What Aspiring Creatives Can (And Should) Learn From This Burgeoning Photographer

What Aspiring Creatives Can (And Should) Learn From This Burgeoning Photographer

Charlie Rubin talks to PSFK about his hybrid film-digital process and how emerging artists can rise above the crowd.

Rachel Oliner, PSFK
  • 4 june 2014

For the bedraggled masses commuting in and out of New York every day, the city can seem like a tiring and never-ending employment machine, sucking out workers’ hours in exchange for pay. Billboards dripping with consumerism point out the hottest trends to spend your rent check on, and superficial interactions see you telling acquaintances how much you missed them and how you should grab that coffee tomorrow. Underneath all of this, however, lies the reason that so many creatives still dream of NYC and the opportunities it holds, upholding and reinterpreting the freeing view of the city made popular by the likes of Joan Baez and Andy Warhol in the ’60s.

“Everywhere else is just kidding, right?” As a small fish in what could be considered a massive ocean, photographer Charlie Rubin‘s response shows just how much living in NYC has influenced his practice as a young artist. The city’s streets, the countless music shows, the way the sun looks hanging above Brooklyn’s skyline – every facet of life here inspires Rubin. After a brief stint in Los Angeles, the Haverford College grad returned to New York and earned his MFA from Parsons The New School For Design in New York and hasn’t looked back. From the Unseen Fair in Amsterdam to the Pingyao International Photo Festival in China, the 28-year-old has exhibited around the world in just a few short years, a testament to the hard work he has put in to garner exposure for his work.


Using what he calls a hybrid film/digital process, Rubin shoots with a film camera, but instead of printing the negatives in a darkroom, scans them into a computer to create digital files. To apply his perception-shifting alterations to his photos, he sometimes paints or draws on the negatives, or just prints and re-scans them. For example, the shot above, All your dreams belong to us (2012), was made by adding inkjet ink onto a 4 x 6 photograph and then re-scanning it. While new technologies like Instagram and its suite of  filters have become the norm, turning anyone with a smartphone into a quote-unquote photographer, Rubin prefers to stick with the classics. “A lot of the technology I use is over a hundred years old,” explains Rubin. “Digital cameras are getting really good at emulating a film photograph, but there is still a certain light, black point, and color associated with it that just isn’t the same as a picture taken with a film camera.”


Rubin began his career in high school art classes, adding layers of paint and physicality to his photographs as he became increasingly bored of the monotonous images clouding our news feeds, lacking any sort of expression. A comprehensive look into Rubin’s work and his thought process can be seen in his first book Strange Paradise, published this year by Conveyor Editions. The 60-page kaleidoscopic body of work makes you question what’s real, and what’s been altered by Rubin’s hand. The book also questions how technology shapes what we perceive to be “real,” as well as what “artificial” even means in the context of our increasingly virtual and digital age.

Aside from keeping in touch with people and keeping his Tumblr updated, Rubin has distinct strategies set in place to achieve his personal goals and hit his milestones for this year and the ones to come. “Send your work out constantly to editors and other artists you admire, enter relevant contests and use social media to your advantage,” says Rubin, adding, “But don’t be annoying.” This tactic has worked well for Rubin, who entered himself in the FOAM Magazine Talent Call in 2013 and snagged one of the 16 finalist spots. With 1,566 submissions from 72 different countries, that’s no small feat.


Not only is Rubin pounding the pavement for his own practice, he has also devised a way for other artists to introduce their pieces to new audiences. Neighboring Walls is a series of open-call art shows held in the private apartments of local artists, with the locations rotating on a monthly basis. Rubin was bothered by the lack of spaces in NYC where people could exhibit new work, without having to pay costly submission fees or jumping through other hurdles to be seen. “Making a low pressure, no-bureaucracy process for people to share art and meet new artists was the goal,” says Rubin. While the participating artists have a place to sell or trade their pieces, attendees can also leave with affordable and original artwork, and maybe a few new friends.


After I noticed the slim, On Kawara-like “2014” tattoo on the back of his arm, Rubin spoke about his big plans for the rest of the year, including some very cool photo blankets, pairings of still-life photos with paintings, and also a portrait project. Keep a look out for things to come from this artist, and check out more of his work here.

Charlie Rubin


Fitness Advocate: Paving The Future of Workouts With Audio

Fitness & Sport
Brand Development Today

Swipe Left On A Dating World Built To Keep You Single And Disconnected

Hinge's VP of Marketing Karen Fein tells us about the service's daring ditch of the swiping culture that's designed to attract advertising revenue, not meaningful connections

Arts & Culture Today

Marvel Comic Tells The Story Of A Heroic Syrian Mother

Madaya Mom is the true tale of a family trapped inside a town for over a year


Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Automotive

See All
Retail Today

Brooklyn Cafe Lets Customers Pay By The Hour, Not By The Cup

Glasshour is an establishment that provides free coffee and pastries and charges for the time guests spend there

Technology Today

Electric Spoon Changes The Way Food Tastes

The Taste Buddy is being developed to manipulate your taste buds and make everything more delicious

Related Expert

Derek Man Lui

Copywriter / Map Hacker

Travel Today

Bike Path In Poland Can Glow For 20 Years Using Solar Power

Cyclists can follow the shimmering blue lanes for better safety each time they ride

Technology Today

Open-Source Toolkit Lets Communities Build Their Own Street Furniture

The Wikiblock database contains 30 blueprints of different neighborhood fixtures including benches, bus stops, and kiosks

Food Today

Tiny Pub Only Has Space For Three People

Make Time For It is a small London pop-up bar that encourages conversation without the distraction of technology


Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry

PSFK Op-Ed Today

Community Builder: How to Hack Slack

Claire Wasserman, Founder of Ladies Get Paid, describes how she's using an internal team communication tool to build a network of thousands

PSFK Labs october 21, 2016

PSFK Picks: Top 5 Performance-Enhancing Wearables

Our new report looks at innovations pioneering the future of performance through intelligent activewear and predictive analytics

Advertising Today

This Beer Was Brewed Just For Scotch Drinkers

Highland Park Scotch Whisky & Sixpoint Brewery have teamed up to create two limited-edition pairings for New York City boilermakers

Mobile Today

Let An AI Librarian Help Sort Your Digital Bookmarks

A new app uses machine learning to help organize your virtual life

Mobile Today

Pizza Hut Tattoo Lets You Place An Order From Your Body

The latest gimmick from the fast-food chain is a tattoo-like sticker that lets customers get delivery with a simple tap on their arm

Travel Today

Reinvented Bicycle Inspired By Supercar Design

The yellow bike based on a Lamborghini has sharp edges and an aluminum alloy frame

Health Today

Health Platform Gives Perspective On Your Weekly Habits

Gyroscope is a new wellness app that works by amalgamating data about your life into beautifully designed visuals

Beauty Today

Korean Beauty Brand Uses VR To Let Customers Pick Their Ingredients

Innisfree created a unique experience for its Shanghai Disneyland customers with a virtual reality trip to select what goes into their purchase

Arts & Culture Today

3D-Printed Creations Resemble Floating Paper Outlines

Japanese design firm Nendo's exhibition features works that look like sheets of material being folded, torn, and crumpled

Technology october 21, 2016

Concept Camera Designed To Only Take Unique Photos

Camera Restricta is tool that prompts photographers to only capture one-of-a-kind images

No search results found.