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  M1SFF09: DAYS WITH MY FATHER by PHILLIP TOLEDANO
« on: January 13, 2009, 10:03:44 AM » by alvintck
IMAGES OF MY FATHER

8 QUESTIONS WITH....PHILLIP TOLEDANO

Life! People
The Straits Times
Monday, January 12 2009, pg C3

Phillip Toledano's online photos of his ageing father are now being exhibited in print here

adeline chia
arts reporter

British photographer Phillip Toledano's moving online tribute to his father has gathered more than 600,000 hits since it went up five months ago.

Titled Days With My Father, the website is presented in a series of slides and short texts and chronicles how his 98-year-old father suffered each time he remembered that his wife was dead.

In one picture, his father, formerly a dashing actor, stares distraught into a mirror at how he has aged; in another intimate portrait, his hair and bushy eyebrows are matted from a shower.

Hundreds of comments from viewers poured in about how the project has touched them and changed their perception of their own elderly family members. 

The photo series will be shown for the first time as prints in an exhibition at the Esplanade Tunnel, under the umbrella of the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival organised by The Necessary Stage.

London-born Toledano, 40, cannot be here for the exhibition because of a last-minute assignment.  He tells Life! Over the phone that this project differs from his other work because it is “less cerebral”.

Adds the photographer, who has shot for magazines such as GQ, Esquire and Wallpaper: “This has nothing to do with intellect, but comes entirely from the heart.”

He is the only son of his father, who has been a businessman, painter and actor.  HisMoroccan mother, who was a lawyer before she retired, died in 2006 from a brain aneurysm.

His art projects are known for their quirky takes on reality and for his dark sense of humour.

Since he quit his high-flying career as an art director in an advertising agency seven years ago, he as made a name for himself with a few controversial projects.

There is the infamous America The Gift Shop last year, where he asks the question: “If American foreign policy had a gift shop, how would it look like?”

The quirky objects in this collection include a Dick Cheney snow globe complete with shredded document confetti; Abu Ghraib coffee table, where a glass top is balanced over the back of a naked prisoner with a hood over his head; and a T-shirt with the words “I was rendered to a secret prison and all I got was this lousy T-shirt”.

Then there is Phone Sex, a photo series, also created last year, featuring portraits of the men and women working in the industry.

On what inspires him, Toledano, who is married to a president of an ad agency, says: “it may sound like a cop-out, but I'm interested in everything.  I'm a sociopolitical artist; I'm interested in the architecture of our lives.”

1] Why did you quite the advertising industry after 10 years in it?

I've always felt that advertising had a finite horizon.  The thing I really loved about advertising was the conceptual part of it.  But that only 10 per cent of what goes on.  The other 90 per cent is shepherding the ideas through a convoluted system where they might get killed in the process.  So every time you see a genius ad, it's a miracle that it survived at all.

I got to the point I didn't like the fact that my job was to generate a long argument to persuade people of the validity of the idea.

2] How did you pick up photography?

Like all things in my life, it's a bit random.  I was about 10 or 11 years old, I picked up a book of photography and I was obsessed.  I had to put together a presentation about photography for my parents, and they bought me my first camera for £50.

Since then, photography's the one thing that has been constant in my life.

3] Could you tell me a bit more about your father?

He has had an extraordinary life.  He was in theatre in Broadway and in some movies.  He lived in Italy and worked for the production house Paramount.  He's been a painter and a sculptor all my adult life.  He was 56 when he had me.

4] Why did you decide to start this project?

As I was getting older, I realised that I remember very little of what happened.  I wanted to capture in writing and photographs, as a form of documentary, things about my father.

5] Does your father know that a project about him has become an online hit?

My father knows that I am taking pictures of him, and he is quite complicit and poses for me.  But when I show him the pictures, he doesn't like them because he looks old.

I tried to explain what the Web is.  He asked: “Is it in colour?  Where is it?”

But he knows that there is this project about him and lots of people have seen it.  He liked the idea and looked at me with a lovely expression.  I thought he was going to say something really sweet, but he said: “It means you are going to be famous!”

6] What was your reaction to the feedback that poured in?

I never expected the incredible response.  It's gratifying, of course.  I got hundreds of e-mails, from kids even, who said that they started to look at their grandparents in a different light.  My project was such a personal experience that I didn't know that so many people would understand it.

7] What are you working on right now?

I'm working on two series, one on unpopular kids in high school and the other on people who have had plastic surgery.

8] Complete this sentence: If I could live my life all over again....

I would see the English punk band The Clash alive.  I got into them just as they disbanded.

chiahta@sph.com.sg

view it

DAYS WITH MY FATHER

Where: Esplanade Tunnel
When: Until Sunday 18 Jan 2009
Admission: Free

Photo Caption: Phillip Toledano started taking photographs of his father (bottom left) when he realised he remembered little of the past.  PHOTO: COURTESY OF PHILLIP TOLEDANO


* n42012293591_5252.jpg (5.54 KB, 200x150 - viewed 366 times.)

« Last Edit: January 13, 2009, 10:11:19 AM by alvintck »
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