Tania Franco Klein’s best photograph: lost in the California desert

November 21, 2019

Interview by Edward Siddons

The Guardian
21 NOVEMBER 2019

Tania Franco Klein,  Car, Window  (Self-portrait), from  Proceed To The Route , 2018

Tania Franco Klein, Car, Window (Self-portrait), from Proceed To The Route, 2018

A few years ago, my boyfriend and I took a trip to Joshua Tree national park in southern California. We stopped for a bathroom break at a gas station in a small town and bumped into a crazy guy. Talking to him opened our eyes: we realized there were so many of these places littered along the highway, sort of like nowhere lands. It seemed like they were worth exploring.

This shot was taken in 2017 in one of those small towns in the California desert. It’s in the middle of nowhere, but something about it resonated with me. People live there in order not to be found. They don’t really want to interact with outsiders.

On one trip there, I found a house with loads of cars parked outside, almost as if they were abandoned. I’m a nervous person and I find talking to strangers quite difficult, especially in a place like this, so I didn’t ask for permission to take photographs. I had to hide myself between the cars and set up my equipment almost in secret.

This shot is a self-portrait but it doesn’t really have a story in a traditional sense, I’m more interested in the emotion of an image. I don’t plan a shot, I just search for a feeling. Here, I think it’s a sense of nostalgia. As humans we’re drawn to it – even nostalgia for the very recent past. There’s always this belief that the past was better in some way.

People often think I have these big, crazy productions behind my work. But it’s usually just me, alone, improvising with things or scenes that I find. Because I shoot self-portraits, I don’t need much else. There’s an independence to being alone.

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