Carousel: Film Enlargements Manipulated by Chemicals

All images by David Drake. Used with permission

Photographer David Drake is an American artist and art director based in the UK. His practice has its foundations in photography, design, and mixed media–and his clients include The 1975, Django Django, Glass Animals, Haerts, Dawn Golden, Universal, Polydor, Sony, Warner Brothers, Mad Decent, XL, Vagrant, Dirty Hit, The Barbican, Aspall Cyder, Fortyounce London, and Hypebeast.

I found his work on Behance, and fell in love with the very trippy feel to his work. It’s almost like a combination of cross processing, shifting of tints, and alternative processes done in just the right way. Indeed, David has become quite skilled at doing this. But what’s even cooler is some of his personal work.

David’s “Carousel” is a special personal project that was all shot on a Hasselblad 500cm; the enlargements were manipulated using chemicals and available substances. And like the rest of his work, they’re just the right amount of trippy.


Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography.

David: I got in to photography back in 2001, I was around 14 or 15 years old. My step father was photographed on September 11th in NYC by Larry Towell, a very famous photojournalist with Magnum. The image was widely published, and really disturbing. It had a really big impact on me. I bought my first SLR shortly thereafter at a garage sale. I’ve been shooting ever since.

Phoblographer: What made you want to start shooting the edgy, experimental work that you do? It seems to have a mix of design, painting, and multi-media work.


David: I’ve always been interested in painting, illustration, and collage. I did it a lot as a kid. I guess it felt natural to experiment with my photographs. I also think its a response to digital photography, because I like to get my hands dirty with something that has become increasingly sterile.

Phoblographer: Carousel is about decay in London and was done on film, but as you were creating the images, how were you trying to translate your feelings and creative intent into the images you forged?


David: It’s actually about decay in Norwich, which is about 90 miles outside of London. That’s where I live. I guess it wasn’t a conscious decision, I sort of felt my way through the creative process, it felt intuitively right.

Phoblographer: How did this effect happen in the enlargements?

David: The enlargements were just enlargements of the negatives. I manipulated the enlargements themselves, applied all sorts of household chemicals, colorants, and did things like set them on fire, tear them up, etc.


Phoblographer: You said you used a Hasselblad 500C to do this, but honestly, this seems like it could have been done with any camera. How do you think working with a crappy Diana camera could have influenced the creative vision and final concept?

David: I’m pretty sure a lomo camera couldn’t achieve the clarity and depth of field in the base images, which I think helps make the imagery more impactful. To me, lomo photography is a fun little thing to do when you first start experimenting with film, but I’m not a big fan personally. I think people should use whatever cameras feel most natural to their processes though. If thats a Diana, then more power to you… but I prefer something with a bit more heft. I also shoot with a Fuju GW670 (Texas Leica) and a large format MPP micro press. I also have a 5D for commercial work!


Phoblographer: How do you feel this project has influenced your more commercial work?

David: I don’t think it has. A lot of my more commercial clients don’t like it. Its not for them though, I made it for me. I do think it shows people that I do more than commercial work though, that I’m still passionate about creating imagery for myself, and it shows my influences and where my interest sits. For example, I’m much more in to experimental/transgressive music that I let on with my commissioned projects. I’ve actually recently worked with some really experimental and interesting recording artists, which will be releasing music later this year.


Phoblographer: Despite always shooting big campaigns, you work on a lot of personal stuff. How do you want to evolve as an artist in the next year and what steps are you taking to get to said point?

David: Campaigns are great, working to an established brief is refreshing. I do the personal work to flex my own creative muscles, and hope to continue doing so. I guess next steps sit in moving image. I’m directing a documentary about Nick Blinko from Rudimentary Peni, which is exciting. Ive also recently completed a music video, which was a lot of fun.



Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.