In your project, you are confronting emotional pain and trauma from the past that still haunts you in the present. How was it for you to visualize such burdensome topics through the medium of photography?
Photography has been an efficient tool for me to make peace with the unfolding of events in my life until now. It paves a way for me to be part of the lives of people and be close to someone else. Perhaps, develop a friendship, a sense of solidarity and proximity, maybe love. I never had any linear path towards representing my past nor do I feel that photography can truly depict what I go through daily and what my life has been so far. Yet, it is the closest medium I feel I can use to talk about my own reality and that of others.
It has been an intense experience of living and being with others to overcome my fear of loneliness. The ‘Fragments of the Dying Man’ is the shedding of these morphed identities, the countenance, the grief, and it is the celebration of the life that still has a heartbeat.
Celebration is too happy a word. The soul is tired and the body weary. Not happy. Just the pulse of life in between encounters with new friends who trust in you and share their journeys, their desires and my own past that is a void.
Photographing leads people to share their most intimate experiences and some break down in the process. This journey is a Zeno’s paradox: The closer you get to someone, the more distanced you become. It is in these contradictions that I thrive and live my reality.
How photography creates a fiction around us? Me and the other, and how through this fiction, of promiscuous exchanges, we get closer to understanding what it means to be here. The narratives are simple, often repetitive, with people acting on their own whim, being the actors and directors of the stage of desire, trying to understand their body and the spectrum of their human experience through being an image. Clothed, barely or nothing at all. A subtle vulnerability that becomes the symbol of an unspoken strength and sexual power.
The body, choreography and performance seem to be crucial in your photographs. Why did you decide to focus on these elements when visualizing pain?
Tuberculosis is a very physical disease and the scars remain even when the sickness is gone. I suffer from clinical depression still and ended up in an ER ward because of all my emotions and extreme crisis. And there are still moments when my mind plays tricks and I undergo these fluctuations of emotions which I have no control over. And feelings that I no longer want to hide. The occasional movement of isolated bodies caught still in a photographic frozen frame is only my way of seeing these situations. While talking about the pain through the body is not my intention, I see the body as a vessel through which we exist, feel, we express love, and finally, leave this world. I did not want my journey to be a mere illustration of this idea of pain nor want a complete metaphoric representation of what I want to express. The choreography and “performance” are not any staging or directing by me but a spontaneous reaction of me being photographed and those I have photographed.
‘Fragments of the Dying Man’ is purely composed of black and white photographs that often contain a mysterious haze or dust particles. Why did you opt for such a visual strategy?
The haze and the dust were accidents that later I realized I could use to talk about my own fragility. The “Fragments” is also about the “poverty of images” as I say it to reflect on the “poverty of the human condition” in today’s world. We are attuned to absorbing a certain idea of perfect beauty and a certain logic of aesthetics in images that I have always resisted. This resonates with the feeling of not belonging to a certain way of pretentious living and behaving that so often we have consumed, the lies and illusions we surround ourselves with, just to feel good about ourselves. The lack of any specific aesthetic, which also becomes another strategy, born out of anguish is only a challenge that I take upon myself to resist to exist. The dust, scratches and haze are a result of this resistance and an occasional urge to usurp my own work.
It was only through an accident that I discovered this way of reproducing my own archives. The haze is because of my earlier photographic archives that have been re-photographed through screens by me and some images made in snow, and rain. How is it to partake in the act of looking, which is what photography essentially is for me and being a subject of your own voyeurism are a few questions that I always ask myself through my work.
Some of it is also a strategy to hide the identities of some of them, who wanting to be acknowledged also have the fear of being recognized for their way of living and being under the scrutiny of systemic oppressive structures and surveillance. So, reproduction is also a way to conceal, to hide and yet reveal everything I have to say.
One of my favourite queer artists David Wojnarowicz had made a series of polaroids from old television screens that he used to keep as a symbol of his own fight with HIV during his short and radical life, dreams and other fragments to critique the social and political mechanisms of his time. A lot of my ideas to reproduce images come from his style.
The black and white and the various shades of grey throughout the work reflect the changes in my own emotional state, sometimes subtle sometimes violent, in between extreme lightness and extreme heaviness.
Besides portraying your own emotions, you additionally include encounters with strangers whom you met during your wanderings. What is their role in the series?
Some of the strangers are people whom I met and stayed with while on my trips to places in America. I had my own game of wanting to meet those who were willing to be photographed but also had a strong need to express their sexuality through an image. They are the bridge between my constant state of isolation and the need to feel a human presence in my life through intimate exchanges. A form of presence that would impose on me the impossibility of love. Most of them become friends later and the urge to photograph once you have made images of a person from so close and being part of their experience, wanes in me. So, I start from scratch. Some of them are cam girls, strippers, drag queens, performers. It is through the vicarious experience of living through them that I find myself again. My lover killed herself because of her body image and it is this very image of the self and the other that I reconstruct and use to challenge the world through “The Fragments…”
What would you say is the main goal of your project and what are your future plans?
I plan to travel and have a few more encounters in this game “between isolation and intimacy” before I finish my first dummy and then want to publish my book – of texts, journal entries and images taken over the past few years of this lonely journey, to reconcile with my past. These encounters reflect the ideas of love, the “queerness” of sexual identity, the feelings of desire and longing through an image, how the body, in the end, becomes the site of resistance and also a symbol of expression; and the power that photography still has to unite us, not relating to the direct logic of the political world but to transgress it and resist all political ideologies through a more sublime form. In its experience with the “queer” body, desire and space, this journey strives to look beyond the presupposed zones of identity and representation, to think of the anonymous, erotic and uncertain forms of “sociality” – death, disappearance and the fragmentary passage of people and places.