Interview with Phil Toledano

Why do you take pictures?

My father was a painter, but i was usless at that, so  i started taking photographs!

Sergio Edgardo Andrada Lapenne:  What do you understand by “art”?

I suppose art, for me at least, is an expression of things within me. intellectual, emotional things, but feelings and thoughts that i must say out loud.

Your first projects, like Gamers, were very intellectual, and then they became much more emotional. Has it been a conscious evolution? Has it been an inner search o it has been something that just happens unconsciously?

Unconsciously for sure. I just follow my heart, although it’s safe to say that since doing ‘days with my father’, i’m much more focused inwards than i used to be.

Fernando Gómez: I love your project Days with my father. I think you have been able to find beauty in your father illness. I suppose that it must have been a really touching project. Was it hard for you to carry out this project?

It wasn’t hard to do ‘days’. What was hard was the experience of taking care of my father. Of being confronted with the idea of mortality, both his and mine, every day, for three years.

I’ve heard that there is going to be a film about Days with my father, can you tell us something about it? Are you gonna take on the direction?

The book was optioned to be a film by a company in LA. I’ve written the treatment with a friend, and hopefully we’ll write the screenplay. I don’t think i’ll direct. It’s a long way from becoming reality, but it will be an interesting process. I’m worried of course, that the story, or the idea, will get lost, or become something i don’t intend it to be, but i don’t think there’s much i can do about that now!

In Kim Jong Phil, instead of taking pictures, you paint. Did you enjoy the experience? Are you going to keep experimenting with different forms of expression?

America The Gift Shop AND Kim Jong Phil are both non-photographic ideas-and i really love reaching beyond taking photos, although i’m not actually doing the painting or the making of the pieces-i just come up with the ideas!… To be honest, the things that really inspire me these days are not photographs, but sculpture, painting, installation…

Are you going to keep working on The reluctant father?

I’m not sure. I don’t really know how good ‘the reluctant father’ is, really. I think it might be too ‘neat’ in the way it ends.

How do you know when a project is finished? How do you know when to stop shooting?

I always know when something is finished. I’m very aware of not wanting to say too much-i often feel that photographers say too much-that there’s not enough space left for questions, for your own mind to wander…

What gives you ideas and inspires you to create your work?

Everything, and nothing… To be honest, i really have no idea… I’m amazed and terrified because it would be much easier if i know where my ideas sprang from…

Do you think about how a certain work is going to be sold when you set it out?

Never… In fact, it’s safe to say that not much of my work sells at all… Sadly, i don’t make art that people want to hang above the sofa in their living rooms…

Fernando Gómez: What are the greatest lessons you’ve learned in your photographic career so far?

That everything is possible, and that i’m not going to be an overnight success.

Fernando Gómez: Something you’re still learning about photography?

I’m not really learning about photography, i’m learning about myself, how far i can go, how much further i’d like to go…

Moni Navarro: Film or digital? Why?

Digital, because i’m lazy and i don’t really care about techinical stuff!

Do you do the retouching yourself? Do you have a regular team who helps you with this?

Retouching only really happens on editorial work, but someone does it for me-i’m terrible at that kind of thing.

Fernando Gómez: You believe that photographs should be like unfinished sentences. There should always be space for questions. What kind of questions and answers you think people get from your work? Do you think that the same project can arise utterly different questions?

I have no idea-you’d have to ask them! But in some ways, i’m delighted if the same projects makes different people ask different questions… Isn’t that one of the points of art? To move the mind?

How was the experience of being selected in Descubrimientos PhotoEspaña 2010?

I was happy to get in, but disappointed not to win!… I’m very attached to Spain, since that’s where my family came from, a very long time ago…

How do you face the prizes and recognition?

I don’t think i have that much recognition, so i’m always suprised by it!

Gloria: What else are you passionate about, other than art and photography?   

Light, watching everything, being suprised, eating chicken fried rice, making my two year old laugh uncontrollably, video games, feeling anonymous, hearing someone say they like my work…

The best tip: do exactly the thing you’d like to do, and don’t listen to anyone else-the world will let you know if you’re a genius, soon enough.

Spanish translation.

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