Dave Jordano is officially this year’s AIMIA AGO Photography Prize winner. We’re such big fans of his work that we already spoke to him before the win (read it here) and got a chance to ask a few questions right after the big announcement last week.
Studio Beat: So first of all, congratulations! This is a huge achievement.
Dave Jordano: It’s crazy, I’m still processing it.
This is one of the few big photography awards in which the public casts a vote, considering most of the people who pass through the AGO will have no art historical background, why do you think they voted for you?
Photography backgrounds is a very democratic process, it’s the most ubiquitous art form on the planet. I mean we’re downloading a billion photograph backdrops every day. I think people relate to that, but when you see the work I hope the work resonates with the viewer on a deeper level. It’s very important to me to have that back and forth
How do you see you work in the context of the plights America is facing right now in terms of racial conflicts and growing socio-economic disparity? Are you trying to give an intimate portrayal of what those concept on a micro level?
I wouldn’t say I’m politically motivated in that way, but the way I photograph these people you see the cause and effect that it’s had on them. I see a lot of improvement going on in Detroit right now but it’s a very encapsulated part of the city and I don’t want people to forget that the other ninety-five percent of the city is still struggling. My work goes there.
You’re from there originally, how long did you live there?
I lived there until I was 30, I did a lot of documentary work there in the 70s. It’s a big, big part of me. Just going back there and reacquainting myself with the city was a wonderful experience. It’s a beautiful city and the people are beautiful, you need to get past the misrepresentation.
Do you see your work in the context of being American or are you trying to tap into a more universal humanity?
I think its very specific, people thought of America as the land of opportunity and we know now that this next generation of young people will not live as well as my generation did. There is a paradigm shift in the perception of what America represents. A lot of what I photographed in Detroit, especially in the neighbourhoods I went to, reflects that point of view.
Are you in touch with you subjects? Will you share this win with them?
Oh yeah, I wanted to give most of the award to people in Detroit. I’ve already got people I’ve earmarked it for, and they know about it so they’re going to be happy I won.
How did you find your subjects? Did you know them before?
Back in 2010 I was starting from square one you know I went back to Detroit and I didn’t know anyone, it was all through my own just passing people in the street getting out of the car and introducing myself.
To get that kind of access you need to connect, you can’t just knock on someone’s door and say, ‘Can I take pictures?’ Every time I go back to Detroit I give a set of prints to the people I’d taken pictures of. I’ve done 30 or 40 trips down to Detroit now, we just hang out and talk.
So what’s next, do you see this win changing a lot of things for you?
This is wonderful this is a once-in-a-lifetime prize and I’m still absorbing it, it’s fantastic. I hope it will generate some exhibitions and interest, I have a book coming out. I mean technically I retired about three years ago but I’m more active now than I was when I was working commercially . I’ll be photographing forever, as long as I’m on this planet I’ll photograph.