Interview mit David Jazay
“I see myself as a memory maintenance worker, a historian with a camera, a psychogeographer.”
David Jazay, why did you become a photographer?
I still find it absolutely magical to be able to capture a specific instant in space and time, by re-imagining it through a technical process, and thus to rescue it from oblivion. That fascination has never quite left me.
What does photography mean to you and what do you want to transmit with your pictures? Has that changed over the years?
I see myself as a memory maintenance worker, a historian with a camera, a psychogeographer.
I train my photographic eye on what is liminal, ephemeral, or vernacular. That what we are about to lose.The traces people leave on their environment. I wish to convey a sense of history, of socio-cultural belonging, and to transmit that idea across generations.
You’ve done an extensive work about Dublin’s Inner City? What’s the concept behind it and how did you approach it?
Seeing that the Dublin I loved and knew well was disappearing fast, I wanted to capture as much as I could in the ten years leading up to the economic boom years that would change the city beyond recognition.
I made large, elaborate, high resolution panoramas of the Georgian ensembles that lined the Liffey, but had largely fallen into disrepair. Also, I documented the unique working-class culture of that time, in portraits of the people living in the inner city.
“Dublin Before the Tiger” grew into a long-term project, including the 70 minute documentary “Bargaintown”, shot in 1988, that was recently restored and shown theatrically in Dublin.
In many ways, this project became the blueprint for my later work: large, high-res landscape and architectural images, which have larger-than-life quality to them and display the varying uses people had for their natural and built environment.
I have, in the last ten years, worked on series in the U.K., Sardinia, Morocco, and the Western Sahara, from which the images shown here are taken.
Which photographer has inspired you most? Why?
A wide range, including some that may surprise you:
Josef Koudelka, Robert Frank, Chris Killip – for their humanism.
Bernd and Hilla Becher – for their methodic, serial approch and technical craftsmanship.
The bold colour work of Ernst Haas was an early influence, too.
Also the photorealist painters, mainly: John Baeder, Richard Estes and Ralph Goings, with their keen eye for the vernacular, the mundane and often overlooked, and their rich level of detail.
What’s your favorite photography quote?
“Experience has shown that the more fascinating the subject, the less observant the photographer.” Andreas Feininger
How would you describe your photographic voice and creative process?
Shoot a lot. Show your love. Revisit, revisit. It may take years, or decades. Stay young.
Truth will reveal itself, finally.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic voice?
Stamina. Balls. Time. More time.
What do you consider to be the axis of your work – technically and conceptually?
Clarity. Truth. Beauty.
A photograph should be like a clear window: to another place, another time, another life.
What qualities and characteristics does a good photographer need?
Patience and love. A degree of familiarity with the subject, while maintaining curiosity and playfulness.
A clear artistic vision and the technical skill to express it.
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes?
I believe we should question the notion of individual “great” photos.
This neverending quest for the “iconic image” has led to so many disappointments, scandals, even forgeries.
One single photograph amounts to little or nothing: I firmly believe in serial, long-term projects.
Precisely because photography is a relatively easy and technical process, the photographer needs to invest time and dedication to achieve even an approximation of truth.
Lifetime is the currency in which we pay for our art.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
Travelling, reading, research, encounters with people.
Most importantly, the landscapes and places I photograph themselves.
I take a lot of time to do preliminary sketches (often with digital cameras), to get a solid understanding of the colour palette of each place, to get to know the light, and the seasons.
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
A range of medium format film cameras, primarily Rolleiflex TLRs. They are highly reliable and portable machines that have well stood the test of time. Since I do a lot of backpacking to get to remote locations, their relatively light weight and compactness are appreciated.
A DIY panoramic head. For the large images to be printed up to 5m wide, I composit high-resolution scans of up to 16 medium format negatives.
Film (I prefer slower films with fine grain): Kodak, Fuji, Ilford, and the boutique Adox CMS 20, manufactured near Berlin. It is a super fine grained B/W film at ISO 20, and should be more easily available internationally, really – just beautiful tonality and sharpness.
What’s been the most useful gadget you’ve purchased recently?
That would be an old 300mm/f4 Zeiss Sonnar for my Kiev 60 medium format SLR.
Useful, since it’s a great lens.
Gadget, because at that focal length I suspect it will not see too much use.
Are there any photo-apps you use? Which ones?
I don’t use the newest software, just stuff that I know like the back of my hand.
Workflow and familiarity with your tools is the important thing here.
What was your most memorable moment shooting pictures?
I remember with gratitude all those brief encounters with people in the street, the glimpses into their lives, the stories they shared with me.
What photography book would you recommend?
Chris Killip: “In Flagrante Two” (Steidl; Revised edition, May 24, 2016)
As pertinent now as it was when it was first published in the Thatcher years.
Which advice would you give someone who’s just starting as a photographer?
Allow yourself time to discover what you truly love and care about.
Don’t “shoot”, make images. You don’t hear painters calling their craft “splattering”.
Stay true to what you love and care about.