David Favrod lives and works in Switzerland. He is a graduate of École cantonale d'art de Lausanne (ECAL) with a master's degree in art direction and a bachelor's degree in photography. Other than winning the Aperture Portfolio Prize, Favrod has also been included in reGeneration2, a book and touring exhibition showcasing emerging photographers. His work has been shown in solo and group shows around the world.
Somewhere in Switzerland there’s a municipal archive, the collective memory of a town, with negatives and newspapers and postcards and photographs that tell the story of the area from 1880–1940. It’s the collective paper memory of the place, including a picture of four children who might not have grown into respected elders, a picture of a priest who may have performed important rituals in the town, a picture of a young woman whose face you might recognize—if the town’s memories are your own.
On the other hand, for photographer Nicolas Dhervillers, who spent only six months residing in Sion, the people in those images were more like characters in a play he would write. Acting the parts to which the photographer assigned them, they appear throughout a series called My Sentimental Archives which will be exhibited at Galérie Bacqueville in Lille, France through Nov. 20. In a meditation on appropriation, each photograph is a two-in-one. Dhervillers’ landscape photography from the area was subjected to a digital process adapted from the cinematic “day for night” technique, lending an eerie look to pictures taken in broad daylight; the archival figures are placed within those landscapes and washed with the unnatural digital light.
“It was very important to find a technique that gives an impression of being ‘outside time,’” Dhervillers told TIME in an email. “Thus, it’s not about a simple photograph but rather a photograph that mixes different mediums that I particularly like: theater for the positions and attitudes of the characters, movies for the light, photography for the idea of controlling the framework, painting for the final rendering.”
Each figure from the archives—small, dusty, black and white people—has been carefully restored by Dhervillers. And, in the process of restoration, the photographer says he felt that the images raised a spiritual question: can we create a present, a now, out of the scraps of the past? “The appropriation of the collective memory, of photographic memory, overlaps with the desire to question a picture in a larger sense,” he said. “This series takes us into a fictional space outside of time, through the photographic processing.”
Dhervillers has worked with appropriated figures before; his series Tourists uses images taken from the internet. But in this case, in the end, his questions about photographic appropriation took on another dimension: the archives from which Dhervillers took the figures did, in a way, become “his.” Even if he didn’t share the town’s history, he felt he knew its inhabitants well. “I spent a lot of time with these little characters,” he said. “I raised them, I colorized them, I gave them life.”
This interview has been translated from French.
I’m stepping away from Lenscratch this week to work on a new personal website and prepare for upcoming photo activities…wanted to reintroduce you to some wonderful photographers featured several years ago, today with Verner Soler that was featured in January, 2009.
After growing up in a Swiss village, population 250, Verner Soler, has a unique window into a world we’ve only seen in the movies. Juggling a full plate as an art director, husband, and father, Verner does not get back to the village as often as he would like to. Several years ago, after being struck by how much his parents had aged between his visits, he decided to take definitive portraits of his parents, and more recently, has completed the typology with members of his extended family. It’s a powerful and fascinating series of genetics and love, (and for those of us living in Los Angeles, incredibly refreshing to see real faces). He will also be sharing images from his visits to Switzerland at Review LA.
Daniel Shea is an artist based in Chicago. His long-term photographic work about the coal industry, Coal Work, was recently presented as a solo exhibition in Switzerland and has been shown internationally, including the Moscow Museum of Modern Art and Asia Society in Beijing. He is currently showing sculptures and installations at LVL3 Gallery in Chicago and will be showing new photographs as part of a solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in October 2012. He is currently in a long-term artist residency program at Columbia College Chicago working on his first monograph, Blisner, Ill. Daniel splits his time between working on the road or in the studio, teaching through various community arts initiatives, and taking assignments for publications including Dwell, The Fader, Wired, The Atlantic, TIME, and Monocle.
“The preoccupation with I has become a cliché in contemporary art,” says Kimiko Yoshida. The Japanese photographer challenges that cliché by creating large, color photos of herself in which she wears elaborate costumes that reference a wide range of subjects, from haute couture and indigenous cultures to the canon of Western painting. By constantly changing what at first appears to be a self-portrait, Yoshida says, “I am basically saying that there is no such thing as a self-portrait,” she says. “Each of these photographs is actually a ceremony of disappearance. It is not an emphasis of identity, but the opposite—an erasure of identity.”
Born in Tokyo in 1963, Yoshida came of age in a tradition-bound culture where the conservative attitude towards the role of women left her alienated and unhappy. She studied literature and worked in fashion, which allowed her to hone her creative eye, but she remained frustrated. Over her father’s objections, she enrolled in the Tokyo College of Photography. Even after she had her degree in hand, she felt her options for a creative career in Japan were limited and moved to France to escape those stifling confines.
“Since I fled my homeland to escape the mortifying servitude and humiliating fate of Japanese women, I amplified through my art a feminist stance of protest against contemporary clichés of seduction, voluntary servitude of women, identity and the stereotypes of gender,” Yoshida says.
Yoshida critiques the idea of a firm and unchanging identity in a variety of ways, most obviously by physically changing it. In her “Brides” series, she often photographs herself in indigenous garb that she borrows from museums. Meanwhile, in her “Paintings” series, she and her husband repurpose items from the archives of Spanish fashion designer Paco Rabanne. But no matter what the source material is, Yoshida riddles the final product with playful anachronisms and cross-cultural references that undermine its perceived authenticity. The Paco Rabanne garments and accessories, made between 1965 and 2000, are themselves full of unusual materials, from plastic bottles to CD-roms. Yoshida adds a twist by refusing to wear them as intended: shoes become headdresses while dresses become hats. Yet another twist comes when you realize that Yoshida’s odd remixes actually reference paintings from Western art history, from Caravaggio to Picasso to Warhol. The fact that many of her images are nearly monochromatic threatens to drown whatever individuality that may remain. Finally, Yoshida often displays her images on walls in overwhelming numbers, thus minimizing their specialness.
The end result is evocative of Cindy Sherman, another artist who dons costumes in front of the camera and who even references art history like Yoshida.
And while the meanings of Sherman’s work reside in its surfaces, Yoshida’s work provides the artist with an internal, metaphysical space. “Art is above all the experience of transformation,” explains Yoshida. “All that’s not me, that’s what interests me. To be there where I think I am not, to disappear where I think I am, that is what matters.” In the end, perhaps the photographs themselves are simply evidence of this performance. But it is interesting that Yoshida, an artist who is driven by the denial of the self, has made them with such a singular and memorable voice.
Yoshida has solo shows at St. Jakobshalle in Basel, Switzerland, and the Musée Pavillon Vendôme-Dobler in Aix-en-Provence, France, both opening June 13. Her work is also in a group show at the Musée de la Tapisserie in Angers, France that opens June 29. More of her work can be seen here.
Michael von Graffenried, 1957, Switzerland, started his career as a photojournalist in 1978. Today he lives in Paris and works on long term projects often dealing with themes of ethnology. He uses a panoramic analog camera using 35mm film yet creating impressive large-scale photographs. For Michael content comes before technology and his choice for the panoramic format came somewhat by accident. He was in Algeria during the 1990’s when tension was high documenting the daily life during and after the civil war. The panoramic camera proved usefull as one can keep it on the chest while taking images. People can see the camera yet do not know that an image has been taken. Once Michael saw the results he realised the aesthetic part of this format and decided to use it. His socially engaged stories and narrative images are strong, daring and sometimes provocative. He has been in numerous exhibitions and released an enormous amount of monographs between 1980 and today. The following images come from the series Eye on Africa, Cocainelove and War without Images.