FFO: STRAIGHT-TALKING + POLITICALLY OPINIONATED IMAGERY THAT IMPORTANTLY AIMS TO CHANGE OUR NEGATIVE STEREOTYPES OF OTHERS
Who are you and where are you currently based?
I’m Daniel Gonzalez, born and partially raised in Hackney, London, before upping and moving over to Basildon, Essex. I’m a second-year student of Documentary Photography at the University of South Wales in Cardiff.
How’s your experience been at university studying Documentary Photography? Do you ever feel restricted by a genre-specific course or do you think it furthers and deepens your interest in Documentary Photography?
It’s been interesting, to say the least. I’ve had to learn that, ultimately, photography is a very subjective thing. It’s opinion, for the most part. I keep an open mind. That way I don’t feel restricted. Why can’t I go and make a serious project using a point and shoot from a charity shop? Why can’t anyone? I’m glad that sort of thing’s so popular at the moment. I think it’d be easy to feel restricted but if you keep an open mind, it is very enriching. It’s nice to be exposed to so many documentarians and really mad bodies of work.
What is your current photographic work about?
Identity. To be honest I ask myself that question an awful lot and eventually, the answer I always come back to is identity. I’m really interested in what makes people tick and have stacks of books on psychoanalysis, which I find translates well to photography. You can analyse a photograph like you can analyse a person. Whether it’s the food they eat, the music they listen to, the clothes they chose to wear, the words they use, the tattoos they decorate themselves with, the places they live – it’s all so interesting and I could rattle on forever about it. People are, for the most part, so beautiful and interesting.
Is there any specific demographic or particular subculture of people you find most interesting to photograph?
‘Chavs’. The council housed and violent. I grew up on a council estate, two different ones, and I loved it. I lost countless negatives from a couple of years ago of me and my friends being chavvy little shits and I don’t know if I’ll ever get them back, but I plan on focusing on ‘chavs’ a fair bit when I head back to Essex. Kids being kids.
But people see a hoody or a pair of white trainers, or hear certain words or accents and cross the street. It’s a joke. A lot of the most straight-talking, friendly, selfless people I’ve ever met are ‘chavs’. The term needs reclaiming. It’s fine for a lot of rich kids to grab daddy’s credit card, Stormzy playing on their expensive headphones, and pop out to Urban Outfitters and rip off whatever we were wearing – but they’d be the same sort of people that cross the street. It sickens me, man.
What got you interested in photography and taking images?
Budapest, in a word. My friend and I dropped out of college nearly four years ago and said, ‘fuck this’. So that’s exactly what we did. We fucked it. We grabbed some one-way tickets to Bucharest in Romania, then got lifts to Constanta on the coast, and hitchhiked our way up to Estonia over a few months. On our way, we passed through Budapest which is where I got to visit the Robert Capa Centre. I was sold after that. The bloke was like a rockstar to me, but with a camera. My interests developed a bit more than that eventually, but that was the catalyst.
How has your photography developed over the past 4 years since your travels to Budapest?
So very much. I was so naïve. I still am, just not as much. At the time I completely disregarded any genre of photography that wasn’t black and white, shot on film, and if it was considered ‘fine art’? Jesus Christ, I didn’t want to know. That being said I’ve grown up a lot since then and come to understand that photography, being as complex a visual medium as it is, can offer so much more than a few ‘decisive moment’ snaps on black and white. There’s an entire world of photography out there and I’m really enjoying exploring it.
What about the Robert Capa Centre initially inspired you when you visited it?
The depth of his photographs! To someone who didn’t really understand how incredible photography could be, I was blown away. I was just looking for things to do during the daytime and the Capa Centre seemed interesting but I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It was the drop of the penny for me. I started to realise just how incredible a platform photography can offer to those whose stories may not be heard otherwise, how influential an image can be, so on and so on. Just the sheer power of Capa’s work, and the scale of it. It just blew me away. It’s wet but that’s kind of the day I thought “I’m going to be a photographer”.
Who are you inspired by?
Diane Arbus, Nan Goldin, Robert Frank, Harry Conway, Rhodri Mullaney, Oliver Cargill. God there’s loads. But essentially the photographers on that list cover the bases for me. Some of them are ‘Instagram photographers’, whose work influenced me quite a bit. At the end of last year when I started taking Instagram a bit more seriously I was looking at a lot of those guys’ work and thinking ‘they’re doing something really right’. Them and presses like Lost Generation, Blame Your Parents, Loose London. I looked at them and really wanted to be a part of what they were doing. They’re good people.
Do you think having Instagram is an essential tool for young photographers today?
Essential, I’m not sure. I’d certainly say it’s incredibly valuable. Since taking Instagram more seriously, I’ve been able to get involved in some zines and have my work printed, feature on some websites, meet some really great people, and be exposed to some really great work from people who are from backgrounds just like me. Its capacity for networking is sick and networking is essential to photographers. I’ve had a few people in my year ask how I sell prints here and there, how I get involved in zines and stuff like Loose and Lost Generation, and when I say ‘Instagram’ they groan. Like it’s too much effort or something. Fuck that. Get on your grind. Get involved. Network with people. Post those images. Post the good ones, bad ones, all of them. Let the world of Instagram be your critic because it’ll be your harshest. And that’s how you develop.
What are your future aspirations?
To return to Basildon in Essex and do a worthwhile project with a narrative. When I left to come to Cardiff, I never looked back, and nine months later I still haven’t been back. But looking back I realised the place is so fucked up, it’s begging to be photographed. I struggled a lot with identity growing up there and it’s a huge trend for my friends. I can’t wait to go back and make some good images. I hope to make a zine or some kind of physical publication out of it.
Since you’re so inspired by independent press’, have you ever thought of starting your own?
I’d love to. I’d really, really, love to. One day it may be something I look into. I admire a lot of those guys, so it’d be great to give it a go too. Independent presses are really helping to keep print alive and well. Big up all of you and everyone like you. Including DIY Youth. x
What advice would you recommend to young photographers today?
Listen to Sid Vicious’ version of ‘My Way’. Take your craft seriously and always be humble, there’s always more to learn. There are so many fucking cliques and precious little chic tossers in the world of picture making that you’ll struggle to hold your tongue, but try regardless, and focus on you. Don’t fold to darling pretentiousness. That’s for the birds.
IF YOU’D LIKE TO KEEP UP WITH DANIEL’S WORK YOU CAN DO SO VIA HIS INSTAGRAM!