Photo Lunch Talk: Phil Toledano

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PCA Faculty Michael Daks invited fellow photographer Phil Toledanoto meet PCA students to talk about his career in photography, and the concepts behind his work.

Photography students, PCA staff and faculty, gathered in the photo studio to hear Toledano talk about how he left the world of advertising after an unsatisfying ten years of working as an executive, a decision which launched him first into his conceptual exploration of socio-political issues, and now more personal ones.

Toledano shared how he had been taking “the same kind of pictures” until he was thirty-two. He became interested in French Air Shows and that marked a break from the more classical architectural photographs he had been shooting. His first project and published book was Bankrupt (2005), recording scenes of offices left empty after the subprime crisis in the US.

He describes himself as an archaeological nerd, systematically compiling memories of events, whether personal or (apparently) not. Each project requires his uttermost honesty, whether he is unpacking family archives or walking the offices of bankrupt businesses. The artist realized recently that one way or another, his conceptual works goes back to personal situations and memories.

In his series Days with my Father (2009), Toledano discloses photographs of his father’s last days – suffering from dementia – and the lie the two men were tacitly re-living every day, that the reason his deceased mother was absent was that she was in Paris taking care of her sick brother.

With his series, like Phonesex, Bankrupt, Maybe, Toledano the anthropologist manages to convey humor while still addressing poignant issues. Through brutally honest yet endearing art works, Phil Toledano captures his own essence, labeling them as indirect self portraits and bring us to reflect on our own lives.