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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.

Photographer Hal

I first saw work by the Tokyo photographic artist, Photographer Hal, when I explored the winning images for the New Directions exhibition at Wallspace Gallery, jurored by Debra Klomp Ching. Because the image was small, I thought that he had photographed some kind of candy, but when I saw the large photograph hanging on the gallery wall, I realized that my brain could not make the connection that what I was looking at were people.

The images below are from a series, Flesh Love, where couples are vacuumed sealed in futon cases. Needless to say this is disarming work, but at the same time, it’s work that changes our perceptions. He has a book of this work available for ipads.

I go to kabukicho in shinjuku, underground bars in shibuya and many other places which are full of activity like luscious night time bee-hives. When i see a couple of interest I will begin to negotiate. I’m sure that many people initially think of my proposal as unusual or even look through me like I am completely invisible, but I always push forward with my challenge to them. The models appear from all walks of life and individually have included musicians, dancers, strippers, laborers, restaurant and bar managers, photographers, businessmen and women, unsettled and unemployed, et al.

In my early explorations I used to capture the models in a small room or enclosed space, these images can be seen in the photo books called Pinky & Killer, and Pinky & Killer DX.

During the photo session I often prompt the couple to pose as if they’re in a sticker photo booth, an extension of the regular passport type which cause friends to pose in many alternative and fun ways. The focal point of the concept was then extended for the publication Couple Jam to include the use of the models bathtub, usually in their own home. I think of the bathroom as being one of the most private and intimate place in anyone’s home, this provoked a shyness in the models, and created a unique excitement and inspiration in the scene. In my most recent project I have applied the use of the vacuum sealed package, used to store futon covers in everyday life, I found that the couple can be sealed in, with the appearance of being freshly wrapped I have called this event Fresh Love.

William Miller

Last week, I managed to make it to Santa Barbara to see the terrific New Directions show, jurored by Debra Klomp Ching at the Wall Space Gallery. I was delighted to find one of William Miller’s Broken Polariod images that I had featured on Lenscratch. It was much larger than I had expected and really took on a presence of a Mark Rothko painting.

William became preoccupied with photography when he attended high school in Manhattan and it continued on into Bard College where he studied photography with Larry Fink and Stephen Shore. He’s been a photojournalist and documentary photographer ever since then and has worked with Saveur, Harpers, Paris Match, Spin, GQ, Stern, The Globe and Mail, the NY Daily News, as well as organizations such as Doctor’s Without Borders, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Human Rights Watch and he’s been a photographer for the New York Post for close to 10 years.

In keeping with his painterly sensibility, William’s new series, Gowanus Canal, finds beauty in our toxic world.

Gowanus Canal: It wasn’t so long ago that educated people thought the earth was so vast that no human activity could have a significant impact on it. They buried garbage in the ground and dumped waste in the seas and waterways the way war criminals bury their dead and assume the earth will hide their horrible crimes.

Brooklyn’s Gowanus canal is one of America’s most polluted waterways. More than a century of unfettered industrial abuse was followed by decades of bungled attempts to clean it up. It is significantly cleaner than it was 30 years ago but it’s contaminated waters hold the evidence of its history.

To look into the Gowanus canal is to gaze into the eyes of a corpse. It is murky and clouded over but if you look closely you can see life and light reflected in the mercury, feces and coal tar that drift in the canal like malevolent clouds. This uncomfortable cohabitation is the foundation of a photographic study of the strangely beautiful horror that the canal hosts.

Heidi Kirkpatrick

The photography world is hungry for new approaches to creating imagery as our current photographic environment speaks more to pixels and file sizes. Happily, there is a rebirth of exploring traditional and historical processes and a focus on the photograph as object. Heidi Kirkpatrick is creating three dimensional photographic sculptures after years in the darkroom producing traditional silver gelatin prints, that were, more often than not, tucked away in boxes. In an effort to work in a unique way, her photographs have found new homes and surfaces and they are getting lots of attention. Heidi will be giving a presentation on her work at the Portland Art Museum, as a part of their Brown Bag Lunch Talks, on January 18, 2012 at 12:00pm to 1:00pm. Her series, Specimens, was recently recognized as one of the Critical Mass Top 50 Portfolios. The image below was selected by Darius Himes for the traveling Critical Mass exhibition.

Branch ll

The two images below were selected by gallerist Deborah Klomp Ching for the New Directions exhibition at Wall Space Gallery, that opened January 1st and will run through January 29th.


For Fredrerick

Specimens: I have had a lot of physical pain and have for many years. In my continual search for an answer, as well as my way of dealing with the unexplained, I dissect my Gray’s Anatomy book. The pages find their way into Specimens, layered under images of those closest to me. The illustrations bind, clothe and wrap the body. Putting the inside on the outside, I wear my heart on my sleeve. Reminiscent of nineteenth century cased images; Specimens are housed in small hinged tins that open and close to reveal or conceal the secrets they hold.

Heidi is a Portland photographer and artist, using found objects to create intimate and personal sculptures. Her work is mysterious, personal, and nostalgic. She explores themes of family, childhood, addiction, and pain. There is a sense of play present, but serious play that makes the viewer consider their own memories and insights. She has a book of her work, Lost and Found, through Blurb. The work below is gleaned from several series.

I am in love with film. All of my work is made with film. I shoot on film. I print on film. I do all of my own work in my darkroom. I like it dripping off my elbows. I do not use a lot of fancy equipment. My “models” are the people who are closest to me, my family and friends. I love layering the film positives over anything and everything I can think of or find. My studio is filled with found objects that inspire me, and photographs, lots and lots of photographs.

I use photographs to transform found objects into playful pieces of art. Fusing transparent figurative and family portraits with children’s toys and blocks, I create a playful tension between imagery and object. My work breathes new life into these found objects, yet they leave hints of the past in their lovingly worn appearances; the flecks of paint missing, and the soft corners worn down by tiny fingers and tumbling towers.

These works depart from the formality of a frame as they are arranged on a table top or a shelf, often stacked or placed side by side to reveal narratives of family snapshots, or the complexities of the feminine allure. In combination, I give you a chance to visit these earlier playful times while drawing on memories, contemporary issues, and visual formality.

S. Gayle Stevens

I had the great pleasure of meeting S. Gayle Stevens at Filter Photo Festival in Chicago in October. Her wet plate collodion images are expressive, magical, and individual. Using modified Holgas and cameraless photography, she works to tell stories and create a new visual language. Gayle received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has taught alternative photo processes at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois for ten years. Named one of the Critical Mass Top Fifty Photographers for 2010 and featured in numerous magazines and exhibitions, Gayle was recently accepted into the New Directions Exhibition at Wall Space Gallery (jurored by Debra Klomp Ching), will have a solo show at the Center of Fine Art Photography next fall, and is now represented by the Tilt Gallery in Phoenix.

I am featuring two projects, the first an unusual approach to capturing what is left behind after Hurricane Katrina, Pass, and the second, Calligraphy, with a new way of looking at objects.

pass: (n) opening, road, channel.
pass: (v) to go away, die, to go from one state or form to another.

In this series I recorded the ruins that once were the town of Pass Christian Mississippi, an artist community on the gulf devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

On the morning of August 29, 2005 Pass Christian, a community on the Mississippi gulf coast, lost all but 500 of its 8000 homes when Katrina’s storm surge topped the high water mark at over 30 feet and drove destruction more than half a mile inland. A once thriving artist community lay in ruins. Many residents have chosen not to return but their memories of Pass Christian remain the essence of this place. As time passes, blackberry vines creep over the remaining foundations; nature, like a shroud slowly covers Pass Christian. Over the past two years, I have returned repeatedly to photograph. To me, the loss of community is the most devastating aspect of this natural disaster.

For this project I have chosen to create my images with a medium format pinhole camera using wet plate collodion, a process that dates from the time of the city’s founding. The plates are small size and intimate. Pinhole and wet plate, when used in tandem, create a surreal world of depth and mystery. Wet plate captures the mystery the way dreams reveal what daylight hides.

calligraphy: beautiful writing or drawing

photography: light drawing

taxonomy: the science of the classification of living things

Calligraphy consists of a series of wet plate collodion tintype photogenic drawings of plant and animal specimens I have collected on walks near my home and in my travels. This series is inspired by “cabinets of curiosity”, natural history collections from the 17th century, and the precursor of museums. The original meaning of “cabinet” was a small room; these rooms housed collections of plants, preserved animals and minerals. My collection contains diverse plant and animal remains. I have always been intrigued by what is overlooked in daily life and these objects are cherished for the unique beauty of their sparse remains.

I have rendered my drawings of these specimens in wet plate collodion. The silhouettes of the photogenic drawings are rendered as black shadows and echo the brushstrokes in Chinese calligraphy, sparse yet expressive. Changeable as the original specimens, the silver rich plates are unvarnished and will tarnish with age. The speed and degree of tarnish will depend on their environment and the patina will be that of antique silver.

The calligraphy series is composed of single and multiple five inch square plates displayed in the style of 19th century specimens and housed in black wood shadow box frames. This collection will be displayed as my personal museum of specimens collected on my daily walks. These images are my memento mori; an acknowledgement of lives passed, a rendering of fleeting shadows.

Submit! New Directions 2012

Every year, Crista Dix at the Wall Space Gallery in Santa Barbara, has an international call for entry that helps promote emerging photographers and help them gain exposure. This year the juror is the esteemed galleris, Debra Klomp Ching, of the Klomp Ching Gallery, New York, NY…which truly makes this bi-coastal exposure.

The submission period will be open from 1 October 2011 until 5 November 2011.

New Directions seeks to discover new talent in the world of photography. Past shows have included the works of now gallery artists Joseph O. Holmes, Priya Kambli and Joelle Jensen. Each year emerging artists have an opportunity to have their work seen by a nationally recognized figure in the field of photography. From these entries a cohesive show emerges for display at wall space in January. This year we are excited to have the opportunity to show New Directions in our gallery in Santa Barbara and we are pleased to have a second exhibition in Seattle.

All submissions for this exhibition are considered for gallery representation by both wall space and KlompChing Gallery. wall space directors and associates will review the work; however, the gallery’s review will not affect the outcome of the selection process.

About the Juror
Debra Klomp Ching is the owner and director of the Klompching Gallery in New York, founded in 2007 in partnership with Darren Ching. Prior to this, she was the Executive Director of Pavilion (UK), served as an Officer at the Arts Council of England and was a lecturer in photographic practice at the University of Coventry (UK) and history of photography at Derby University (UK).

Her experience in the photography industry spans more than two decades, during which time she has participated in several notable photography review festivals, panel presentations and conferences, curated photography exhibitions in Europe, Canada and the US, juried several photography awards and contributed to both online and print publications on the subject of photography. She is an international adviser to the Executive Director of CENTER (Santa Fe) an adviser to the Center for Fine Art Photography (Fort Collins) and a photo editor for At Length Mag.

Debra Klomp Ching has a BA(Hons) in Photographic Studies, an MA in Critical History and Theory of Photography, a PG Diploma in New Media Management and has attended graduate studies in Curating.

Prospectus for New Directions 2012: Crossing Territories / Arte Factum

There are broadly two ways in which to consider the nature of the photograph; the photograph as phenomena (the object itself and its construction) and the photograph’s social/subjective intersection (how it is perceived, encountered and used). Of course, neither can be totally divorced from the other.

Contemporary photographers are demonstrating an impressive and imaginative use of photography’s new tools, facilitating them to push photography to its very limits, whilst maintaining the integrity of the photograph itself. This is what I’m looking for when curating New Directions 2012.

The methodologies of physical production are arguably as vast as the visual strategies being employed. There are some trends being witnessed that include—but are not limited to—physical re-appropriation, complex combinations of manipulation (assemblage, selective focal point, merging of analogue and digital, intervention through figuring), as well as a return to the seemingly ‘straight/pure’ photograph.

Non-exhaustive list of photographers that inspire the above viewpoint include:

Michael Wolf, Alejandro Chaskielberg, Marc Baruth, Paolo Ventura, Doug Keyes, Helen Sear, Andreas Gefeller, Myoung Ho Lee, Maria Antonietta Mameli, Beth Dow, Curtis Mann, Chris McCaw, Dong Yoon Kim, Mari Mahr, Matthew Baum, Sohei Nishono, Edith Maybin, Desiree Dolron

I’m looking for a solid marriage between form and content. Ensure that your accompanying statement is succinct and clearly states how the method of construction is coupled with your concept.

Important Dates

Open Submission period – 1 October 2011 – 5 November 2011

Artists notified – 28 November 2011

Selected prints due to wall space gallery – 2 January 2012

wall space | Santa Barbara exhibition – 4 January – 29 January 2012

wall space | Seattle exhibition – 8 February – 4 March 2012


Entries will be accepted from the United States and Internationally.

Your entry (via mail with CD or on-line) must reach the Santa Barbara gallery by 5 November 2011

A maximum of 5 images may be submitted

Traditional or Digital Images may be submitted

Submission fee is $45USD. If mailing entry, enclose payment. On-line entries can use google checkout or paypal to pay.

Image selections will be made and artists notified 28 November 2011.

Selected images must be delivered to the gallery framed and ready for exhibition after 1 December, 2011 and before 2 January, 2012.

wall space reserves the right to edit images for poor quality printing or framing.

On-line entries must be optimized for screen view (72ppi). Maximum dimensions 765px x 595px. Maximum file size: 350KB.

Entry Links

If you choose to submit a larger picture than our maximum dimensions, the image will be resampled down to 765px x 595px at 72 ppi. The larger your pictures the longer it will take for the program to process them, so be patient. Thank you.

on-line entry

Check the site for a mailable entry form.

Good Luck!

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.


“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)


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)