While preparing for my Studio Practice project I was looking for family portrait photographers in photography magazines. The best impression I got from an article about Phillip Toledano artwork. I searched the Internet for more of his work and soon I found his photo book Days With My Father about the last 3 years of his father’s life and The Reluctant Father about the first years of his daughter’s life.
Days With My Father tells us the story about Toledano relationships with his father who had short-term memory condition. After photographer’s mother’s death he had to take care of his father. The impact from the book was unexpected and terrific for me, reading the book in combination with viewing photographs made me so emotional that I even started to cry. Shame to recognise that, but that’s the fact. I’d never think a photobook can have such an impact on me. Maybe it happened because I immersed completely in the story. Or maybe it remained me about my grandmother who has a similar condition and it’s getting worse with every year.
The Reluctant Father is about Toledano relationships with his new-born daughter who at first seemed to him a weird creature and then, through the time, their relations developed into true love.The photobook has a lot in common with Days With My Father in the way of telling the story with the help of text and photographs. It’s also very emotional, heart-warming and humorous at the same time.
When I was thinking why did Toledano use humour in such a serious themes as death and birth, I remembered Viktor Frankl speaking about humour in his book Man’s Search For Meaning: “Humor was another of the soul’s weapons in the fight for self-preservation. It is well known that humor, more than anything else in the human make-up, can afford an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds”. I believe that Toledano used the same trick – joked about his life when it was hard. Meanwhile it has a pleasant impact on a reader because it’s psychologically easier to read emotional story when there are inclusions of humour in it. Speaking about humour in photographs I’d like to say that personally for me it makes images look interesting, it attracts me and I want to observe them for longer time to plunge into the situation.
Both Toledano’s projects are similar in terms of techniques as well. For both of them he used large aperture a lot to bring out the subject. However in Days With My Father he used extremely shallow depth of field and that creates a kind of confusion. I suppose it transmits the short-term memory condition when everything around seems to be strange and unfamiliar in some moments. In The Reluctant Father he used both deep and shallow DOF. The older his daughter grew the more he got used to the role of father and the more often shallow DOF appeared on the photographs (and the softer portraits look in result). I think that’s because from being a noisy part of environment, from a “thing” his daughter became probably the most loved and important person in Toledano’s Life.
In both mentioned projects Toledano used close-up perspective quite often. I think he did it to remove the context of the environment and to focus on the subject. Furthermore it makes portraits more emotional as we better see facial expressions.
In my photographic project about love in relationships I aimed for the similar effects of softness, emotionality and brought out subject. To do this I used shallow DOF and close perspective.