Monday, April 30, 2007

Daniel Lobo's "Back To Work" at Artomatic 2007

Part self-portrait and part economic anthropology, Back To Work, which is the work and concept of Urban Designer and Researcher Daniel Lobo is more than just a photographic series of people walking to and from work.

Though the Artomatic 2007 - "Back To Work" installation of over 300 images follows Lobo's commute to and from his Columbia Heights residence in northwest Washington DC which he shares with his wife, Elena, this particular "Back To Work - urban and social narrative" represents a recent one year span of the Back To Work project. And is only one of Daniel Lobo's many ongoing conceptual projects.

The Back To Work collection which includes images taken in the Americas, Europe, and Asia, dating back to 1992, began with 35 mm film and, as such, since many negatives of his early work have not yet been processed his Back To Work archive includes many never before been seen images.

Hoping always to inspire others to undertake similar conceptual and self-portrait projects Lobo's "Artomatic 2007 - Back To Work" photographic series is more than just a wall of 300 or so images depicting the backs of people that he photographed along his commute route to and from work in Washington DC, over the past year.

Born in Madrid, after an early career in contemporary art he moved to England where he graduated with a degree in City Design and Social Science from the London School of Economics.

Spending the past seven years participating in urban planning and cultural development initiatives in the Washington DC area, 30-something Daniel Lobo has also been a frequent freelance researcher/reporter and contributor to several publications including the New Partisan, A Journal of Culture, Arts & Politics where he authored "What's Wrong With MLB in DC". And World Changing - Washington DC. See recent articles A Growing Open Source Community dated 3 November 2006 and Green Camouflage dated 4 February 2007.

As the Project Manager of Community Design at the American Institute of Architects, Mr. Lobo develops and supports programs to sustain livable communities including disaster assistance and neighborhood development. And, as as result, travels throughout the country in places such as Tucson, Arizona, Louisville, KY, Syracuse, NY, to name a few.

A member of the American Planning Association, Mr. Lobo also sits on the Board of Directors of Shaw EcoVillage, a non-for profit organization dedicated to provide opportunities to youth to be effective advocates for meaningful and sustainable change in Washington DC’s urban neighborhoods.

View his flickr photo sets to gain a better perspective of his travels and photography.

It was through flickr that I first became acquainted with Daniel in the summer of 2005. Several things about his photography caught my attention, immediately, including his interests in architecture, street photography and graffiti. And, of ocurse, his Back To Work series which brought to mind my In Hindsight and Pedestrian Traffic series.

Here is a better list of Daniel Lobo's interests and contributions.

As a result of his posting my self-portrait Election Day 2006 photo to his blog which speaks on the issue of why many black males can not vote, Daniel suggested that we meet for coffee or tea, in January 2007, after his return from Spain and Syracuse, so as to get better acquainted with the nature of our art. Since we seem to have similar interests and in some cases had visited or photographed some of the same events almost at the exact same time. But, had never, met each other nor knew who the other was.

Our schedules did not permit us to meet until Tuesday evening, 24 April 2007, when we agreed to meet at Artomatic 2007. Though the Artomatic meeting was suggested by Daniel for the purpose of interviewing me it also served as a perfect opportunity for me to learn more about him and the nature of his work.

Without going too much into detail regarding the interview, since this posting is about Daniel a most important realization that we discussed was - though our purpose and sometimes foci are very similar the underlying currrent that affects, influences and, perhaps, shapes the differences in our technique lies in the difference in our experiences pertaining to racism.

The very ways that we use our cameras and other equipment as well as the types of equipment and means by which we report are very much connected to the racism that I have experienced and, in his case, the freedoms or priviledges that he is afforded as a male of European descent.

Like Daniel Lobo who represents a new form of the conceptural artist, I regard my work not only as visual documentations of our times and the world in which we live but, also, as a means by which to shed light on my personal story and our collective history. Literally, and not unlike Daniel, photographing most places that I go. Thereby, recording the path that I travel while in the process learning about and reporting on my surroundings.

Daniel's Back To Work Artomatic 2007 is not only a photographic installation displayed on the walls of Artomatic 2007 but through flickr it is also a virtual exhibition. Where viewers from around the world or even the subject depicted in a particular picture may actually view the photos' EXIF data and other details.

I know that whenever I view pictures or revisit photo collections that I took in the past I almost always recall exactlly what I was going through, at the time. And, as a photographer, I always get a certain amount of pleasure when someone who I do not know contacts me regarding a picture that they came across on the internet that I took of them. Who, in the process of thanking me for having captured them will then shed light on what they were experiencing, at the time. Or mention what memories the picture brings to their mind.

Similarly, when I learned that a photo of Anise Jenkins had been included in the Back To Work Artomatic 2007 series I made sure to inform Daniel of Anise Jenkin's contact information.

And a perfect example of how one may particiapte in, collaborate with or craft their own such project is reflected in Lobo's Back To Work video which features the music of cellist Julia Kent performing Barajas. Having come across Back To Work, when Julia Kent contacted Daniel Lobo for his permission in her use of some of the images in one of her projects, since his work is in the public domain he, of course, said yes. And, in turn, she agreed that Daniel could use her performance of Barajas as background music for his Back To Work video.

Though Daniel Lobo says that he is more pessimistic now than in years past, his Back To Work series, at least from my perspective, represents his ability to move forward. And, as depicted in each picture - one step at a time.

When I reflect on his career, interests and contributions I see Daniel Lobo more as a visionary. And as one who travels throughout the world researching and reporting on urban issues - it is not difficult to understand why he may experience feelings of pessimism. Feelings that I think may be more associated with realism as opposed to pessimisim.

Similar to my reaction to racism, while I regard myself as being positive, history has taught me that the impact of racism on my life is worst now than it ws 25 years ago. Pessimistic I am not. but, a realist - I am.

Thanking me for having met with him at Artomatic on the evening before, in an email on the following day Daniel suggested that I take a look at "the ideal of the flaneur - the urban walker". Which, though I had not ever heard of, defines the nature of my photography since my first visits to WDC in the fall of 1972. A form of photography, that inspite of almost 35 years of racism I am still practicing. As evidenced by my Friday, Saturday and Sunday photo walks.

Until Daniel, I had no idea that what I was practicing is a form flaneurism.

Like I said, Daniel Lobo is a visionist who has the ability to see things that others can not.

In the same email, Daniel says "... I began to fantasize about galleries without a facade, open (even to the weather) that give a different meaning to the idea of bringing the art - as a social/political/personal platform - from the street to the gallery because the gallery remains street and thus it does not sell an object, it is accessible, and if anything it lives from exchanging ideas and opening new avenues. Truly opening the space to the street."

Inviting others to participate in a new form of conceptual art, with the use of the internet and public domain, Daniel Lobo is not only able to see things that others can not but, through his work as an urban designer and cultural development he, undoubtedly, will turn some of his dreams and visualizations into reality.

Click above photo to view access my Daniel Lobo's "Back To Work" Artomatic 2007 photoset which is part of my Artomatic 2007 collection.

When visiting Artomatic 2007 check out Daniel Lobo's "Back To Work" on the 8th floor at Space: Green 8E7.

It will change your perspective ...

Inspired by Daniel Lobo's Back To Work I am now contemplating similar photographic installations of Dupont Circle 1992 - 2006 and Dupont Circle 2007.

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