Focus of the week: Tania Franco Klein
Tania Franco Klein received the Sony World Photography Awards National Prize for Mexico in 2017 and her series Our Life in the Shadows was shortlisted in the 2018 edition of the professional competition. His work is strongly influenced by his fascination with themes related to social behavior, media overstimulation, emotional disconnection, obsession with eternal youth and the American dream. Her work, which often takes on a surreal aesthetic, has garnered much attention in the art world and she has won numerous successes at international art fairs. She shoots for FT Weekend, LA Times, iD magazine and the Washington Post, among other prestigious titles.
You completed a degree in architecture (BA) before undertaking a postgraduate degree in photography in London. How has architecture influenced your photographic practice?
I studied interior architecture and most of the settings in my photographs are set in interior spaces. My architectural practice has been crucial in how I design my work at all stages of the production process. For the last stage, I accompany the work by its presentation and I conceive the exhibition as a unique piece. I think my understanding of space and my past experience has really allowed this part of my practice to grow.
In all my exhibitions, I try not to place any of the pieces at a functional height. Architecture allowed me to understand space, color and light from a unique perspective. I started to develop my interest in photography at the same time as I was studying architecture, so it’s hard to imagine how I would create my work without all this background.
Is there a particular photographer or body of work that has made a big impression on your photographic practice?
There are a number of different artists I was introduced to (almost all at once) who made a huge impression. I’m hugely inspired by Tony Oursler, Bill Viola, William Eggleston, Larry Sultan, Todd Hido and Pipilotti Rist.
How autobiographical is your work?
My work is autobiographical in the sense that I conceive the work as a reflection of today’s society. My photographic projects are generally motivated by personal interest or existential observations of my place in today’s world. I try to translate these personal emotions into something universal because it’s hard to separate the individual from the context these days. I hope my work invites viewers to reflect on topics we can all relate to in today’s world while exploring my own role in this global social machine.
There is always a warm glow in your photos. What appeals to you most about working with such an intense color palette?
I have always had a very personal connection with intense colors because they generate a very strong emotional response. Colors have their own language. In terms of how I think about color in my practice, I would say that my scenes usually involve characters, or their shadows, in a very calm, quiet – almost anonymous – way. My stories are quite emotional and I think the way I use color and light really puts the emotions on a deeper level in the eyes of the viewer. I like to think of color as a piece of music that can sometimes be very loud.
As many of your photographs are self-portraits, could you tell us more about the process behind your series? How do you stage your portraits?
I try not to have a method in the way I take my photos. Sometimes that means making sets from scratch or around a wall I find. In the process of building the scene of the photograph, sometimes I’m not sure I actually have a subject. I experiment a lot and allow my work to be quite performative, so I set up a stage and play with it for a long time. I like to find out what’s going to happen throughout the process and I usually work alone. I set up a tripod and use a remote shutter, experimenting with the scene as much as possible.
You have a healthy Instagram following. Has this platform taught you anything about your work?
Of course, I see Instagram as a great tool to be able to organize my work and share the process of my projects. I am always surprised by the number of opportunities that arise by being active on this platform. That being said, I try not to judge my own work in terms of taste. We also need to be very careful about how we feed off the things we see so we can use Instagram productively, instead of comparing ourselves to others. I would experiment a lot with the stories feature. I actually went back and reworked something that started out as an experimental piece for my Instagram, which actually led to the creation of a piece.
What do you think is the most exciting trend in the world of photography right now? And how do you see the medium evolving?
I’m not really a big fan of trends. I usually get tired when I realize a lot of people are doing the same thing over and over again. I am a champion of diversity in every sense of the word and I really like to see the polar universes meet in the work of an artist. That being said, I think photography has reached a point where we overproduce photography and as a result I sometimes fail to understand my work.
Your family is a great inspiration to you. Could you tell us more about what it means to work with close family members?
I was quite reluctant to work with unknown subjects because for me it meant that I also needed to deal with their expectations and their representation of themselves. My characters are usually pretty anonymous, they are placeholders for all of us. It’s not really about the person in the picture, but about what that person represents and what they represent. For this reason, being able to work with my family and more specifically with my recently deceased grandmother allowed me to create a more flexible environment with them where their collaboration was born from a place of understanding and willingness to help. Of course, in the process, being able to share, play and play with them became a treasure for me.
Your series Our Life In The Shadows was shortlisted for the Sony World Photography Awards professional competition in 2018. How has this recognition helped your career? Has it had a positive impact?
Of course, I think any source of recognition is always good for the job. I don’t think there’s a single event — call it an award, a review, or an exhibition — that will make a project standalone, but I do believe a combination of events is always helpful. In this particular project, I was very lucky because one year I submitted a single image to the Open competition and had the chance to travel to London. Seeing the work exhibited at Somerset House gave me a lot of inspiration to continue, and the following year, when the project was more evolved, I decided to submit it in series and was selected again. .
One thing always leads to another, so I also had the chance to show the work in different print magazines that I admire and exhibit it with galleries at fairs. It’s always nice to have your work recognized by such great platforms as the Sony World Photography Awards, and at the end of the day I guess what we all want when doing a project is to be able to having it out there, exhibiting to the world, and using all the amazing platforms that exist today.
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