Tao Douay Paris, France
Tao Douay was born in 1988 near Toulouse, France. He grew up in a secluded presbytery in the countryside, where an irrepressible questioning about death and an endless desire to discover the unknown started to grow inside him. When he was around 12 years old, he began to film everything around him, especially the cemetery in front of his bedroom. Few years after, photography became an evidence, so his father taught him black and white laboratory. At the same time his studies led him in literature and philosophy. The latter helped him to understand his attraction to death and deal with it in depth. In 2009 he entered a photography school, ETPA in Toulouse, where he went further in his work. He won the Grand Prix in 2012. Today he lives in Paris and develops his projects.
Tao Douay was chosen by photographer Giampiero Assumma
Laatikkomo’s interview with Tao Douay August 29th, 2017
L: Where are you from? Or what cities, and/or countries have you lived in – what places have influenced you?
TD: I am from the country side near Toulouse, South of France, a small village with few houses and a square with a church, a graveyard and a presbytery. I grew up in the presbytery, so I have always been surrounded by religion and death.
When I was around 4 I left France for Chile and stayed there for few years before coming back in the same house in France. I was immediately in full-immersion, nobody spoke french except my parents and sister. I was in the public school like every other kids so I had no choice but learning spanish and adapting myself. The country was releasing from almost 20 years of dictatorship, I remember my friends telling me stories about tortures and murders of members of their families by soldiers.
But I also remember the wide landscapes with huge mountains, deserts, ancient civilizations marks, goldmines… and so much mysteries about spirits.
Then I travelled in different countries for short periods but I live in Paris since 2012. That’s where I really went further into street photography.
Also I have a Polish grandmother. I have never been in Poland but I can feel its influence somehow.
L: What is your first memory of photography?
TD: I was around 7 I think, I found an old camera in a drawer. I was fascinated by a door bricked up on the side of the church next to the house, it was like a secret passage I wanted to open. So I took a picture of that door. I felt like it would reveal what is behind. I was so meticulous before taking the picture, I was thinking : you have only one chance to succeed, if you miss it, it would be missed forever.
Then I learnt there was no film inside the camera.
L: Most of your images formal projects are taken in black and white, while your ”visions of life” are in colour. What interests you about black and white film, and what determines which kind of film you use?
TD: I started photography with black and white film. My dad had an enlarger and taught me how to develop films and print photographs. So I really pay attention to black and white works, it is the essence of photography. I choose films according to my projects. The form and substance work together.
When I was younger I had repetitive dream in black and white that left a mark on my mind. Abstraction, that’s what interest me.
L: In the early 2000’s many people in France were opposed to anyone taking their photograph. From the images on your website it looks like you have taken many street pictures of people in France and the US among other countries. How do you approach your subjects before taking a photograph, and is there still a big cultural difference about how people react to your request?
TD: To be honest I don’t know how people react, I don’t ask them, I take and I leave. I just do my thing and most of the time they don’t even notice. In every country I have been people are the same. In fact, everything depends on your own behaviour, it’s just about calm and adaptation. Martial arts taught me the importance of inner emptiness when focusing on something. Becoming like water, taking the shape of things around without forcing.
L: Apart from photography you also make videos and your projects are usually accompanied by a composition in writing. Are there other art forms that you would like to develop or explore in addition to photography?
I develop several forms of art like music, painting, drawing, martial arts and more since very young. I do what I do because I need to express unsolvable questions I carry inside. Video, photography, drawing… they are only paths. I just adapt the form to the substance, so I have no limit in exploration.
L: What is one of the most important questions that you ask yourself, or would like to inspire others to ask, through your photographs?
TD: I have no practical questions to inspire others to ask. I like when people are disturbed in their everyday life, when they start to face their own problems and fears. Art, like philosophy, is not made to avoid or hide darkness, but to light it up.
L: Could you list 5 (or more) words that you were thinking about when you made this work (shown in Laatikkomo)?
TD: I could summarize what I had in mind with these two words from Heraclitus : Everything passes.
Thank you so much Tao!!