INTERVIEW: Charlie Rubin

Charlie and I met thru the self revolving machine that is the internet. He had sent us some info about a book he had out called the Future. Since then he’s graduated from Parsons, put out multiple zines and a new book, and caught the attention of blogs like #DazedDigital and #ILikeThisBlog. So it’d been a long time coming, but we asked Charlie to fill us in on this little positive transition, how he came to find himself in a studio in Bushwick, and what he’s excited about, moving forward.

interview by Mauricio Vargas
photos by José Soto

CharlieRubin Studio


You’re from Westchester correct? How was that and being so close to NYC?
Yeah, New Rochelle, it was nice growing up in a mix of urban and suburban living, and the city was a nice place to escape every once and a while

How old were you the first time you hung out in New York?
I was in high school, me and my friends found a Chinese restaurant that served free pitchers of beer if you ate there. It must have been half water half beer, but we thought it was fun at the time. Other than that I can remember going to museums and stuff like that, with my parents at an early age. I can also remember going to the store Yellow Rat Bastard and thinking it was the coolest place ever, and the Scrap Yard where they sell big markers and paints. Funny.

Were your parents artists?
My mom does textile work, like weaving and tapestry, and my great grandfather, Georg Jensen, was a well known jeweler and sculptor in Denmark. My grandfather is also an artist. I guess it’s an artistic family.

Did you start with photography or had you messed with other mediums before moving to photo?
Yea i started out early messing with painting and drawing, but in high school i really started focusing on photo. I always had this idea of what i wanted a certain image to be, so i looked to photography to capture the same composition that was in my mind.

So what did college do that helped you further your art?
I went to Haverford College, outside of Philly, I actually majored in ‘Urban Studies’ there, like architecture and urban planning, but I still took studio art and photo classes. I guess had this idea that if i was at college I wanted to study something more concrete than art, i don’t know, it made sense at the time. At that time I felt like art couldn’t be taught, but my time at Parsons for my MFA changed that. I still can see an influence of urban design/planning/architecture in my photos sometimes though.

CharlieRubin Studio2

What was the first camera that felt like your brush of choice?
It was just this 35 mm Nikon film camera I got in college. It was something about the film and the sound of the shutter that really spoke to me at the time. Now a days I use a Fuji 6×45. It takes larger format negatives, so it’s sharper and the colors have a natural fade that looks real nice.

What did you expect going from Haverford College to Parsons MFA?
I had never been to art school, so I was really excited to just concentrate on the one thing I really wanted to be doing and to start thinking about the process of my work, and different concepts behind projects.

A large part of your work is very architecturally driven. What is it about landscape and architecture that speaks to you?
Certain architecture can really set the mood of a series, or put you in a certain time period. It’s also a big representation of the way people interact with the world around them. Like how these impressive huge structures are built and change environments and landscapes.

What photographers would you say have influenced your subjects and style of photography?
Of course classics like William Eggelston and Lee Friedlander, and then more contemporary stuff like Roe Ethridge, Christian Patterson, David Benjamin Sherry, Sam Falls. It’s an interesting mix between the classic Americana stuff and an updated “what a photograph means” today aspect. The virtual and real world. Now and then.

Tell me about your trip to China?
China was fucking crazy! Ten of us from Parsons went over there for a photo festival in some thousand-year-old town in the middle of nowhere. After a couple of days nothing surprised me anymore being there. Just the way people interact and everything, it was great. No personal space, so many people just pushing around. Its so weird, for example, they have the most modern architecture and amenities, but then they also have neighborhoods were there is a shared bathroom on the street because of how old certain plumbing systems were. It’s a crazy contrast. 


Tell us about the zine you made with the photos while u were out there. What did it inspire in the zine?
It was supposed to be more documentary. One half of it focuses on the people who lived there, taking portraits as i walked around, and the other half focuses on landscape. Both sides come together as they touch on an odd feeling that I got there that something was always being covered up, literally and figuratively.

Your latest project is a book called Strange Paradise, whats that about?
Yeah I’m really excited about that. I think that’s kinda where my work is headed. Its really just about questioning what’s real and what’s not in all aspects of today’s world, and just sort of playing with the line between the two, and expressing some anxiety it creates. Or what an image means today, like the difference between seeing it on the screen to seeing it in nature, or if i paint over the photos and scan it, what is it transforming into after that process. But it doesn’t always have to be this complicated thing for me. Sometimes it’s nice to just experience a group of images together and make your own connections.

What do you have planned for the future?
I think this book I’m putting out now creates a nice jumping off point where i can build on the different themes I have going on and look into them further. I already have a couple ideas for places or occurrences that could easily fit into that. And in the immediate future, I’m doing a four week artist residency at the Vermont Studio Center in December.

What else is new?
I got a studio space with 3 other buddies / photographers over at Brooklyn Fire Proof, so that’s pretty exciting. Pumped to get set up and start working on some things over there.



If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Cheese. So many different kinds.

Favorite candy?
Reeses pieces

Favorite summer Olympic event?
Trampoline? That’s the one i thought was the craziest…

Favorite book?
James and the Giant Peach

Segal or Van Damm?
Van Damm duh

Apples or Oranges?

Ketchup or Mustard?

Umm…. ok i’m spent. thanks Charlie.



BOOK: Purchase here->

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