For different reasons, I see quite a lot of photographs and bodies of work on a daily basis. What rarely happens, is being surprised by the work of an established photographer, whom I didn’t know. Today was one of those days. While reading about the voyeur and in between several works by emerging photographers, I came across the visual world of Antoine D’Agata. And what a surprise! All I can do now is share, both at home as well as at work.
As far as I can tell, Antoine is sort of a nomadic photographer. Born in Marseille, France, in 1961, he has lived in New York and travelled everywhere and in 2004 became a Magnum member. What follows are excerpts of an interview conducted by Manik Katyal, in 2012. Full interview here. More of Antoine’s work here.
Manik: So there is no specific thing you have in mind when you’re documenting but basically your personal experiences?
Antoine: Yes because I think photography is being misused for the last century. It is being used mostly as a documenting way which of course is a wonderful, very specific way of technique to document reality. But unlike the other art forms, to be a photographer you have to get out of your studio and get to go to experiment the world. And this is what most people forget to do. You know they use photography as illustration of some social sociological ideal in a beautiful way. But they forget that to use photography to its most powerful level you have to use it in the position inside the world not outside.
Manik: Be part of it..?
Antoine: Firstly, I don’t care. I mean I can discuss it, but I don’t care. It doesn’t touch me, I mean I read sometimes something or hear something but it doesn’t affect me. I’m putting enough energy in the work that I’m doing and I don’t need people’s approval. Second, I always like to see how much people critique my work for moral reasons while on the other side they make so many moral compromises in real life even with their fears, even in a passive way we all become part of some exploitative system. It makes me smile to see people who live so well in comfort and forgetness and ridicule someone who is…
Manik: … working hard?
Antoine: Yes. My life is what it is and of course I’ve been different in my choices but I don’t do it out of pleasure or pathology, I do it because I think it’s my duty as a human being. I live in this world, I want to know what’s going on, I want to be with the people I think I’m like. In meaningful and painful situations, I want to be where I think it’s important to be; where things are at stake. If others are experimenting with the economic balance, I want to be there. So this is my way. I’m not photographing pleasure but my relationship with these girls who are prostitutes or drug addicts or delinquents is a very conscious choice. My relationship with them is based on the knowledge of the conditions we live in and ambiguities and difficulties about how to establish a relationship in this scenario. And we deal with this. Of course violence can be part of it. Some good violence, some bad violence but it is the way. I always question the way I photograph it. Brutality of course, a large part of the picture but I think violence is part of life. It’s part of the beauty of life and part of the ugliness of life. And this violence I don’t show it very distinctly. At times I try to provoke it but it’s never aimed at people I’m photographing and the violence you see in most pictures is not violence against people it is violence which comes out of a situation, usually very physical situations leading to drugs or sex or narcotic sex and so it is a good violence.
Manik: What have the effects of your lifestyle been on your body?
Antoine: I don’t have an exotic lifestyle. I go deep down in my own life and that of my subjects. I see most of the photographic practice in the world as exoticism, with people going to exciting places, exciting ideas. For many years I’ve had a strong constitution, like a physical way and for many years was able to avoid physical effects of abuse and to my brain. And I think with age, at 50 now, I’m reaching a point where I have to deal with it. I hate the idea but this for me is one of the reasons why physically and mentally, the drug abuse made it hard for me to function over the past few years as a human being and even less as a photographer. So I’m at a stage where I have to find new ways to survive mentally, physically and I’ve to find new ways to look at the world.