With your book project, how do you match a word to a place? Does the place come first or is the word the inspiration for the shot?
ANT: Place first. We have both shared favourite spots in our own hometowns. I used to shoot a lot of empty places that I felt had been occupied then abandoned. I would always imagine a person in that space, so I usually look at places that would be good to take a portrait in. I guess to start with I was looking for these haunting spaces, and Chris would respond with the words or shapes. Before this project even started I was interested in environments. I think it’s the same for Chris too because of the way he talks about cities and his hometown, New York City. Chris usually points out locations and we discuss if it will work on the spot, stop, shoot or move on. You have this intuition about the environments and when Chris is writing something, I don’t see anything other than a really soulful expression of that place in the moment of the shot.
CHRIS RUBINO: I think the really cool thing is that for me when I look at a picture I remember being in that spot. We’ve now been to hundreds of places in different cities … places that nobody visiting a city would eve I’ve been to places in this city that most Sydney-siders definitely haven’t been to.
Speaking of places where a lot of people haven’t been to, I understand that you love the desert?
CHRIS RUBINO: Yeah, I’ve been to so many deserts. Ant and I have also been to Joshua Tree [National Park, in southeastern California] together.
ANT: Yeah, we took a guy there who took his pants off and went insane!
CHRIS RUBINO: (Laughs) He’d literally never left New York City before. He flew to LA to meet us and we drove him up to Joshua Tree on the border of Arizona and California and he just lost it.
I guess he would never have seen a horizon before?
CHRIS RUBINO: I don’t know what happened, but we got out of the car to get some camera gear, turned around and he was totally naked and screaming! He just went mad into a primal scream meltdown – and he’s not like that at all.
ANT: He let me take a photo of him with just a rock covering his private parts and said, “I would never ever let anyone do this, so just photograph me now.”
Must be the magic of the desert. Where else have you been?
CHRIS RUBINO: The Sahara in Morocco, White Sands in New Mexico and the Mojave in California. I just really like how peaceful it is out there. It’s like the desert is so ‘dead’ but it’s so alive. I rented a house out in the desert a few years ago, I was amazed at night time by how insanely beautiful it is.
Do you think those times in the desert have informed your work at all … directly or indirectly?
CHRIS RUBINO: Directly, only slightly. I’ve created a few pieces specifically from my time in the desert, but more so, indirectly, of course, as much as any place I spend time. It heavily influences where my images come from. There is a beautiful language that occurs in the desert, it’s quite hard for me to explain, but I’ve never had a bad day there.
What else influences your work?
CHRIS RUBINO: New York has probably been my biggest influence, simply walking the streets, meeting wild people … So many things over my time here, it’s such a beast of a city. I have such huge love for it. Other than that, I guess reading has always been a big influence, books in general, more so than I realise sometimes. I’ve recently been working on a series that was inspired by Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics. This year I’ve started working on a film with a director named Jim Helton. He’s bringing some very interesting ideas into my studio and captures some of my process, the tools I use, the time it takes, etc. It’s interesting for me to see my work taking on new life, whether it’s in video, photos, a book or any other medium.