The artwork is not Photoshop’d.
Photographer Dominique McLean’s magic is all in the camera. His avant-garde portraits of androgynous muses are captured with a technique of long-exposure that has fascinated McLean since childhood, “My mother was very supportive of my photography. She used to buy me disposable cameras as a kid. Light, its playfulness, its ability to reframe an entire scene, the beautiful motion of it, has always been my focus. People are the conduit and canvas for light.”
The characteristic light flares of McLean’s work, aided with the gels and flaps for his camera, capture the “different colors of the unpredictability of light” that are meant to reveal the complex portrait of his subjects.
Curated to showcase the nexus of androgyny and eroticism, McLean selects his muses as they inspire him walking down the street or through social media. The multiple capture of heads in his photographs belie a duality McLean sees in his subjects, “The exposure is only a second, but in that second you see how a person drops the veil and reveals who they are after a structured pose. This is why it’s important to me to film my subjects in their own space with good music and after establishing a rapport.”
What happens when the initial connection doesn’t translate into inspiration? “Oh, the failed muse! That’s always a difficult moment. It’s very obvious when I’m not feeling a shoot and the photos are just not what I wanted or expected. It’s still a good experience though because it helps me understand myself and my sources for inspiration.”
And the struggle to define--or sharply define—his style in the context of traditionally marketable skills is a current struggle in McLean’s process, “Working as a photographer for a designer exhibiting at the Afropunk Festival really helped me carve out style in another discipline because for this assignment, the clothes were the focus, not the people. I’m still trying to craft the so-called “elevator speech” about my artwork, but it’s still a journey for me.”
McLean has battled severe depression and a childhood of constant ill health (ten brain surgeries by the age of 20), but the endless hospital stays and the grueling medication honed his fascination with human behavior and capturing the intricacies of body language. “In a shoot, which usually takes at least half an hour to set-up and two to three hours to shoot, I look for patterns I hand gestures, facial expressions, and once I see that I start photographing—documenting, really. I want to capture the duality of symmetry. One of my friends/models is a twin—and a Gemini!—and it’s the perfect raw canvas for the light.”
Among his favorite reactions to his artwork is the first impression of his photography being paintings. “The worse is when people think it’s Photoshop’d. It all happens in the camera. It all comes from the light. It all reveals itself from the beauty of mystery in gender and sexuality.”