As a documentary photographer using the urban landscape as my subject, the photographs I take are of subjects found in place and take advantage of available light. Some documentary photography, especially that which involves people, may involve more arrangement and direction of subjects and lighting, but a sense of authenticity, or “captured as found”, is still often the intent. Crossing over the murky delineations of documentary work and looking at fine art and commercial photography (whether it be portraiture, still lifes, nudes, landscapes, products for advertisements, etc.), arrangement and direction of subjects and lighting may become more important and in some cases the most demanding and costly parts of producing a photograph. The intentions of the photographer are the only guides needed in establishing the level of direction that is appropriate for any given photograph. In other words, “whatever end result I am looking for with this photograph, dictates the level of production used for creating a scene to photograph.”
Recently the Aperture Foundation announced its 2010 Portfolio Prize winner, David Favrod, (here is a link to his website). As an artist, one is always encouraged to follow their instincts.And I believe I do. But it is also worthwhile if not mandatory to look at contemporary work. For me it is always interesting and educational, and sometimes just plain enjoyable, to look at others’ work and see what is being defined as leading the curve. Once familiar with the concept behind Favrod’s portfolio, “Gaijin,” I very much appreciated and enjoyed this fine art work. As it’s foundation is set in exploring identity and as Favrod explains in words and expertly shows in his photography, taking a stab at defining who we are, or what we visualize, as individuals can be rewarding and beautiful. Here is what David Favrod says about his project:
“When I was 18, I asked for double nationality at the Japanese embassy, but they refused, because it is only given to Japanese women who wish to obtain their husband’s nationality.
“It is from this feeling of rejection and also from a desire to prove that I am as Japanese as I am Swiss that this work was created. ‘Gaijin’ is a fictional narrative, a tool for my quest for identity, where self-portraits imply an intimate and solitary relationship that I have with myself. The mirror image is frozen in a figurative alter ego that serves as an anchor point.
“The aim of this work is to create ‘my own Japan’, in Switzerland, from memories of my journeys when I was small, my mother’s stories, popular and traditional culture and my grandparents war narratives.”
I have included in this post one photograph, “Le mont Fuji,” from his prize-winning portfolio above. More of his work can be seen at his website (linked before) and also at this link on the Aperture website. The Aperture Foundation says, “…The purpose of the Aperture Portfolio Prize is to identify trends in contemporary photography and specific artists whom we can help by bringing them to a wider audience. In choosing the first-prize winner and runners-up, we are looking for work that is fresh and that hasn’t been widely seen in major publications or exhibition venues.”
To close out this entry, I want to point out that the exploration of identity - cultural identity or otherwise - that is seen in David Favrod’s work is often complex and takes some sort of form at the intersection of icons from many different cultures and subcultures. Even if that intersection is embraced, or loathed, forced, or artificial, the visual description of it is liberating and edifying by giving tangible representation to something which otherwise often remains amorphous and internally chaotic. This self-informing aspect of art ( whether it be from the visual arts, music, sculpture, architecture, etc.), whether it be high-brow or low, is at the source of my passion for capturing (through photography) hand-painted artwork in the public realm in the urban landscape, whether that be in murals or graffiti masterpieces.