"David Biljan's photographs start as immediately personal takes on the familiar, but somehow end up as universal observations on the unknown. To view his work is to wonder whether you've really been seeing your own life."
I've known David Biljan for a long time, and over those many years he has worn many hats. During stretches of our long friendship both of us have spent time lost in the usual modern wilderness of futility and dissolution, but David has emerged with a weird and compelling grace --fostered by music, his friendships, and his photography. David's camera (most often, if not always these days, his cell phone) is like a purely emotional extension; he sees what he feels, and feels what he sees, and it sometimes seems like he sees and feels everything. He rambles so widely, and has such a knack for finding and exploring abandoned and neglected places, that I often find myself wondering, "Where the hell is that?" It's an irrelevant question, really; he's in Dave World, and time and again his photographs arrive like an elaborate and lovingly assembled mixtape, alternately moonstruck and heartsick, nostalgic and full of wonder, and just when the darkness seems to be pressing down and smothering everything he'll serve up a burst of shattering light to remind us where we are and what's at stake. -Brad Zellar- Author/journalist
From Jim Walsh:
David Biljan’s new photo exhibition goes under the name “I’ve Lost A Lot Of Things,” which describes the 59-year-old photographer/artist’s mood and oeuvre these days as he walks the precarious path of life and death. It also could come with the subtitle “Kenopsia,” which describes “the eerie, forlorn atmosphere of a place that is usually bustling with people but is now abandoned and quiet.” Junked-out bedrooms, dilapidated apartments, empty streets, churches, bars, and the photographer’s own personal quiet spaces are all brought to stark new life and recast in new light. “It is precisely because we resist the darkness in ourselves that we miss the depths of the loveliness, beauty, brilliance, creativity, and joy that lie at our core,” wrote Thomas Moore in “Dark Nights of the Soul: A Guide to Finding Your Way Through Life’s Ordeals,” and, lucky for the rest of us, Biljan has delved deep into the darkness to find many jewels that will haunt long after his bricks and mortar subjects are gone...
by Jim Walsh (2015)
David Biljan has always found beauty in the frailty of the human condition, so when Artista Bottega owner Nance Derby Davidson suggested Biljan’s upcoming photo exhibit at the gallery/gift shop open on Valentine’s Day, it was because she was drawn to the “weird romantic feel of these photographs.”
The subtitle for Biljan’s show is “Photos of Love, Loss, Longing and Light,” and that about sums it up for this late-blooming artist, who started shooting as a kid in East St. Paul with a Kodak Brownie Instamatic in the ‘60s and spent two years in photography school in Rhode Island and Minneapolis in the ‘70s. As an independent record label owner, Biljan’s band portraits appeared in Rolling Stone, the St. Paul Pioneer Press and other publications, and on album and CD covers, including the iconic shot that graces the cover of guitarist Bob “Slim” Dunlap’s album “The Old New Me,” which remains Biljan’s proudest moment to date as a photographer.
After his turn in the music business, Biljan took a hiatus from all things creative for ten years, but new love gave him a new rebirth, and he returned to photography in 2011. Ever since, he’s been on a dedicated daily mission to capture the world via his own unique prism.
“I always have found beauty in decay,” he said. “I was raised on death. My father died when I was five, and my brother died when I was a teenager, and it’s kind of a given that you’ll look at [life] a little bit differently.
“It’s inside of me. When I got back into it a few years ago and I shot a couple images, it was like, ‘Oh my god this is exactly how I feel. I don’t want to put it out there that my heart is broken; this picture right here says it all. I don’t have to say I’ve lost all of this; that photo shows what I’ve lost.”
It was Carl Jung who said, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious” – a time-honored artistic philosophy that lives at the core of Biljan’s work and will be in full effect at Artista Bottega starting next month.
“My friend Meera said, ‘Your photographs are lonely or achy, but there’s always light in there,’ and that really got to it,” said Biljan. “Honestly, when I feel kind of lost, I go and find things that capture my feelings because I can’t put it into words. Longing, literally. Bare trees, collapsing buildings, loneliness, empty buildings that should be full of life, closed stores, abandoned buildings – that’s what I’m drawn to.”