Photographer Alex Fakso is a participant rather than an observer. In his new London exhibition ‘Santa in Camo’, he presents a portrait of a man.
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Best known for his contribution to and inimitable documentation of the underground graffiti world, Alex Fakso is noted as one of the leading photographers in his field. With two published books on the subject and international street-cred from London to San Paolo; Fakso’s work primarily portrays various forms of street life and street culture which began with skaters in the early ’90s and progressed to squats and wild adventures with graffiti writers in cities around the world. His work has an intimacy and depth that’s a result of his total immersion in his subjects – whether they’re people or places. Based in London, over the past four years Fakso travelled back and forth to his hometown of Bassano del Grappa, Italy to shoot his newest project and forthcoming exhibition “Santa in Camo”.
Followers of your early work may be surprised by what you’ll be presenting in your new exhibition titled “Santa in Camo”. How do you think you have grown from your first body of work? Has anything changed? I’ve developed a deeper consciousness of photography; I grew with my camera and expanded my vision as well as my purpose. I shoot and produce what my life experiences have given me. I wouldn’t say there is a huge change, just growth. I’m still presenting reality in this project as I do in all my work. I want to focus on the same theme throughout my career but still be able to create something new every time. When I feel like I am lacking inspiration and repeating myself, I will stop. This subject is different but I approached it in the same way I have with all of my projects. If the followers of my early work see the photos from this new exhibition they’ll probably understand my intentions and how my Santa isn’t conventional.
In what way is your Santa unconventional? He is a real person who is struggling to survive in an economic crisis and a world of uncertainty and chaos. I began to shoot this project back in 2009 when we were in the depths of the recession; when money had lost its value and no one trusted the banks. As a small result of that, what Santa represented also began to fade. People lost hope and optimism – all the things the iconic figure of “Santa” represents. It’s almost like Santa lost his job and had to find a new hustle. I portray my subject as an everyday person rather than being the “superhero” or figure of joy and benevolence that we know him to be. I photograph him eating watermelon topless and selling military supplies along the street…
Why was it important for you to show this particular project? I felt like it was important to move on and explore different aspects of my photography. I observed what was around me and took what I could from it. Presenting reality in my work is and will always be one of, if not the most important concept for me. This subject is real, it’s not a fictional character that I’m photographing and none of the photos were directed or set up – just like in my other work. I want to show that although I’m portraying a mythological character like Santa, the concept of reality will always be present in my work and I will always stick to the same method.
What emotion do you hope to evoke from the viewer? Confusion and questioning: how far can we go with street culture? Can Santa be respected on a street level? These are the feelings and questions I’d like to arouse. The Santa that I am portraying sells military supplies for a living and has done so for the past 40 years. The Santa from this project is on the road side for the majority of the year, he leads an intense life and works hard, long hours in order to survive.
What’s next for you? I would like to publish this project and perhaps explore it even further. I’m still doing what I was doing before – still in the streets with my camera. Not going too far.
Santa in Camo by Alex Fakso runs from 19th to 29th December 2012 at Studio 74 – 74 Salusbury Road, 2nd Floor – London – NW6 6NU.
Text: Zeyna Sy
Images courtesy Alex Fakso. First eight images from ‘Santa in Camo’. Remaining images from Alex Fakso’s portfolio.