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Alex Trochut's Glow-in-the-Dark Portraits Show DJs Coming to Life at Night

Trochut's portraits of DJs like John Talabot and James Murphy look pretty normal—until you turn off the lights.
Alex Trochut and his portrait of Caribou

33-year-old artist Alex Trochut takes portraits of electronic musicians. But not the kinds you've come to expect on generic album covers and club flyers. Trochut's work is a little more unconventional. His photos of DJs like James Murphy, Caribou, Four Tet, Damian Lazarus, John Talabot, and Lucy look like regular portraits or the artists with their eyes closed—until you turn off the lights, and they turn into an abstract explosion of character and mood.


Trochut's experiments use a technique he invented called "binary printing." Using UV-reactive paint, he's able to place two images on the same vinyl canvas. One image appears when the room is lit, and the other only shows up in the dark. The result is both entertaining visual trickery, and a striking commentary on the dual identities of famous DJs who come to life at night.


Asked why he chose electronic DJs and producers as his muses for this project, Trochut says he was simply fueled by his own love for the music. "I wanted a subject that can relate to my passion," Trochut explains. "Music is kind of a companion for me. Working with music is something I need to do, and electronic music has this mantra thing to it. I cannot listen to the meaning of words. I need something that keeps it flowing, and electronic music does that for me."

It's clear that Trochut's passion for dance music goes deeper than he lets off. On his website, each portrait is accompanied by a thoughtful description of how he's managed to digest their sounds and turn them into images. For John Talabot, for example, Trochut chose to photograph the Spanish DJ and producer with his hands covering his face. "There are artists who choose to hide behind a mask, but John Talabot simply prefers not to show his face. This is not about playing a character; it is much more about putting music in the forefront––a wall that should transcend the persona," Trochut wrote.


John Talabot

As for James Murphy, Trochut depicts the LCD Soundsystem frontman as yawning and disheveled by day, slick and at ease by night. "From the P-funk disco of the self-titled "LCD Soundsystem" (DFA, 2005) to the revolution of dance music laid out on analog instruments on "This is Happening" (DFA, 2011), Murphy's gaze has always been visionary," he remarks.

James Murphy

Though a student of modern design minimalism, Trochut's artistic process is skewed towards maximalism. "(Minimalism) is a rational and good way to arrange ideas, but I think there's more to that for creativity," he says. "I really enjoy the emotional side of things [and] not always using logic to come up with your solutions, so that's why 'more is more.'"

That being said, the simplicity of the idea behind Trochut's Binary Prints project is how it acheives success. "I look for an impact in my images. That's what I'm trying to achieve in every piece," he says.

Trochut's most recent project is a series called Fine Lines. It's an evolution of his Binary Prints technique, but instead of UV paint, he uses a second layer of black lines to block the bottom half and construct an image of duality dependent on the position of the viewer. The series is getting a special showing of its own from Saturday, December 6 onwards at Cable Miami.

Whether it's through his Binary Prints or Fine Lines series, Trochut is constantly exploring this idea of transformation. His UV-reactive work is based on the idea that "things are not static or rigid." Instead, Trochut is fascinated by watching people and objects evolve over time. "I have a lot of work based on fluidity or things that are kind of abstract. It's kind of open," he says.