The clock is ticking on the Aimia AGO Photography Prize so click here to cast your vote. You’ll be helping an artist win $50,000 just by clicking a button. We understand, however, that you take your selection seriously. That’s why we caught up with the shortlisted artists to find out more about their work.
Dave Jordano is a highly acclaimed photographer with work in several permanent collections including the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, IL; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Detroit Institute of Arts. For his recent series, he returned to Detroit to document that people still living in the abandoned city. Instead of ruin and decay, he portrays human perseverance and survival. It’s a local perspective on struggles that exist close to home but look like another world.
Hi Dave! Take us through an average day of work.
A typical day involves driving around the city, often for hours looking for something interesting. It’s a very organic process and I often never know where I’ll wind up. There is a certain amount of chance and serendipity involved in the initial encounters with people I meet because they are total strangers in the beginning. It is through conversation and dialog that I become friends with people and then ask them if I can take their photograph. If it works out, I will often return to give prints to the people I’ve photographed and then ask to take more photographs. It’s a process that builds on itself and is based on trust and mutual understanding. Because I work with a camera mounted to a tripod, my process is slow and deliberate and the work could be described as being more formally static than active.
Your images are so personal and haunting, it almost feels like they shouldn’t be for public consumption because of how intimate they are. What do you hope people take away from your exhibitions?
As a photographer who is trying to tell a specific story, it’s important that I become connected with the people I’ve met. I wanted to take intimate photographs of people living within the confines of a post-industrial city and the challenges and struggles that they face. Throughout the entire project I wanted to convey a sense of hope and perseverance that many of the people I photographed carried with them. There lives may have been stricken with hardship, but the overall feeling of the work deals with how they have overcome the disadvantages of being poor.
What is the editing process like when choosing images to exhibit?
Eventually there are certain images that rise to the top and become the key-points of the project. They reveal themselves through how they relate to each other and what they communicate to the overall message of the project. I have my own favorites of course but many different people have made edits of this work for their particular blog or exhibition and it’s interesting to see how those selections have shaped and informed the meaning of the work. Selections that I myself probably wouldn’t have made, but I like the idea that the work becomes more democratic because different edits of the work expand the narrative of the project as curators create their own exhibitions. Overall I want the work to flow as one entity, a specific story about a place and time, but also with individuality within the whole.
What should we expect from your work in the future? What are things that could evolve? What are qualities that will always be the same?
I’m not really sure. I’ve always worked on only one project at a time and they have always been about the lives of people outside of my immediate surroundings. Being a photographer forces me out into the world and this is one of the great joys of what I find so creatively challenging about what I do. Photo-documentary work requires that you engage yourself with other cultures, social groups, places, and people. It’s one of the few mediums that connects you physically to the outside world in order to actually create the work. This searching out process seems to be what I’ve always been interested in so I’ll just have to wait and see how the next project reveals itself to me. Suffice it to say that it will most likely be about a partcular place.
Is there anything that art viewers would be surprised to learn about your work?
I don’t think so, but if there were, I would probably want to keep it a secret [laughs].