition.
BH: That’s fair. I will admit to using the art/documentation distinction perhaps too loosely. Looking through the galleries on your website I noticed that you have a decent amount of what we could loosely categorize as “landscape” imagery. So, what do you think it is about landscapes as a subject that draws your eye? Why landscapes, in other words.
DD: I view landscape photography as experiencing beauty that wasn’t made by any one living creature, but a combination of time and luck. You’re just an observer at first, but once you take the image, you’re both an observer to the Earth’s beauty and the creator of your own beauty, and that’s incredibly special. It’s a shared experience with the Earth that you can’t find anywhere else.
BH: That participatory element you talk about is an interesting take. So another thing I noticed looking through the galleries on your website (I’ve spent a bit of time in them) is that you made images for Clarity & Fog in both 6x6 and 35mm. Looking back on your experiences working in the same locations with different mediums, what are your thoughts on medium format vs 35mm?
DD: Different mediums are great for different things, which is why you can usually find me on location with 3 cameras, digital, medium format, and 35mm. To limit yourself to just one medium is to limit yourself as an artist, and that seems like a really dumb move to me. That being said, I personally like shooting medium format so much more than 35mm. I find myself slowing down and putting more effort into composing my medium format images because with only 12 shots on a roll of 120 film, you’re kinda forced to.
BH: I mean, I’m constantly trying to distill my system down to the lowest possible number of parts, but I know what you mean. I used to shoot medium format back in the day and there is definitely a paradigm shift in workflow between MF and 35mm. Looking over your website I’ve seen that the bulk of your work is done in color. Specifically, how did you see color coming into play in the context of Clarity and Fog? And perhaps you could comment on your predilection for color in your broader body of work?
DD: For Clarity & Fog, I knew that the locations I was going to were insanely colorful, so color negative and slide film were just the right move in my mind. I did consider bringing a few rolls of Ilford Pan F 50 but I bailed on that idea pretty quickly. As for my broader body of work, I used to shoot a lot of black and white because it was the only film we could develop in school. I got really sick of it and decided to try slide film, I was hooked from then on.
BH: Ah, Pan F… One of my favorite black and white film stocks. I’d probably shoot it a lot more if it didn’t require a tripod. I have yet to actually develop the rolls of color film in my fridge so the whole color film world is still unexplored to me, especially slide film.
So we’ve covered a decent amount of ground here and to bring things full circle I’d like to close things out by asking you to talk about your favorite image from the Clarity and Fog project. Why you made it, what it means to you, that sort of thing.
DD: Easily the image titled Irradiated [pictured right], an accidental double exposure of a small dead tree in front of a turquoise pool. When it comes to why I made it, or any of my images, I don’t really have a reason. It’s just a beautiful moment that I happened upon and captured.
BH: Awesome, well Dominick for myself and on behalf of Frozenwaste.land I want to thank you for coming here to discuss your work as well as Clarity & Fog with us!
DD: Thanks for having me!
You Can View All of "Clarity and Fog” here on Frozenwaste.land under the “Places” Section.