Eli Durst Interview - The Hopper Prize

Eli Durst

Eli Durst on falling in love with photography, a practice centered on discovering things in the world, and publishing a second monograph.

How did you get into making art?

I came to photo through cinema. I went to undergrad thinking that I wanted to be a filmmaker but I became a bit disillusioned by how industry-centric the program was. At the same time, I just fell in love with my photo classes. I really liked that I didn’t need to know anything about the world, I could discover things.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on publishing my second monograph, The Four Pillars. (The work I submitted to the Hopper Prize is from this body of work.) It’s coming out in Oct. 2022. While that’s been pretty consuming, I’m also trying to look ahead and get the ball rolling on some new work.

My favorite—and most productive—days are when I’m out in the world making pictures.

Eli Durst

What inspired you to get started on this body of work?

The Four Pillars grew out of a relationship with a faith-based self-help group that I developed over several years while working on my previous series, The Community. Despite their white collar jobs, sizable homes, and nice cars, these affluent suburbanites felt unfulfilled in their ostensibly comfortable lives. They would meet once a week in a church rec. room to discuss their search for meaning and purpose.

While this group is not the subject of this series, per se, it was in many ways the seed from which the project grew. I became interested in the questions that members were asking themselves: what do we expect from the world versus what we actually find? Who we are told to be versus who we want to become. What we’re told we should want versus what we need—and the difficulty in sometimes parsing the two.

Do you work on distinct projects or do you take a broader approach to your practice?

I used to think much more in distinct projects but that’s been changing over the past couple of years. The Four Pillars grew very organically out of my previous project. I think I trust myself more to follow my own interests, seeing where they lead me and not worrying so much about what form the work will eventually take.

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

I don’t really think of myself as a studio-based artist. My favorite—and most productive—days are when I’m out in the world making pictures. That being said, I do spend a lot of time in the studio processing and printing my images, editing/sequencing, etc.

Who are your favorite artists?

Currently, Caravaggio and Nathan Fielder. I just finished a biography of Caravaggion and I’m sort of obsessed. I’m also watching The Rehearsal, Nathan Fielder’s new HBO show, and am totally blown away. Photographically, I really admire Michael Schmidt, Collier Schorr, Deana Lawson, and Mark Steinmetz, among many others.

Where do you go to discover new artists?

When I was living in NYC, it was mostly in person, going to galleries and group shows. Living in Texas now, I feel like a lot of that discovery now happens online. I’m an avid photo book collector so I’m always keeping tabs on various publishers.

Learn more about the artist by visiting the following links:

Stay Connected

Follow Us on Instagram

Join Our Network