Published on October 14, 2017
Luigi Di BellaIt seems that technology and the digital world play a large role in your work. When did your interest in those fields emerge?
Tobias FaisstThree years ago, I was actively involved in a Facebook group called Archival Aesthetics, which collected imagery associated with the digital world. It all started back then, with a photograph of a CD in a washing machine, eventually featured on the 032c blog. For the first time, I was confronted with the challenge of taking a picture that bore aesthetic similarities to a rendering, because my photograph was going to be shown in that context: all the other works in the blog post were digital collages or CGI works.
LDBYou've been working for a commercial photographer, Amos Fricke, in Berlin and freelancing as a graphic designer. How do these experiences influence your practice and your interests?
TFWorking with Fricke amplified my interest in highly aestheticized imagery and I learned a lot from him in regards to producing these sorts of images on a high commercial and professional level. The more I dealt with this topic, the more important it became for me to generate photographic surfaces with substantial depth. I wanted to find a photographic context in which to unveil the motive for making these in the first place. During this process, I focused my attention on the philosophical terms Techne and Eidos. EIDOS then became the title of my transmedia work, which recently came out with the Zurich-based publishing house Transform.
LDBDo you see a clear boundary between your commissioned and personal work? Would you consider yourself an artist?
TFI do not see myself as an artist, but as a photographer. However, this does not exclude defining parts of my work as art. The boundaries between my commissioned and personal work are blurry. One influences the other. For EIDOS, a few of the images were originally made for commercial productions and at the same time, a lot of my personal work bleeds into my commissioned work. I often have a certain interest that I want to focus on for my commissioned work. Be it a sculptural, artificial approach, or materials and surfaces that I find attractive. In the end, the client sets the boundaries between these two worlds. But I think this is an interesting aspect of working together and it is often this symbiosis which leads to new approaches and possibilities.
LDBTell us about your recent series EIDOS, which eventually became a book and a website.
TFEIDOS deals with the question of how technology changes the production and perception of reality. The work is defined by an uncertainty on the viewers’ side, as they are confronted with their own perception of the images. I try to capture the complex interrelationships that exist between human, technology, and nature, while continuing to challenge and blur the lines between them.
LDBWhen did you realize that EIDOS was ready to be published as a book?
TFI often try to translate my photo series into books and with EIDOS, I started doing this too early. While working on it, I realized that there was something missing… a certain meta level that could function as a mirror and consequently amplify the series’ context and meaning. As soon as I realized this, I added new motifs that I would have probably ignored if it wasn't for the book. The website was realized together with the publishing house Transform, which was actively involved in creating the concept, since their mission is to overcome the limitations of traditional media. By creating EIDOS as a digital space, one of the work’s main subject is mirrored in its outlet. It created an additional layer that would not have been possible to produce solely through a book version.
LDBWhat are you currently working on? How is your workflow when starting a new project?
TFI would like to work on a project involving people. It hasn’t been the case so far and I think this new focus would be a good way to develop my photographic skills. As already mentioned, my workflow is built on explorations and the practical part comes before theoretical analysis. With commissioned works, I start with research and then try to translate what I learned into imagery, so I sort of work the other way around.
LDBYour photographs have been published both in print and digitally. How has this affected your practice: has it simply helped to promote your work or has it had another impact on your practice?
TFIt is not always easy for me to put my work into words. But I learned that this is an important part of my practice, because I reflect about my own work differently and more in depth than I would do otherwise. In our digitized world, printed imagery still bears a lot of authority. It functions differently and as a photographer I can profit from that. I find it interesting to see how my digital photography appeals as printed matter and which choices certain magazines make. Often, new vantage points emerge and my images generate new dialogues that I wouldn’t have imagined.
LDBAbove all images, it seems that one was more often reproduced than others (soap container on bath tub). Last time we met, you were complaining about this photograph… and eventually, it became the cover of our latest print edition! Can you tell us more about this?
TFI took this picture while working on a publication called Moral Phobia. That's something I'd call a typical sideshot and I cannot really explain why it resonates with so many people. Maybe it's due to its simple composition and the right amount of kitsch, while still bearing certain poetical features. Maybe it is because it resembles a painting and at the same time also looks like a 3D rendering. It also appears in EIDOS as one of the friendliest and warmest pictures… maybe these two aspects explain why so many people like this image.
LDBPhotography in art can be seen as a solipsistic practice. How is your relationship with fellow photographers: do you feel more competition or is there room for fruitful collaborations?
TFI would be tempted to do a project that fosters a visual dialogue during a longer period of time. I did something similar last summer with Maximilian Virgili which was featured on It’s Nice That.I am inspired by and admire many different photographers, especially if their work is very different from what I am doing. If it is close to my work, I obviously try to think about ways of making myself stand out. Competition is a motivator to develop and question my own practice.
LDBDoes this competition arise from internet and social media?
TFThe internet makes photographs coalesce, both in a substantial and visual way. A lot of people in our scene have a strong intuition for trends and Zeitgeist, which sometimes tends to lead to meaningless and self-fertilizing imagery bubbles, in which I see a danger in failing to create something meaningful. So it is always important to remain conscious and reflect about trends and one’s own work.
LDBA propos trends, there’s a lot going on in the grey area between photography and sculpture. If I think of fellow artists who work in your field of interest, such as Maxime Guyon or Joe Hamilton, to name a few, I see sturdy polished objects that replace the classic framed print. Do you embrace this tendency? How do your photographs materialize in exhibition spaces?
TFIf the context of a photography allows it, I find it plausible and tempting to translate a work into a three-dimensional context. EIDOS, for example, was translated into a digital space, together with Transform and the digital design studio NewNow, and therefore it became a multimedia piece. The pictures are made accessible from every direction, something that is not possible with a book. I can imagine presenting these digital sculptures as abstractions of the original piece by creating three-dimensional prints, for example. By doing this, it would create a symbiosis of the real and digital world, of the two- and three-dimensional. We also thought about producing the work in virtual reality. In present times, there is an incredible technological potential which can be used, which is a good thing. But at the same time, it is still tempting to simply present a photograph as a two-dimensional print on the wall, because no technology, gadgets, or additional layers distract from the original piece and idea.
LDBYou've been living in Berlin for the past few years. Is it a productive milieu? Does it have a positive influence on both your work and daily life?
TFI would not want to live anywhere else in Germany. Creative people are here and it makes it easy to spontaneously meet up. But I believe that in current times influence comes globally and is no longer necessarily tied to a place. Creative scenes come closer to each other in the digital space and can constantly interchange ideas. Nonetheless, I think that Germany recently developed an aesthetical language that is definitely in demand. It resonates with creative people worldwide and I am proud to play, admittedly, a small part in this dynamic.
In EIDOS, Tobias Faisst captures ordinary subjects — a helmet, a neon light, a soap bottle — through a lens of hyper-perfection. Flawlessly composed and precisely color-controlled, Faisst’s photographs bring into focus the texture and surface of materials, yet the intricacies of each object remain difficult to grasp. The computer-generated quality of every image brings the subjects — whether human or machine — into states of quasi-abstraction that blur the lines between nature and technology. In this cyber-realistic world, everyday objects are rendered uncanny as the viewer’s understanding of what he or she sees fluctuates between real, represented, staged, and produced.