Interview: Ruben Brulat’s “Paths”

Stunned by the magnificence of his work, we talked to Ruben Brulat, whose photographs are featured in our Issue#5 Solitude…

       In 2011, Ruben Brulat left Gare de Lyon, in Paris, in direction of the East. Aged of 24 at the time, he had decided to start a journey, by foot, from Europe to Asia. During this peregrination, he refused to take flights and kept his feet firmly on the ground. Trucks, donkeys or cars were one of the few means of transportation he used during his journey.

The idea is to share the experience of giving your body away to nature.

A primary interest in Ruben’s work is the relation between human body and the environment that interacts with it. This interest in the relationship between the body and its environment was already present in his two previous series Primate and Immaculate, in which he explores his body in relation to urban surrounding and nature. The idea for his third series, Path, grew after Ruben’s travel in India in 2010. In this series, Ruben invites those who crossed path with him during his journey to be the subject of his work. The idea is to share the experience of “giving your body away to nature.” All the bodies pictured in this series are of travellers or locals who shared a moment or a path with Ruben. The asexual nakedness of the bodies represents something powerful and gives more depth to the pictures. Nudity here stands for the human as he is and gives a better emphasis on its vulnerability in relation to nature. The place and scale of these bodies in the vast emptiness of nature inspires awe and reminds us of nature’s immense power.

As Ruben himself explained, a picture happens if it is meant to happen. The key elements of this project are chance and intuition. Seizing the moment is what made so many people give themselves away to nature and be a part of this great adventure.

We talked to Ruben to find out more about him and his project.

M: Mélissa | R: Ruben

M: What is your background? Have you done any art studies?

R: I did not study art; I am self-taught. I grew up in a family of craftsmen where creativity and crafted objects were always surrounding me.

M: How did you start taking pictures and how did you acquire all the knowledge and techniques?

R: I took some photography courses in a Parisian school. Not knowing the technique led me to explore the camera and find the technique that suited me. My experimentations made the “large format camera” an obvious choice for me. Then I set up a timer that would allow me to do far away self-portraits, performing with my body and using it as a tool.

M. Your pictures are taken from a great distance. How did you proceed? After you chose the landscape you wanted to photograph, did you leave the person you were working with to decide where they wanted to lie down? Or did you tell them where you wanted them to be?

R: The place always comes along the way. I try not to pick but simply to walk. When I walk I listen; I listen to my senses, my feelings, the textures originating from the earth, the light bouncing on every element and bringing them to life. At some point it all comes together and energies become overwhelming. Then I set up the camera and take a photo. Only one photograph to keep the moment intact, pure of all techniques, gestures or processes. A moment suspended in time. Everything is where it should be: at peace.

M: What is your next project? I heard that you spent the last two years in the Horn of Africa. Could you tell me more about this new project?

R: For this work I tried to reach the origins, our roots. All textures were new and unknown. It was an intense exploration of a new set of feelings.

There, the crust of the earth is falling into the mantle. There is constant geological activity. The land is mineral, the weather harsh and (the) forces (of nature) are at work. These forces are larger than us, but manifesting themselves at a palpable scale. I seemed to reach further, trying to grasp and apprehend these larger movements at a cosmological scale. I have done lengthy trips, where the use of my body became evident. I embraced elements with all senses and explored them in many ways; through close-ups or video-work. I am finishing work on it at this time. This work is opening itself to new paths; it is a great endeavour.


M: Where do you see yourself in ten years? Do you want to continue travelling the world and building a new body of works? Or do you intend on settling down somewhere at some point?

R: I think the idea of the movement is central in my practice, of course there is and always will be a base somewhere. But I consider it temporary. Ways are always leading to different ways. The unknown is appealing. My body seems to become an important piece to each work as I am venturing into new formats (sculpture, paintings, video). I am exploring gestures and new feelings in this quest for the roots of origin, life and our own existence.

M: What do you think was the greatest thing you learned from travelling the world as you did and meeting so many diverse people?

R: On the thirteenth month of the endeavour, away from all things and people I know, I was sleeping anywhere, walking, wandering through Siberia in the far east. Simplicity of being had taken over. Everyday my sole purpose was to keep moving forward. That made me realise that there was the path that would lead to everywhere and anywhere.

With no other goal but walking and living, for what was left of the time. I did it for a while but at some point a feeling came to me; I took the train and headed west again.

M: Did you stay in contact with some people you met on the road?

R: Of course, they all have an edition of ‘Sharing Paths’ and sometime our paths cross again.

You can purchase our Issue#5 Solitude here.