Interview: Daniel Holfeld
Luca Curci talks with Daniel Holfeld, the winner of PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE MONTH – JULY 2021.
Born in Dublin (1984), Daniel Holfeld grew up in Ireland and graduated with a BA [Hons] degree in photography from Dublin’s Institute of Technology in 2008. Holfeld has always gravitated towards large open spaces, developing a passion and admiration for architecture‘s complex language. His earliest success came after graduation when he was invited to participate in the New York photo festival with his work on the abandoned factory space of Barbour Campbell Threads Ltd in Lisburn. This series went on to nominate Holfeld within the best emerging photographer category. Earlier in 2020 Holfeld debuted his new series The Space Between in the Royal Institute of Architecture of Ireland and later returned to London to show the series in the Royal Institute of British Architects. This new work marks a development of his practice to incorporate color and modernist architecture. The exhibitions of photographs taken across Spain and Portugal draw their inspiration from the work of Mexican architect Luis Barragán. For this series, Holfeld received a win within the Professional Abstract Architecture category from the International Photography Awards. The series was also recognized by ELLE Decor Italia for inclusion within their Top 24 Most Beautiful Architecture Images of 2020. Currently, Holfeld has launched his recent exhibition Conveying Space at University College Dublin. This new work was recently awarded an Honourable Mention from the MONOVISIONS black and white photography awards.
Luca Curci – What is art for you?
Daniel Holfeld – Art for me is a language we speak when we are trying to make sense of the world around us. Very often we become overwhelmed by life, especially at the moment and art to me represents a way to distill our innermost thoughts and feelings in order to share our perspective. For me art appears at the end of a long journey of examining, questioning and interpreting something, it’s not always beautiful or pretty but to me that’s life. I think art also represents an intimacy with your subject matter, a type of relationship which most people don’t see or feel and this makes artists special in my eyes; that they tap in to this invisible energy and in the end produce something tangible which many people overlook.
LC – What are you currently working on?
DH – I have just finished a large commission for University College Dublin (Ireland’s largest college) whereby I was asked to interpret the last fifty years of architecture found on campus. The work took me on a journey, which chronicles really the last five decades of Ireland’s history, which started in post war Brutalist structures and ended in bombastic, futuristic and modernist buildings. The whole series is black and white so now I am hungry for colour. I intend to travel around Spain photographing buildings during sunrise and sunset, harnessing those beautiful warm tones only available at these times of day. I think I want to unite nature and architecture in a harmonious way to reflect the co-existing relationship they share.
LC – What’s your background? What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
DH – My background is coloured with a lot of different phases. My formal education is in photography having received an honours degree in photography and critical thinking however once I graduated my first instinct was to work commercially. I spent many years working in fashion and commercial advertising. The work was fun and allowed me to travel and meet amazing people, however I was on a bit of a hamster wheel and without realising I had silenced a part of me. Then in 2013 my Mother passed away to cancer and this changed my perspective on everything. The personal impact of losing her has affected how I approach everything and has crystallised my desire to work as a full time artist. Then in 2016 I made a trip to Morocco where I became enamoured by Arabic architecture having grown up in Ireland with limited exposure to such flamboyant architecture, this exploded my senses and helped me turn my gaze towards architecture. Over the years I’ve taken on different projects which have further developed my practice and fine tuned my eye to where I am today. My approach is very much influenced by the ideology of Mexican architect Luis Barragán and his pursuit of an ’emotional architecture.’ He believed that ‘any work which does not express serenity is a mistake.’ With that in mind I constantly strive to create images that are in harmony with this philosophy and my own desire to edit out the noise of everyday life. Geometric patterns, clean lines, natural sunlight and bold colours play key roles in my work, which later unite to create a sense of calmness.
LC – Which subject are you working on?
DH – My first instinct is always to turn to architecture because it’s what activates me as an artist. I’m not biased either in this regard, I can photograph an inexpensive modest structure or something that cost a lot of money to build. For me it’s more about how is speaks to me and what it’s saying than how much was spent constructing it. However socially there is so much going on in the world and with the fall of out dated institutionalised patriarchal structures and as a male artist I am currently trying to work on a response to this. I’d like to find the right visual words and language to honour the positive aspects of masculinity so we don’t become lost in the complex discourse surrounding the issues. There are so many men who don’t relate to the toxic examples out there and for these men I’d like to speak up.
LC – Which is the role the artist plays in society? And contemporary art?
DH – First and foremost I always believe an artist’s role is to be of service by way of offering cultural contributions. Our duty is to give back rather than take from society. We’ve been fortunate enough to be given a voice and platform and I really feel strongly that we need to offer something which carries conversations further. With that in mind our role is to act as a translator or interpreter to society, to mirror back whats happening currently and trigger the audience in to feeling something. I think contemporary art is more about utilising technologies and mediums which haven’t been available in the past and engaging with subject matter of the here and now, things that are happening in the present tense.