Daily Picture Show

The Photo Behind Project Song

In the latest episode of Project Song, Moby was given a selection of photographs taken by Phil Toledano. He was to choose one as a source of inspiration. You can hear the resulting song — and watch its production — here.

But we wanted to know more about this mysterious Mr. Toledano, and what inspires him, so we sent the photographer a few questions.

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Picture Show: It seems like a lot of your photos are digitally manipulated or staged. To what extent are you altering and posing your photos?

Phil Toledano: I'm not really a snapshot photographer. I tend to work with ideas and concepts, and they're usually socio-political in nature. Of course, when I'm shooting for magazines, then yes: generally everything I do is planned and staged. My own work varies, and it really depends on the project. Some ideas are quite straightforward documentary/landscape/portrait projects, whilst others are more installation/scuptural. In terms of Photoshop, I generally try and do as much as I can in the camera — rather than rely on retouching afterwards (It's more fun that way).

What's the story behind your series like "Hope&Fear"? Was that a personal project?

"Hope&Fear" was an art project I did around the idea of making tangible the intangible. The dreams and paranoia adrift in contemporary American culture. I designed the suits, had them built, and then shot them.

One of your photos has inspired a song by Moby. That's pretty awesome.

Well, I'm guessing that music, like any other form of art, takes inspiration from anywhere, so it doesn't seem that surprising that it's a photograph. But it's really cool to know that one of my photos inspired Moby. I've always been quite a fan. If he ever want to have a cup of tea, and discuss further collaboration, I'm available all next week!

Along those lines, then, what inspires you and your photography?

I'm going to give a White-House-Press-Secretary-infuriatingly-vague answer. What inspires me? Everything. I spend a great deal of time looking at things on the Web. Film. Painting. Walking down the street. Reality TV. YouTube videos of people falling over.

Who are some of your influences, living or dead, photographers or not?

My father, for his indomitable spirit. Picasso for his curiosity and inflexibility. Hopper for his light. Bill Brandt for his wide angle lens. Rousseau for his sense of fantasy ... so many people, so little time!

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