Yale News

Modern mediums for sharing art — including social media — have made it easy for audiences to access replicas of original pieces, but photographer Noah Dillon argued on Thursday that viewers can always tell which art is truly authentic.

Dozens of Yale College students and four artists from New York filled room 104 of Linsly-Chittenden hall on Thursday to hear photographer, musician and documentary filmmaker Noah Dillon deliver his talk titled “Images from the Void.” Dillon — originally from Durango, Colorado — has photographed for companies such as Nike, Gucci and the North Face. He has also done photo shoots for Brockhampton, Kanye West and Luka Sabbat. Dillon is also a member of the duo band, THE HELLP. Throughout the event, Dillon discussed the themes of his work, which include questions of identity and alienation.

“Just coming from the Void,” Dillon said referencing the title of the talk. “You would think off the top of your head that would be very classic rodeo images. You would think that would be indicative of images from the Void. I think that’s the antithesis of what something coming from the Void is. These glorified images from the Void have already happened. I think that with physical images from the Void, there’s a lot [of] deeper meaning in them.”

Dillon’s talk about the Void consisted of two of the videos he had produced. He used these videos to explain various concepts regarding the Void, such as duality. For example, according to Dillon, there is one such binary evident in Durango, Colorado — on one hand, is the Navajo tribe, and on the other is the image of a Patagonia jacket.

Unlike other designers who have mood boards, he said that once an artist acknowledges something “it takes life out of what you’re doing.”

He prefaced the video by his band THE HELLP by saying he wanted to “blow the senses out of the water.” This work, “FEEL,” is the first in a series of three films and is a compilation of clips and images of Dillon’s band. They include scenes of ocean waves, the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue in Firdos Square and Dillon’s acquaintances. Dillon coined this creation from the Void “RAD”: Random Anomalistic Discourse.

The second video Dillon presented, “CONFLUENCE,” features him walking erratically down an empty road into Monument Valley. As he moves down the road, he throws articles of clothing to the side until he is wearing just socks. Dillon explained that the character takes “on more of a narrative.” He added that Frank Ocean’s producer had later approached him and approved of his work.

Dillon also spoke about ownership and making art in the name of someone else. He reflected on how he had awarded “free advertising” to companies by shooting photographs and putting up uncontracted ads for companies across the U.S. It was Dillon’s way of influencing a brand’s image, which he said consumers do everyday by using them.

“This was maybe one of the first times that [this concept] had been pushed forward, a new question had been answered, a new question was being asked. If a brand loses control of its image, it has nothing,” Dillon said. “Our lawyer pretty much quit on us because he was worried we were going to get sued by them. I would die to get a Chevrolet lawsuit.”

According to Dillon, these companies were aware of his ad placements but decided to ignore him in the hopes that he would naturally stop.

In response to a question about how Dillon felt about political art, he responded “Stupid,” adding that “right now you’re supposed to make anti-Trump art … But name one good Trump piece.” He continued by describing his art as being more of a trigger for an experience than an object.

“It was really interesting to hear such a refreshing perspective on the creation and design processes behind art. I feel that especially at Yale, where there’s a certain way of appreciating art. This was a very refreshing perspective,” said attendee Leet Miller ’23.

“It was really interesting to hear about some of the ways that Noah pushes the envelope in his industry,” said Eamonn Smith ’21, who is also a staff reporter for the News. He added, “From his music to his photography, his talent for developing thought-provoking visuals is evident and engaging.”

The talk was hosted by Poynter Fellowship in Journalism and the Y Fashion House.

Talat Aman | talat.aman@yale.edu

Correction, April 28: A previous version of this article stated that nearly two dozen attendees were at the event; in fact, there were over two dozen.