Interview with Daniel Alexander
January 31, 2011 § 1 Comment
Daniel Alexander’s father had a corporate photography studio, so it’s no surprise that Alexander’s first encounter with photography was through his father’s business. Thinking there must be something more to the medium than what he knew, Alexander continued to learn through apprenticeships.
I first met Daniel through email, he jokingly offered to give me an interview, and I made it so he couldn’t back out. Professionalism at its finest.
However, there was (and is) something compelling about his photos, how they skirt the edge between base emotion, and facade. Revealing the subject, but also admittedly hiding them at the same time. The most poignant ones seem to play with the construct of “man”, whether “he” is hard, soft, or androgynous.
I asked Daniel what he was looking for when he chose his subjects, and he said he wasn’t sure, that he’d be lying if he told me otherwise. It seems that chance is a big part of his practice. Daniel is a definite flaneur, in the original sense of the word.
Daniel told me, while traveling in Iceland, he just happened upon three men sitting on a bench. I asked what made him stop and talk to these men in particular? He replied, “Three guys on a bench, right? So there’s something about them. They’re talking about something, they’re doing something, they must have some sort of relationship.” So Daniel stopped and talked to them, eventually started taking pictures, and one of the men decided to take his top off. This is the moment Daniel captured.
A (perhaps accidental) study of manliness in a rather patriarchal society.
Looking through Daniel’s work, there was another photo that seemed to be in the same vein, that of a group of children in Belfast.
While exploring the Catholic side of Belfast, Daniel saw this group of kids, and decided to go and investigate. Ranging from ages 10 to 17, Daniel described one of the kids directing the scene, saying, “Why don’t we do it over here? Because the protestant cowards put up a wall, and we’re going to form a Catholic wall.”
When I asked Daniel how he had been able to capture such moments of, what I called aggression (but what could easily described as a raw human-ness), Daniel responded modestly. He said he didn’t think he was the one doing it, but rather, that just happened to be the people he shot. All credit went to his subjects.
However, if you’ve ever picked up a camera, you know full well how difficult it is to get a subject to show any emotion. The typical response to a camera is a forced smile, a practiced pose, or just plain goofiness. Daniel’s photos display more than that. Towing the line between real emotion, and mask.
I finally asked Daniel the most generic question in the book (but also, to some extent, the most revealing), “Do you have a favourite work?”. He couldn’t answer, saying they were all so different. I pushed him for an answer, and he finally said that he liked the works because of the experiences they reminded him of, because of the memories behind them. That one of his favourite memories was the time he had spent with a falconer.
“I like the one with the hawk. The falconer. I liked it because they lived together. Apparently he divorced his wife because he chose the hawk over her.”
This, for me, is what Daniel does. Photos that can appear so serious, and yet can also have humour behind them. His work is multifaceted: combining a photojournalistic style, with human encounters, with stories that can be simple or complex, and with his own experience. The result is an oeuvre that records the way in which we live, and the time we live in.
You can see more of Daniel’s work at daimages.net.