Art March 19, 2010 By Rachel A Maggart

There is an honesty to your portraits that comes from your careful preparation, including a book of quotes, Polaroids and sketches. Could you talk about how you engender trust before a shoot?

I often stay a few months at the same place, and I have many friends who help me with my process. Before we start working, I share my work with them, my previous images and my sketchbooks. Of course many of my friends have a different perception of what art is, but in that difference is an excitement and engagement for us. The people in the photographs understand very well that these images are like theatre. They are playing a role; they are the actors. In that way we both determine the outcome of the picture. I direct to a certain extent, but their ideas, actions, interventions, body poses and gestures are integral in realizing the image.

Why do you choose to partly or completely obscure the expressions of models?

First of all, I like to look at a picture that doesn’t immediately offer its meaning. If you see a facial expression, it’s always much easier to ‘read’ the picture. I’m much more interested in pictures that make you wonder what’s happening and why…I’m always in doubt myself; I live very much with contradictions. I’m always much more drawn to the things I don’t know or understand than to situations that are clear and obvious. It is a strange myth that endlessly re-presents itself that photography as a medium is the best way to tell ‘the truth’ about a person, and here again this belief is an illusion. Also, the obscured faces in my work are formalist references to the medium of photography in its traditional use of the play of light and shadow.

Your photographs could be regarded as dismantling the ethnic ‘Other’. Could you explain your use of paint and other symbols?

I never intend to dismantle misconceptions of the ethnic ‘Other’, though I like to play with these preconceived ideas people in the West have. I show them things they think they know or they don’t understand (like the paint), and in that way [my photographs] indirectly provoke questions about our Western view of the ethnic ‘Other’, which is often a very limited view. But the images are in no way a statement, and there is no certainty to them in terms of the Western anxieties and projections of our times. 

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8