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photography: davide lhamid | interview

How did you discover photography?

I first bumped into photography when I was in High School, thanks to my father’s passion for the art. Then, during my bachelor studies in Sociology, I started committing to photography whilst looking for a medium capable of effectively conveying the critical perspective on the social world and over time, photography became the tool through which I observed and conceived the reality surrounding me. For me, photography is a powerful medium, able to synthesise and rebuild, eventually bringing society’s complexities to light. Having said that, photography is a daily re-discovery to me, constantly unfolding itself beyond its visual limits and entering the wider realm of art and culture, broadening its communicative potential.

Where do your ideas evolve from and what interests you in photography?

Photography is filter through which I look into reality, so my ideas evolve from my daily experience of the world. My theoretical concern for social issues interpenetrates the concrete contact with their reality and eventually finds its form together with the wide gamut of stimuli I encounter. Sometimes, inspiration stems from readings, a chat with a friend or from direct contact with other photographers’ work, as well as with artworks in general. Every so often it is an intuition, which then materialises with further research and in-depth analysis. My ideas often combine and converge, and the final outcome is always the result of this process. I am still in search of my position within the boundless world of photography; documentary photography is definitely the genre I am more attuned to, but I try to avoid any strict labelling with defined genre boundaries. I like to experiment, trespassing on art photography, as well as fashion or vernacular photography and archival practice.

Who’s work inspires you and your own practice?

I couldn’t pinpoint one single photographer or even a group of photographers whose work represents my first source for inspiration. My approach to photography is explorative, and I think that the imagery I refer to as a photographer is the result of the thousands of images I consumed, making me mostly unaware of my various influences. My references range from the masters of Documentary Photography and the great tradition of Magnum Agency, to the Italian school of the ‘Journey to Italy’ and the Dusseldorf School of Photography. If I had to mention names, I would probably pick Alec Soth and Gregory Halpern, due to their incredibly powerful narrative and their ability to create mundane yet quasi-oneiric atmospheres. I also appreciate Laia Abril and Rob Hornstra, whose practice, albeit very diverse, is admirable due to their full commitment to their own narrative missions.

What’s your most recent project exploring and what’s the inspiration behind it?

My most recent project, entitled “A Documentary Photography”, explores the complexity of migrant biographies, who have to deal with a seamless quest for validation, affecting every aspect of their lives. The precariousness of these existences reverberates on their identities, by implying a daily negotiation that is embodied by paperwork and documents. Thus, my work started from a reflection on the performativeness of documents, on the power that an ephemeral piece of paper has to inescapably determine biographical trajectories. The work also speaks about the bureaucratization of migration processes and the social and cultural exclusion of migrants, perpetrated through the iron cage that entraps them in a vicious cycle, behind which individuals disappear. The idea originates from wanting to narrate the story of a dear friend, a Moroccan guy who migrated to Italy over ten years ago, as well as from a more personal introspection; through the comprehension of the aleatory that determines the access to a certain status (and document), a resulting awareness emerges of a position in society that is so privileged, it lies outside of any meritocracy. It is the good fortune of being born with the red passport, of freely choosing where to live, what to do, where to go, and ultimately whom to be.

Has COVID affected your work at all?

COVID has been affecting all aspects of our life, in a way that nothing has before. Thus, it has definitely affected my work, by imposing limits that often forced me to rethink my practice, to reconsider certain automatisms. It also narrowed my perspective, by impeding the free experience of social reality, which is an important source of inspiration to me. On the other hand, working under such conditions has represented a challenge that fostered my creativity towards the discovery of new possibilities that I wouldn’t otherwise have considered; in so doing, I had the chance to experiment in order to overcome such limits, giving me the awareness of a more flexible practice, which eventually helped me leaving my comfort zone.

What do you hope to explore in the future/any plans for new projects?

My plans for the future development of my work involve the establishment of a more extensive practice, supported by in-depth research about migration issues. My idea is to approach the topic in a wider way, by investigating the structural dynamics behind it and deconstructing the historical and cultural factors that shape it in terms of discrimination and social exclusion. Particularly, I would like to delve into the bureaucratic nature of the phenomenon, by expanding my series “A Documentary Photography”, and then shifting the focus on the juridical dimension, analysing the relations between migration and criminal justice, to eventually approach imprisonment and carceral practices. I would also like to broaden my practice, by experimenting with mixed media and new techniques, exploring the potential of diverse platforms.

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