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A Shadow Remains

A Shadow Remains

A conversation with Phil Toledano and Debra Klomp Ching

Editor's Note: Flak Photo is proud to feature this conversation in support of Phil Toledano's, A Shadow Remains, a multimedia story that considers the impact that love and loss have on contemporary family life. The film will be availble for online streaming beginning Tuesday, June 12, 2012. For more information, visit MediaStorm.com.


Debra Klomp Ching: It’s hard to imagine, that there is anyone unaware of Days With My Father. Two years ago, 1.2 million people had already seen the work online. How many people have visited the website now?

Phil Toledano: Last time I checked, it was over two million, which is really quite mind boggling.

Debra Klomp Ching: Days With My Father really started out—from your own account—as a way to record and appreciate your relationship with your father. And, poignantly, it was spurred by the sudden death of your mother. Do you feel that you have fulfilled that real need that we all have, to reconnect before it’s too late?

Phil Toledano: Well, the sad thing about life is that sometimes it takes something really miserable, to point out what you've been missing all along. So did I reconnect with my father—well, I never felt disconnected. But what the death of my mum pointed out to me, was the importance of being awake, of seeing what was in front of me, and remembering it. That's what I tried to do with my dad.

Debra Klomp Ching: You’ve said in the past, that the actual upload of Days With My Father to the web, was done without any real objective, except perhaps to unburden. At the time, you didn’t know what you were unburdening, are you able to articulate that now?

Phil Toledano: I'm still not sure I can explain myself very well. It was a kind of animalistic urge, to unburden myself of all the weight I had been carrying for the last few years. In some ways, I felt quite relieved to be so light.

Debra Klomp Ching: Have you felt particularly vulnerable for sharing your story? Or, have you found an additional inner strength, a more solid grounding in your relationship with family and friends?

Phil Toledano: I've never felt very vulnerable about sharing that story, in part, I suppose, because I was sharing it with strangers—who I probably would never meet. But the reaction and extraordinary feedback from so many people has made me grateful, and more aware of how lucky I was to be able to say goodbye to my dad the way I did. Also, in some ways, I do feel stronger for my story being adrift in the world. I'm not sure why, but I do.

Debra Klomp Ching: This journey and experience must also impact on your own family. Now, you’re the father and husband, rather than the son.

Phil Toledano: I've found it quite hard to come to grips with the idea that there is no one left alive who knew me as a child, as a teenager, as a baby. The idea that those memories only exist for me now, is quite sad. And yes, it's odd, no longer being a 'son'. But on the other hand, all the qualities that my parents left me, instilled in me, are drawn in sharp relief by their absence. I can now see their gifts to me clearly, and I’m grateful. I miss their advice, in a way that I never did before.

Debra Klomp Ching: You’ve shared a pivotal experience in your life, something so incredibly personal and intimate, yet something that is undeniably universal. How have you been affected by the collective responses to the story?

Phil Toledano: The annoying thing about clichés is that they're true. So, when I say that the response has made me aware of how similar we all are, it's boring, but quite true. Not to get all John Lennon, but love belongs to all of us. It's just that we let other things get in the way of seeing that.

Debra Klomp Ching: There have also been a huge number of individuals sending and posting messages. One person contacted you and offered to translate your text into Portuguese. Are there other points of direct contact that you’ve had with people through your story?

Phil Toledano: I've had quite a few Skype calls with total strangers, who just wanted to talk about taking photographs of their own parents, and were looking for some advice. I recently received an email from someone in China who is trying to get people together to publish the book. People seem to feel that this story belongs to all of us—and so it does.

Debra Klomp Ching: And of course, there’s been extensive global media interest. Has your relationship with the photographs, the website and book altered due to it, essentially, taking on a life of its own?

Phil Toledano: Well, of course, I often wonder what my parents—especially my dad—would have made of it all. I tried to explain the concept of the Internet to my father once—he was 95 or 96 at the time. He asked if it was 'in color', and 'where was it'. As it turns out, it's quite hard explaining something so intangible. My parents exist, first and foremost in my heart. I don't need the photos to remind me of them, but somehow the experience of making the photographs and writing about them, made me remember all that I need to remember. I do look at photos of my parents, and think about physical aspects of how they were. I remember how soft my father's face was after I’d shaved him, the way I could feel my mother's love, sometimes, when she looked at me.

Debra Klomp Ching: You were recently approached by MediaStorm to make a film about Days With My Father. What is the film about? Is it a documentation of the whole experience?

Phil Toledano: It's about lots of things— my parents, my relationship with them, the website, the book and the experience of both. It's also about me as a father, and my family as it stands now. And of course, it's about love. For my parents, my wife, my child. When I see the film, it's tremendously emotional for me—I inevitably start snuffling into my hankie. I don't know what it'll mean to other people, but it's a thing of perfect crystalline beauty to me.

Debra Klomp Ching: Behind all of this, still, there remains the story of Phil and his dad! A strange question perhaps, but has your relationship with your family (dad, mum, sister), changed as a result of Days With My Father?

Phil Toledano: Well, in some ways, it's made me regret not being a better son, and better brother. I wish there were things I could have told my mum, before she died. But I guess life is like that. It's imperfect, and by the time you've thought of everything you'd like to say, some of the people you'd like to say those things to aren't around anymore. I'm more aware of what they gave me. I'm more aware of how lucky I was to be their son, and to have basked in so much love.

Debra Klomp Ching: What do you believe is the legacy of Days With My Father?

Phil Toledano: I think 'Days' will be the best thing I ever do. If I croak tomorrow, at least I'll have done one good thing, and to be honest, that's a lot more than I expected.

Klompching Gallery’s Fresh 2011 Exhibition

Klompching Gallery in Brooklyn, owned by the insightful Debra Klomp Ching and PDN’s Darren Ching, recently had a call for Fresh photography. The exhibition was jurored by W. M. Hunt, a well established curator, collector, and consultant, and Darren Ching–both gentlemen who have seen a lot of imagery over the years and would be well informed to make a decision as to what is “fresh” in photography today. “The objective of Fresh, was to showcase—in exhibit and online—photography that is fresh in approach and vision. The curators looked for photographs that fully employ the medium of photography within the context of contemporary photographic practice.” I thought it was a good idea to explore these selections as a divining rod to what is new and now the the photographic waters.

The Fresh exhibition opens tonight, July 20th and runs through August 13th. The gallery is featuring the work of 4 photographers: Skott Chandler, Harold Ross, Donna J. Wan and Ahron D. Weiner. In addition to the exhibit, Klompching Gallery is showcasing the works of the following 10 short-listed FRESH photographers on the gallery’s website: Mary Ellen Bartley, Erik Boker, Christopher Capozziello, Christopher Ernst, Jim Kazanjian, Avery McCarthy, Leigh Merrill, Kristen Schmid Schurter, Tina Schula and Kimberly Witham.

If you can’t make it to Brooklyn, coinciding with the gallery exhibition, Fraction Magazine is publishing a special online edition of its magazine for the four exhibiting photographers, with an introduction by W.M. Hunt.

“In each of these series, the artists make us look in a fresh way, to consider scenes that might not seem that extraordinary until their mediation … Curiously these selections demonstrate photography’s unique appreciation and appropriation of reality.” —W.M. Hunt.

THE GALLERY EXHIBITION

“Skott Chandler’s “House Watch” series are shot from a ceiling fan point of view, capturing room interiors and the small scenarios playing out below with a sense of lightness. These manage to slow down our “reality TV” hyped up metabolism. The dramas are low key, and not so very explicit, but seemingly intimate or private, with literally roomfuls of detail. Further, the walls of the rooms act as an unusual framing device within the photographic image.”

Skott Chandler, UNTITLED BREAKFAST NOOK, 2011 (House Watch series)

Skott Chandler, UNTITLED BEDROOM 1, 2011 (House Watch series)

Skott Chandler, UNTITLED DINING ROOM, 2011 (House Watch series)

“The point of view in Harold Ross’ “Night”-time forest landscapes makes for a different sort of collaboration between the artist and the viewer. Here we are not overwhelmed by the enormity of things but rather “creeped” out by the strangeness or “other-worldliness” of the scene. The lighting and rich palette are haunting and odd. The vegetation is vaguely threatening; the leaf cover seems to blanket something ominous underfoot. Even a clothesline seems ominous and fearsome.”

Harold Ross, UNTITLED NUMBER 13, 2010 (Night series)

Harold Ross, UNTITLED NUMBER 5 , 2009 (Night series)

Harold Ross, UNTITLED NUMBER 15, 2010 (Night series)

“Donna J. Wan does literally put us “In the Landscape.” How we look or how we see is at the heart of this work. Man’s presence is important in this work because it provides us with a sense of scale, the way in which we are dwarfed by the enormity of Nature. She gets it right. Seeing from the photographer’s distant point of view we share that smallness, like little specks of humanity, flies on the wall … of a mountain.”

Donna J. Wan, ON A PLATFORM IN THE DESERT, 2010 (In The Landscape series)

Donna J. Wan, AT THE EDGE OF THE LAKE, 2011 (In The Landscape series)

Donna J. Wan, AT THE GORGE, 2009 (In The Landscape series)

“Ahron D. Weiner’s “Bible AdInfinitum©” poster-like collages have a bold, graphic handsomeness. After a few viewings they begin to reveal elements that are not immediately apparent. These works are based on “found” posters but they are actually artfully made constructions based on disparate materials. They make a discrete attempt at summoning up Old Testament imagery. This all makes for a series of good looking, smart deconstructions of advertising.”

Ahron D. Weiner, THE CREATION OF MAN — GENESIS 1:27, 2010 (Bible Adinfinitum© series)

Ahron D. Weiner, THE TEMPTATIONS OF EVE — GENESIS 3:4, 2010 (Bible Adinfinitum© series)

Ahron D. Weiner, THE DESTRUCTION OF SODOM — GENESIS 19:25, 2006 (Bible Adinfinitum© series)

THE ONLINE EXHIBITION

Mary Ellen Bartley, ALL THE MORE REAL, 2011 (Standing Open series)

Erik Boker, SACRIFICED FOR ME, 2011 (Ascension of the Brand series)

Christopher Capozziello, THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US #8, 2010 (The Distance Between Us series)

Christopher Ernst, LAUNDROMAT, 2010 (Interior Landscapes series)

Jim Kazanjian, UNTITLED (LOW TIDE), 2009 (Aberrationss series)

Avery McCarthy, X=? (DIVINITY), 2010 (X=? series)

Leigh Merrill, SUNDANCE SQUARE, 2011 (Into the Sunset series)

Kristen Schmid Schurter, OUTSIDE WORLDS, 2008 (Father To Son series)

Tina Schula, MISSION BRIEFING, 2010 (Radical Camp series)

Kimberly Witham, STILL LIFE WITH PEACHES, 2010 (Domestic Arrangements series)