by Sharon Boothroyd
Vent divin, David Favrod, 2013
This work represents my compulsion to build and shape my own memory. To reconstitute some facts I haven’t experienced myself, but have unconsciously influenced me while growing up.
My grandparents witnessed the war; survivors who finally passed away and whose memories will soon be a part of history. Only once did we speak about their experiences during the war. They told me how illness can take away your sisters; the shame; the relief after the war; and the watermelons …
But after that night, we never talked about it again. As if my grandparents gave me their memories as a whisper through the air before allowing it to disappear from their minds.
Somehow, I would say that I borrowed their memories. I use their stories as source of inspiration for my own testimony.
In his series Hikari, David Favrod visits an important time in Japanese history, and its impact on him and his family, through memories. The result is a poignant and compelling narrative positioned somewhere between the personal and the universal. Hints of opening narratives and an other worldly imagination emerged in my mind as I had the pleasure of looking at this work, recently showing at Voies Off Gallery in Arles. Favrod’s use of high impact and visceral imagery set alongside an experimental presentation style succeeds in pulling the viewer towards it whilst simultaneously retaining a sense of mystery.
The following interview took place on 22nd September 2014.
SB: Your work is situated within a general concept – memories of your Grandparents based on a one night only conversation (Hikari), or your struggle with dual culture identity (Gaijin) – which is fascinating. How do you then come up with the individual imagery? Can you give us an insight into your thought process?
DF: When I want to start a new project I think about what I want to show and what I want to speak about. Before taking any picture I write the general idea and I start to draw the images on my sketchbook. That allows me to construct the series and to see if there are too many landscapes, enough portrait or still life and to have a balance in the series from these different type of photographs. For each image I think about how I can produce it. I try to find the best solution to speak about the story behind each images. And for sure I think about the series and how the images can work together. It’s a quite long process but I like to work like this.
Mishiko, David Favrod, 2012
The girl with the watermelon is Mishiko, she was the sister of my grandfather. She fell ill during the second war, doctors diagnosed poor hydration. In Japan, watermelon is a very popular fruit and holds much water. So his parents gave it to her regularly. But the diagnosis was wrong; it was a salt deficiency and she died shortly after.
Autoportrait en poulpe, David Favrod, 2009
One of my few memories of my travels in Japan when I was young are the drawings of octopus. I loved takoyaki and in front of the takoyaki stand there were always octopus drawn like that. You see the resemblance? haha!
And the bird shadow made from hands is le bunker. In my building in Vionnaz there is a anti-nuclear bunker. It’s an obligation in Switzerland that every house or building needs to construct is own anti-nuclear bunker. It’s the law. And if you don’t want you need to pay. Anyway.
Le bunker, David Favrod, 2012
A few weeks after the explosion, scientists saw that the flash of the bomb had discolored the walls that were still standing. The bomb had left marks corresponding to the projections of objects, bodies and street furniture, like a photographic projection. The heat due to heat radiation made visible shadows on the ground. Shadows could be a man who stood at the time of the tragedy and had somehow ‘protected’ the wall from the bomb. It was the same with a ladder, a valve or pylons of a bridge.
BAOUMMM, David Favrod, 2013
Although your work is strongly based in the photographic you often make use of sound (onomatopoeia) and installation to enhance your exhibits. How did this presentation evolve and what do you think it adds to your work?
I can’t say I use sound in my process right now. I just represent sounds. A lot of the memories of my grandparents during WWII were sounds. During the bombings they went to underground shelters. It was dark. The memories they remain from their events are the sound of explosions, the sound of planes, people crying, … So, my question was : How can I introduce sound in my picture? It’s why I decided to use onomatopoeias (that were found in manga/comic) and to paint them on the prints. Yes the installations are a very important question for me. How the installation can use the space to tell the story. I always start from the space and I construct every installation for each space (gallery, museum). So my installations evolve for each exhibition. Each picture is only one size. However I allow myself to change the size of an image when I use murals, this allows me to balance an installation or create a new correlation between 2 superimposed images. Depending on the space and the choice of images, I work on the composition. I reason in terms of sequence and the relation between the images with a choice of spacing and alternating formats. This creates a dynamic viewpoint of the installation, not only horizontally but also in the space. The viewer comes closer to look at a small work, and then moves back to see a larger one, and so one.
Pour Sadako, David Favrod, 2012
How important is mystery to you? And why? Do you want the viewer to bring something to the work? Do you have any nice examples of this happening?
Mystery is very important in my work. Indeed it’s really important for me that the viewer brings his or her own history to the work. I don’t explain in the exhibition the stories behind each images there is only my statement in the entrance. So the viewer has the general idea but I hope they will ask themselves to create their own story with the different images. I have a nice example of this happening this summer. In July I had an exhibition at the Voies Off gallery during Les rencontres internationales de la photography in Arles. During a dinner we started to speak with Christophe Laloi (director of the gallery) and two friends about my last work « Hikari » and the exhibition. After a moment Christophe started to speak about the history of his family during WWII in Europe, so he began to question himself and his own heritage.
Are themes of identity, culture and memory continuing themes for you? What is next for you?
Yes the theme of identity, culture and memory are very important for me and are certainly continuing themes for my next projects. I guess my education and all that I lived through when I was young, all the experiences I had, affect in a way the man I am today and so also how I take pictures. I’m working on several projects now. 2 long term projects one about the yokais (japanese monsters stories) and one about Pierre Favez, the cousin of my father, an alpinist who died in the Lhotse Shar (Himalaya) in the early 80. But now, I’m currently working on a new project called Le son des vagues noires (the sound of the black waves) which is a mix between manga (comics), stories about the ocean, fictions,… I’m really in the beginning of my research but I’m very excited by the process and how I can create and show a new typology of images and a new idea of sequencing. (A mix between photography and the manga / comic).
Son magnifique champ de fleurs, David Favrod, 2012
I’m interested in your influences and your education. What teaching methods have stayed with you and impacted you from ECAL?
I have a lot of influences: my family, novels, painters, films, photographers,… I studied at ECAL for 6 years (1 preparatory, 3 for the Bachelors and 2 for the Masters). The production of images was very intense with a lot of workshops and imposed thematics. For sure the best years was the 3 last where I was totally free to produce what I wanted to do.
You have achieved a lot of success with both your work Gaijin and Hikari. How do you define success?
At this stage of my career, the success for me it’s to have the luck, as now, to be only focused on my projects without worrying about if I need to do commercial works to live. Just doing what I love. And for that I would like to say a big THANK YOU to all the people that help me. From my family to my friends and all the people that believe in my projects and give me exposure, prizes, exhibitions. Thank you very much!
Raid B-29 du 18 juin 1945 sur Kobé, David Favrod, 2013