Tania Franco Klein received the 2017 Sony World Photography Awards National Award for Mexico and her series Our Life in the Shadows was shortlisted for the 2018 edition of the Professional competition. Her work is heavily influenced by her fascination with issues related to social behavior, media sensory overload, emotional disconnection, obsession with eternal youth and the American dream. Her work, which often takes on a surreal aesthetic, has garnered much attention in the art world and she has enjoyed a wide range of successes at international art fairs. She photographs for FT Weekend, the LA Times, iD Magazine and the Washington Post, among others.
They have a degree in architecture (BA) and then completed postgraduate studies in photography in London. How has architecture influenced your photographic practice?
I studied interior design and most of the sets for my photographs are indoors. My architectural practice has been instrumental in how I conceive my work at all stages of the production process. For the last stage, I support the work with its presentation and design the exhibition as a one-off. I think my understanding of space and my past experiences have really allowed this part of my practice to grow.
In all my exhibitions I try not to place any of the pieces on a functional level. Architecture allowed me to understand space, color and light from a unique perspective. I started developing my interest in photography while studying architecture, so it’s hard to imagine how I would create my work without all of this background.
Was there a particular photographer or work that made a big impact on your photographic practice?
There are a number of different artists I’ve been introduced to (almost all at the same time) that have made a huge impression. I’m very inspired by Tony Oursler, Bill Viola, William Eggleston, Larry Sultan, Todd Hido and Pipilotti Rist.
To what extent is your work autobiographical?
My work is autobiographical in the sense that I see work as a reflection of today’s society. My photographic projects are usually motivated by personal interest or existential observations of my place in today’s world. I try to translate these personal emotions into something universal because nowadays it’s difficult to separate the individual from the context. I hope that my work will invite viewers to reflect on issues that we can all relate to in today’s world, while at the same time exploring my own role in this global social machine.
Your photos always have a warm glow. What excites you about working with such an intense color palette?
I’ve always had a very personal relationship with intense colors as they evoke a very strong emotional response. Colors have their own language. In terms of how I think about color in my practice, I would say that my scenes usually involve characters or their shadows in a very quiet, calm – almost anonymous – way. My stories are very emotional and I think the way I use color and light really brings the emotions to a deeper level in the eyes of the viewer. I like to think of color as a piece of music that can be very loud at times.
Since many of your photographs are self-portraits, could you tell us more about the process behind your series? How do you stage your portraits?
I try not to have a method in the way I take my photos. Sometimes that means making sets from scratch or around a wall I find. When constructing the scenery of the photo, I’m sometimes not sure if I’m going to have a subject at all. I experiment a lot and let my work be quite performative, so I set up a scene and play around with it for a long time. I like discovering what’s going to happen throughout the process and I usually work alone. I set up a tripod and use a remote shutter release, experimenting with the scene as much as possible.
They have a healthy Instagram following. Has this platform taught you anything about your work?
Of course I see Instagram as a great tool to curate my work and share the process of my projects. I’m still amazed at the number of opportunities that come from being active on this platform. That being said, I try not to judge my own work by likes. We also have to be very careful about how we feed on the things we see in order to use Instagram productively, rather than comparing ourselves to others. I would experiment a lot with the Stories feature. I actually went back and reworked what started out as an experimental piece for my Instagram and then actually turned into a piece.
What do you think is the most exciting trend in the world of photography right now? And how do you see the development of the medium?
I’m actually not very interested in trends. I usually get tired when I see a lot of people doing the same thing over and over again. I’m an advocate for diversity in all senses of the word and I thoroughly enjoy seeing polar universes meet in an artist’s work. That being said, I think photography has reached a point where we overproduce photographs and as a result I can’t attend to my work at times.
Your family is a great source of inspiration for you. Can you tell us more about what it means to work with close family members?
I was quite reluctant to work with unfamiliar subjects, because for me it meant that I also had to somehow confront their expectations and their self-expression. My characters are mostly quite anonymous, they are placeholders for all of us. It’s not really about the person in the picture, it’s about what that person stands for and what they represent. For this reason, working with my family, and especially my recently deceased grandmother, allowed me to create a more flexible environment with them, where their collaboration emanated from a place of understanding and willingness to help. Of course, the opportunity to share, play and perform with them became a treasure for me.
Her series Our Life In The Shadows was shortlisted for the 2018 Sony World Photography Awards Professional Competition. How has this recognition helped your career? Has it had a positive impact?
Of course, I think any source of recognition is always good for work. I don’t think there’s one event – call it an award, a review, or an exhibition – that makes a project stand alone, but I think a combination of events always helps. I was particularly lucky with this project because in one year I submitted a single image to the Open competition and got the chance to travel to London. Seeing the work on display at Somerset House gave me a lot of inspiration to continue and over the next year as the project was further developed I decided to submit it as a series and was selected again.
One thing always leads to another, so I’ve also had the opportunity to feature the work in various print magazines that I admire and to exhibit it with galleries at fairs. It’s always nice when your work is recognized by such amazing platforms as the Sony World Photography Awards and I think in the end when we do a project we all want it to be exhibited in the world and to use all the amazing platforms that exist today.
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