Lou Rouse is a Baltimore-bred / New York-based photographer who has been working on his craft since moving to the city at 20 years old. Lou brings up the bountiful opportunities that inspire response in the city – from the various active creative venues to the uniquely diverse and energetic character of the city. He strives to depict and describe the intangible in his work, eschewing more obvious images for interesting emotions of environments and specific passing moments in time. In our dialogue below, Lou breaks down some powerful aspects and responsibilities of art in relation to surrounding social environments. We’ve been fortunate enough to have collaborated with Lou before, and we’re looking forward to more opportunities to do so in the future. Check the word!
People get uncomfortable around art and artists because of [the power of art], and because art is not empirical. But because art succeeds where politics and policy fail, art plays a critical role in the survival of humanity. So artists must take care of themselves and other artists. Artists must learn how to survive in the current system while making the good work that will change it.
– Lou Rouse
Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?
LR: I am from Baltimore, Maryland. Grew up in the city until I was 17. Went to college in Michigan for a year and then moved to NYC at age 20 and have pretty much been here ever since. Worked on films and other odd jobs, then I started assisting fashion photographers. Being a visual person, I really got in to how photographers brought a vision to a set and carried it out with the help of other talented visual people. Eventually people began to ask me for my vision on creative projects, and that is where I happily am now.
What does Reflection and Response mean to you?
LR: Reflection and response are crucial elements of art, of being an artist. For me, and I’m sure many other artists, the desire is to balance intake and output. In New York City you can consume a lot of great theater, museum and gallery shows, fashion, music, food, or just walk around and be inspired by the fantastic diversity and energy. It’s enjoyable just to witness…but if you are a creative type you begin to feel frustrated if you are not responding in some form. I’m always challenging myself to respond more and to better articulate my observations. But to survive as an artist you have to make the process enjoyable. It’s a tricky balance.
How does your work fit in with that definition?
LR: An important part of my work is capturing the emotion of an environment, form and moment. I’m really fascinated when there is this intense feeling in the light, facial expression, lines, movements or gestures, but I can’t fully explain where that emotion is coming from. If a photo is obvious to me I delete it. All the pieces you see here are me trying to describe things that are intangible and moving to me.
What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?
LR: Currently I’m working on some still portraits and an experimental short film featuring Kelsey Warman and Afiya Bennett, really talented women from the Marilyn agency.
Looking to experiment more with filmmaking and have a show of my photography…never done that so I imagine it will be fun.
Also always jumping at any opportunity to explore another place.
I try to keep myself open to which kind of clients I accept, but it’s important for me to not get type-casted. I never really know how to respond when people ask me what type of work I do, and I’m growing increasingly comfortable with that. As long as people pick up on the tone of my work and want to see how it will mesh with what they are doing, I’ll be happy. And even if they stop doing that, I’ll still create for myself and be happy… every artist makes work for themselves ultimately….though it really is a nameless force in ourselves that drives us to create.
Who or what inspires you?
LR: Everything inspires me. The cities I spend a lot of time in: NYC. Baltimore. LA. Architecture, food, design…particularly car design. Actors, dancers, musicians, scientists. Curious people. Strong people. Kind people.
Is there anything else you would like the Collective to know?
LR: I remember reading a great quote, I don’t know who said it, I think it was a famous acting teacher, but it was something along the lines of “art has a way of communicating ideas that cut through any political, social or financial barriers.” People get uncomfortable around art and artists because of this power, and because art is not empirical. But because art succeeds where politics and policy fail, art plays a critical role in the survival of humanity. So artists must take care of themselves and other artists. Artists must learn how to survive in the current system while making the good work that will change it.
Shout out to…?
LR: Shoutout first to people who are no longer physically here, my aunt Robin and grandmother Mamu. They were unconditionally loving and positive to me…it’s frightening for me to think of where I’d be without them. I work hard to make them proud. Shoutout to ALL unconditionally loving and positive people and the people they are helping. Shoutout to Pai, who helped raise me, and my parents and all the crazy artists in this world. Shoutout to my friends. Shoutout to Vicken and Peter, the LIFESTYLE, for reaching out!
Reflection and Response.