David Favrod: Living Under Twin Suns
David Favrod was born in Japan and raised in Switzerland by a Japanese mother and Swiss father. When he was 18 he applied for dual citizenship from the Japanese Embassy, but was rejected. The desire to prove the equal importance of his mixed heritage lead him to attempt to define his identity through his photography. His epic, award-winning series 'Gaijin' (meaning foreign or alien) is the result. The collision of his two worlds creates an enigmatic new one, both familiar and transcendent. Stories, memories, dreams, journeys, culture (ancient and modern) merge to form a unique and deeply personal place. David agreed to help guide us through it.
Is it possible to define how each culture has influenced your work?
David Favrod: My bi-cultural education is the essence of my inspiration. The majority of my inspiration comes from around and within me. I do not think I could tell you how each culture has influenced my work. Rather it's the mix of these two cultures that influence it.
Could your work be seen as postcards from a 'hidden' fantasy world ?
I think that fantasy world is not hidden, it simply appears differently in the eyes of each other.
Which fairytales did you enjoy as a child?
Like all children I loved fairytales. Especially a book that my mother had bought to me and my sister. I don't remember the exact name but it should be something like The Most Beautiful Swiss Tales. It was an illustrated book with tapes that told us stories. It was magical! I spent hours and hours listening these tapes!
I see a connection between some of your work and classic Japanese horror films like 'Onibaba' and even 'The Ring'. Are you a fan of horror?
No, I'm not a big fan of horror movies. But the Japanese horror films are a good source of inspiration. I love the simplicity of the Japanese horror films and especially how water, hair or a small child can scare us.
Have you considered making films?
Yes, I would like to produce two small videos soon.
You often seem to be telling stories through your work? What motivates this?
My interest in the construction of fictional stories comes from my dreams and my reading. A natural need. A need to escape.
Do you mind how the viewer interprets your work? It seems that your images are open to people creating their own 'stories' from them, not necessarily the one you intended.
Let's try with these 2 pictures:
This picture is called 'Sadako'. The image of the window with the paper birds is about the woman Sadako who at her home close to Ground Zero when the atom bomb was dropped in Hiroshima in 1945. Years later, she developed leukemia and was hospitalized in 1955 and given a year to live. She died in 1955 aged 12. During a hospital visit Sadako’s best friend folds an origami crane as an old Japanese story says that who folds 1,000 origami cranes will be granted a wish by a crane. As Sadako didn’t manage to fold all 1,000 cranes, her friends folded the remaining ones and buried them with her. With this image I want to speak about the war and the atomic bomb but in a more lyrical way.
This picture is called 'Mishiko'. Mishiko was the sister of my grandfather. She fell ill during the second war, doctors diagnosed him a poor hydration. And Japan watermelon is a fruit very popular and holds much water. So his parents gave him regularly. But the diagnosis was wrong and it was a salt deficiency and she died shortly after.
What is you favourite Yōkai (supernatural monsters in Japanese folklore)?
Betobeto-san is one of my favorites. If you've ever been walking at night and heard strange footsteps following you, only to turn around terrified, and find nothing there, you've encountered the yōkai known in Nara Prefecture as Betobeto-san. It's said that if you stand to the side of the road and say "Betobeto-san, please go on ahead " then the footsteps will stop and you can continue walking in peace.
Who are your favourite contemporary photographers?
Masao Yamamoto, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Philip Lorca Di Corcia, Joel Sternfeld and many more.
Why haven't you shot a series in Japan?
I want to finish the 'Gaijin' project before returning to Japan.