As a son of a sculptor, Dimitri Daniloff (1970) has developed body awareness from an early age. He has since cultivated a connection to texture and materiality. Fascinated by the numerous possibilities that technology has to offer, he first experimented with 4×5 view cameras and then turned to the practice of digital art. A shift, since he then started to transform his images. He now produces new scenes of everyday life by assembling raw elements with real subjects – always finding the right balance between authenticity and fiction. His campaign for PlayStation is a great example of this tension: deconstructed bodies knocking together and questioning our boundaries.
Another turning point in this creative artist’s career was his collaboration with the electronic music band Daft Punk. Producing the Virtual Girl project (2008), he integrated 3D creations into his existing pictures, thus proposing his own vision of an augmented human being.
A few years later, Dimitri Daniloff started focusing on photogrammetry – a process consisting in taking measurements in space and building, through software, a 3D model from several viewpoints. By integrating this technique into his practice, he inserted the virtual world into the real world. He created, in collaboration with plastic artist Tamal De Canela, L’humain illimité (The unlimited human), a project built around a virtual character still anchored into reality. Cleared from his corporeal envelope, the subject – half-man, half-God – pushes the limits of 2D image, body, and thoughts. In this undefined space and time, borders no longer exist and humankind – and its extensions – finds its independence. The modern Prometheus owns as many masks as there are identities. “Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth”, Oscar Wilde said with irony. Appearances press Dimitri Daniloff to question the flaws of men – what still resists. And in this quest, the artist surrounds himself with other specialists: dancers, architects, decorators, or even graphic designers. Highlighting the vulnerability of mankind thus turns into a political act, turning the stage around. More than a plastic artist, Dimitri Daniloff prevails as a sculptor of reality.
Some accolades so far:
- Cannes Lions: Grand Prix, Gold, Silver, Bronze, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006
- Design Merit, Silver Pencil, Bronze Pencil, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008
- Eurobest: European Advertising Awards Gold, Bronze, 2003, 2004
- Clio: Gold, Bronze, Silver, Shortlist, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
- Creative Circle Awards: Gold, 2007
- D&AD: Nomination, In Book, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009
Dimitri Daniloff Interview
You were one of the first artists to switch from analog to digital in 2001, why did you want to explore digital so early on?
As a small reminder, I started shooting with a 4x5 camera, it was my first favorite format. Films were so expensive that you needed to know exactly what you wanted to shoot. I did my very first montage with 3d in 2000. It was a campaign for MF Girbaud in which an angel had some kind of Davinci futuristic wings. The wings were most probably done using Autocad as there was just no 3D neither in photography nor in advertising at that time.
Then in 2002, I was contacted to create my first PS2 campaign. It was the “Supermarket” with 100 heads on shelves. So I started to think about how I could make this technically possible to shoot. The 4x5 camera was definitely not an option. Imagine the number of films to shoot and then scan and then color match!! Impossible. I just thought digital was the answer. You can shoot as much as you want and color matching is not an issue, all images are exactly the same. The only issue I had at that time was the image size, 20M pixels. Too small for a good quality print. I then shoot the image in smaller frames and then stitch them all together to make a large canvas. Using digital gave me the opportunity to shoot all the heads separately, matching every perspective, and having many options for expression. And make sure I had the good shot for every talent on the image. It was giving me a lot of flexibility.
A remix of this iconic image was posted by David Bowie on his Facebook account during the 2014 London Music Week Award in London, magazines then said that he was wearing Daft Punk’s helmet. In fact, this picture was part of a series that Dimitri Daniloff shot with Daft Punk for Lemon Magazine. Bowie never credited the picture to Dimitri.
What was your reaction after learning this?
Some people know my work. I have been around for 20 + I won many awards and was for about 10 years among the top 10 advertising photographers, traveling a few times a month from New York to Tokyo to Hong Kong or LA. But I have never been good at self-promotion. I have never been to Cannes or was not a PR person. I had a deal with my agent: one party a year, not more. I have always been and still am quite disconnected. As an example: I only found out last year that Bowie used the Daft Punk image in 2014, during the 2014 London Music Awards. I found it very flattering that people use my images all around because it means that they like it but I do not agree when it comes to what magazines do so without my agreement and not even crediting me.
Is this the reason you started with NFTs?
Some of the images I have done for the advertising industry are now part of the “Fond des Musees de France '' and others are part of the studying program in photography schools. Despite all this, people don’t know my work because I never took care of communication and self-promotion. And this is where NFT comes in. When I discovered the Bowie story, I decided to do something as I wanted people to know I created those images. NFT was the answer, a unique proof of authenticity and ownership. I will mint the entire Daft Punk series as NFT.
So, copyrights in the art world are an issue and NFTs seem to solve it. Also, I believe royalties in the secondary market are a development in this respect from the previous art market where artists will get a percentage of the sales. What are your thoughts on this new business model for artists?
Royalties are an issue with the all free internet. I am happy Daft Punk fans use the images on their web but I am not when magazines such as Pitchfork or Fact Mag publish my images on their web without my name on them. Blockchain technology can help with that, with the traceability of the image. And this link to IA we could imagine an IA able to recognize an image and make sure no one uses it without approval from the author. Also, Royalties on the secondary market are a big improvement for the artist and I hope this will have an influence on the physical art market. It is giving a lot of control back to the artist: s/he will be able to autonomously manage her/his own royalties. This will potentially redefine the role of galleries.
THE 3RD DIMENSION
Going back to your collaboration with Daft Punk, what did it mean to collaborate with them? And why did you start experimenting with 3D images in your work? How did “the robot model” come into life and how did that experiment impact your artistic vision of 3D elements in your work?
It was very exciting to work with Daft Punk and mostly for this project. Lemon Magazine contacted me and just let me do what I wanted. The only constraint was the small budget available to produce the images. To give you an idea, the ADs of the magazine had to take 3 flights to get to Paris from the US just because they could not afford a direct flight. As for Daft Punk, they were very open to any suggestion so I proposed my idea of a black female cyborg.
I had in mind to work with the famous model Debra Shaw, I had been working with her in the past for Style and Family Tune and really liked her. And I thought she was the perfect reference for the body of my cyborg. To put it into perspective, in 2007 almost no one was using 3D with photography because we were working with 80M pixels images at 300 DPI. Some productions were using 3D for objects but not to make a fully human body.
The model was on set for me to be able to get all the interactions with light/ helmets. But then she was fully removed and recreated in 3D to add all the mechanical parts.
The post-production took about a month for the 4 images. 3D was for me just an easier way to make the images I had in mind. Always mixing reality and surrealism. Photoshop was the software everyone was using at that time but it had a lot of restrictions due to perspective and light matching that is why I decided to explore 3D with this series. Then 3 years ago I started to explore photogrammetry as it’s the perfect mix between photography and 3D. I can scan anything around the world under any light conditions then take it home and create my hybrid world between physical and digital.
This technology is not perfect yet (not very easy to use) and has a lot of imperfections but this is what fascinates me. Just think about the first black and white photography, or polaroids: they are not perfect but this is why we love them now. When you will be looking at my first photogrammetry portraits in 10 or 20 years you will get the same feeling.
In my work I like to expose myself and challenge myself, exploring new aesthetics. The goal is not to use a new technique but to find new ways of creation and new aesthetics.
You are also known for your images for Playstation that the public loved but was too explicit/provocative for Sony’s executives. What is the balance between creative freedom and commercial outputs? Is that the reason you moved from commercial work to more artists' freedom and exploring photogrammetry, to be able to keep pushing your creative boundaries?
Like I said earlier, I had a great time for more than 20 years in advertising but it is important to understand that even at that time I was doing my own artwork. And it is the latter that made me successful in advertising. I do not produce a lot as an artist. I need to think, explore, test, and try new things. Like Jerry Saltz said, “Any artist who is consistent is not being true to themselves.” And that personal vision is what professionals in advertising wanted to have.
Freedom in advertising is relative because you have to sell a product and match a precise target of potential customers. I finally stepped away from advertising and classical photography because I needed to explore new ways of expressing myself. When I moved to Barcelona in 2015 I joined some kind of studio/collective where I met interactive artists, 3D artists, VR curators, etc. and I discovered an entirely new world. This was where I wanted to go in order to explore new ways of expression using all this new technology. It actually took me back to advertising but in a different way, for example, creating a VR project for EDF or an animated GIF with various artists for Lenovo.
For the last 3 years, I have been solely dedicating myself to photogrammetry. On one hand, using it as a creative tool and being part of a new trend in digital art, with a recent exhibition and installation at Les Rencontres d’Arles (an international photography and VR festival). On the other hand, setting a company for full photogrammetry service.
Yves told us you are both commissioned by Olympus DAO to create very unique NFTs based on 2000-year-old statues, can you tell us a bit more about that project? Is there a 4th dimension when motion and sound are added? We have seen some teasers on Twitter that caught our attention. Can you tell us a bit more about the creative process and the origin of these statues?
Photogrammetry will shortly be the future of photography but also a unique tool that allows you to take any physical assets into the digital world by creating its digital clone. The technique consists in taking a large number of pictures of an object, this software will combine all the images to create a 3D model. Then you will need multiple layers of cleaning and adapting to export to any 3D software.
This is a unique project I have the chance to work on, it is making the link between my love for art, photogrammetry, and linking the physical and digital world. The idea is to loop the original greek creation into nowadays art by taking these original statues into the digital world.
It’s a tribute to our fathers, every single NFT has its origin in these greek statues. Art is evolution and this is why the statues will be used with different textures to symbolize this evolution. Taking the original marble statue into a very digital work is the fusion of the physical and digital. It is removing the duality between digital and physical. All this is just one and the same world.
Working with the support of an antique store I was able to access a collection of antique Roman statues more than 2000 years old. The idea was to work with Greek statues but most of the Greek statues we think of are actually reproductions from the Roman era. So I went to the store and made a selection of 4 amazing pieces. I spent 2 days scanning the statues. It wasn’t easy as some were very heavy. It was such an intense moment being so close and thinking they are more than 2000 years old. I just thought about the sculptors who created them. I have a very close relationship with sculpture as my father used to be a sculptor. One of the heads is from a giant marble statue, the head is over 70 cm high and must weigh over 200KG. Once I had all the images I started to process them, it took a few days before I could see the scans. The first results were so amazing, the raw scan without texture shows every detail of the marble. You can see the real work of the sculptor. I even thought maybe someone will buy the NFT but also the original statue. These 3D models are very unique because they only exist in my archive, no one else will have them, and this is what makes photogrammetry so special. I can use my own assets. Taking a photogrammetry model to the blockchain will make it unique.
Can you tell us a bit more about why you are now focused on photogrammetry and why you think it will be as big of a transformation of the photography industry as the analog to the digital era?
Photogrammetry will be a game-changer because it will give every 3D artist the ability to choose precisely every asset he will use. When I did the series with Daft Punk I could have used some generic 3D body for the cyborg girl but the series would have been completely different, the girl wouldn’t have been so mysterious, so elegant. With photogrammetry, if you want your girlfriend to be the hero of your next 3D piece you can make it and it will make it very unique as no one else will have the same character. When using a generic face/body you can tell they are generic, they miss personality, but scanning someone, cleaning how you want it to be, all these steps are making it yours. And the same for objects. Like I am doing here with the statues. I choose them because I think they are unique and they represent what I have in mind.
And this is just one side of photogrammetry. When scanning a product and making its digital double from that you can make videos, photos, interactive 3D…
It’s through your genesis NFTs that you connected with LiveTheLifeTV, right? Are your genesis NFTs a way of reclaiming your IP/copyrights?
Yes, LTL was my first NFT fan, we connected through my genesis series with Daft Punk. We got on a call one day and I explained to him the whole story about the images and about photogrammetry.
Can you tell us a bit more about those initial conversations about his NFT marketplace adventure in 2017/2018, and his passion for DAOs and NFTs with Defi Mechanics, turned into a deeper friendship and now partnership?
We connected right away. He was explaining to me his early experience with NFT platforms and his vision of how this could change for artists in the future. This is where we connected even more when starting to discuss the potential of copyright using NFTs as proof of ownership. We discussed a lot about whether NFT should be linked to a physical piece. It is a real question. Some collectors would definitely want to have a print on the wall. And others don’t really care. There is also the issue of how you can make sure when selling a physical piece what the secondary market will have? Is the value on the NFT or the physical piece? This could also “kill” artists that are selling at lower prices as shipping could be more expensive (with taxes) than the art itself when shipping overseas. We are just at the beginning and so many things can be done.
From these discussions, I found an idea that I share with LTL and some photographer's friends to have their feedback. What if I could “share” my archives to a DAO including the copyrights, so they could manage it for me. Many of my images are part of internet culture and I’m sure some of you have seen them.
Is there some alpha you are willing to share? Can you tease us with what’s coming next?