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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Thursday entry: Organization

There is a wonderful photo essay by Phillip Toledano, titled “Days with My Father.” It documents the moments that fill this artist's life after the death of his mother, and his father’s condition of having no short-term memory. I feel it is a beautiful example of how time essentially takes just as much as it gives, because the writing is very intimate and exposes not only the strength and patience gained from a history of love but also the comfort that sometimes naturally escapes and causes us to take it all for granted. He emphasizes a very selective focus that for me bounces between the recollection of memory and an illustration of his father’s struggle with seeing, physically and mentally. I consider all of the images within the series to be portraits of his father: most of them serve as a direct representation of his facial expressions during his animated storytelling, or the character that covers his wrinkled hands as he offers an embrace, but what I find just as powerful are the images of notes left around the house by his father, and the empty sofas with sagging cushions that may be old but are worn in perfectly.

The general feeling that I get from these captured moments is an acceptance of loss, a living sadness temporarily disguised as objects or certain shades of light. There are particular objects that Toledano photographs which would only appear in the comfort of personal environments, such as a picture frame resting on a nightstand by the bed in somebody’s room. I find it ironic that the familiar interiors and sentimentality of these objects diffuse feelings of anticipation and sadness rather than the warmth in which they once functioned; the warmth from which they were created. They show life, but in its last stages, and the treatment of light only seems to emphasize life’s transience.

I am inspired by this work because the imagery is heavily sculpted by his words. Without them, they are just as strong, but Toledano’s written narration serves as guidance through difficult times. The pen pad notes would appear as scraps and not be as tender, and his own self-portrait would not transform into the very personification of endless appreciation, as a result of growing up with his father. I am conscious of the influence of words, and how they can serve as infrastructure for the idea of an image.

"Days With My Father" - Phillip Toledano

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