David Drebin – Dreams and Visions

Best known for his dreamy, cinematic and sexy images, the multidisciplinary artist David Drebin takes us on a tour through his new exhibition “Love & Lights” at the CWC Gallery.

Who knew a grey November day could end up being so inspiring. When I arrived at the CWC Gallery, Camera Work Contemporary, in Berlin-Mitte for the press preview of David Drebin’s “Love & Lights” exhibition I hadn’t heard of the New York City-based artist until very recently and I had no expectations. David had already started a tour through the rooms explaining his pictures to a small group of journalists and art aficionados when I got there. He greeted me with bright eyes and a friendly handshake, dressed in black from his hat to his shoes. Very soon it became clear that David is not your regular artist who thinks his art should speak for itself. David is more than happy to explain his visions.

He started as a photographer but is right now more drawn to other art forms like sculptures, light boxes and neon light installations that are all present in his current exhibition “Love & Lights” until mid-January next to his dreamy photographs. It was because of Facebook and Instagram, and everyone thinking they are a photographer that he realized he needed to do something different. It really pushed him towards these modern art forms. One of them is the revolutionary “photo sculpture” where he transforms his models into high-definition, glitter painted 3-D prints.

The pictures are “a celebration of women”, he says, and continues, “women in my pictures are usually in their mid-thirties, forties, and that’s a big thing for me too. I don’t photograph young women, I like women with a story.” That being said most of the beautiful women in his pictures are good friends and ex-girlfriends. He prefers to shoot people who have never been photographed before. “A lot of artists make work because of their ego. But none of this here comes from ego, it comes from feeling”, the artist who doesn’t like to call himself one explains. “If you look at the work it’s all about energy.” This energy is visible in his brilliant colors, glamorous dream-like scenarios and cinematic scenes. “What’s interesting is, you see the photos and I see the experience”, he says, and that sometimes when he looks at his work he even gets a bit nostalgic because the experience is over. So how does he create these intimate moments? “The one piece of direction I give everybody when I photograph them is always the same: ‘Do nothing!’”, David explains. “People think they need to talk, but they’re better when they don’t speak. You can feel their energy from the first second.” 

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    David Drebin, Clockwatcher, 2014 © David Drebin courtesy CAMERA WORK 

David Drebin, Clockwatcher, 2014 © David Drebin courtesy CAMERA WORK 


He knows how to get the undivided attention and to maintain it with his self-conscious voice and his eyes that are focusing on us. It’s hard to imagine he was scared of public speaking for many years. “Now I can talk in front of many people, cause I don’t care about what people think of me, cause I know what I’m saying is interesting”, he says, “I think the more you get confident, you see more than you wanna be seen. Most people when they go out, they wanna be seen. I go out to see. I’m always looking out. So when I go out I don’t think about if people like me, I think, ‘what do you think of you?’” It might seem like nothing can come between him and his confidence, but even David is at times unsure about himself, wondering if he is giving enough in an interview for example, “I’m driven by the combination of extreme confidence and extreme insecurity together. So I’m securely insecure, which is vulnerability. And when people are vulnerable that’s when they are at their ultimate best selves.”

David came from his hometown Toronto to New York to study at the renowned “Parsons The New School for Design”. At 26 he graduated, but success didn’t follow directly. “I was a waiter for 20 years and I did photographs on the side”, he tells us, “and I was okay with that. I was very happy. This whole art thing happened by accident.” He talks so enthusiastically about his time at the restaurant with busy evenings and chats with the guests that you really have no doubt that he did indeed have a good time as a waiter. Money doesn’t drive him. “If you are driven by money you don’t make any money. I think the worst thing you can be driven by is money. Money for me is just a tool so I can afford to make art. I’m fine when I sell nothing. Because I know this is beautiful. So if the money comes it comes, if not that’s okay too. That’s very important”, he explains. The same easy-going approach applies to his relationships. “I had a girlfriend and I said to her, ‘put your hand in my hand’”, David says while holding his open hand to a woman who puts her hand in his, “’now take your hand away’”, he says and she takes her hand away. “That’s the relationship I want to have. For me the most important thing is, if you wanna come, come, if you wanna go, go, it’s like birds. I don’t hold on to anything. It’s flow”. Whereas he says most people clench their partners without giving them the freedom to come back to them.

The multidisciplinary artist David Drebin is best known for his dreamy, cinematic and sexy images,  and catchy neon light installations.

The multidisciplinary artist David Drebin is best known for his dreamy, cinematic and sexy images, and catchy neon light installations.


Eventually success came for David, at first as a commercial photographer, he worked for Mercedes, Adidas, MTV, Nike, Sony and more and magazines like Vanity Fair, The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, GQ, National Geographic and ELLE. Over time he did more work just for himself and in 2007 a selection of his photographs was released in the photo book “Love And Other Stories”. Together with the German publishing house teNeues coffee table books like “The Morning After” (2010), ”Beautiful Disasters“ (2012), ”Chasing Paradise“ (2015), ”Dreamscapes“ (2016) and the brand new “Love & Lights” that was published in November followed. He feels very comfortable in Berlin, by now even more at home here, staying at Soho House or Q! hotel in Charlottenburg, than in New York. 

"I’m interested in authenticity and self-awareness and amazing energy and making beautiful art and having great experiences”, David says about his intentions. But more than that, his real dream is to inspire other people to make their own art. “Cause I think we’re all artists. We are all creative people. Be creative otherwise the mind will play tricks on you.”