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It is clear that we as humans are shaped by our environment. When that environment is an urban landscape dominated by the presence of technology, the shift of the human consciousness begins to develop. David Gaberle is a spectator with a lens behind this phenomena in his photobook project Metropolight – which has been sold to more than 40 countries and featured in prominent media outlets such as the British Journal of Photography and The Guardian. As a Fujifilm brand ambassador, his photographs have been exhibited in his home country in the Czech Republic, as well as in Poland, Belgium, Romania and Japan.
interview by Zaeren Momand2 / 13
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Your photobook project Metropolight is a record of the struggle of staying human within the urban environment – what elements within the urban landscape do you find to challenge the human condition?
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I would say it’s the amount of pressure people experience. People go to incredible lengths to reach certain levels of living and fulfill theirs’ and other peoples’ expectations of them. It’s dangerous in that we can lose sight of what the genuinely fulfilling aspects of our lives are. The way cities are constructed further complements the goal-oriented culture instead of cultivating a more considerate environment that doesn’t neglect the individuals’ experience. The challenge is to continually bring to awareness the ways we’re coerced into whatever social roles we are expected to take on, and examine whether or not these are in line with who we are and what we wish for.
In 2016, as an official Fujifilm ambassador, you participated in an international exhibition in Tokyo at the Fujifilm Square and the 18 under-40 Et Cetera Fotografie exhibition in the Czech Republic. What had interested you in becoming a Fujifilm ambassador? And which Fujifilm photographer's work have you come to admire?
Actually, the first-generation Fujifilm X100 was a camera that I felt freed me photographically in many ways. I haven’t come across a brand that produces cameras that focus on a smooth shooting experience as much as Fujifilm does, so when they asked me to become an ambassador, I didn’t see a reason not to accept. I don’t really care much about the cameras other people are using as far as their photos are good, so I don’t even know how many of the photographers I enjoy who actually shoot with Fujifilm cameras. I know Gueorgui Pinkhassov was a Fujifilm ambassador once, he’s definitely had an influence on my work.5 / 13
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How has street photography helped perpetuate the 'pleasant illusion' of being in control? Would you feel you'd lose that control if working in other fields of photography?
I spoke of the illusion of being in control of my own attention while having a camera in my hands in contrast to the potentially overwhelming experience of not having a device that actually limits your attention in many ways. It just felt really comfortable not to have to deal with the sensory overload in cities directly, but through the lens of the camera. It’s an illusion in that I never control what happens around me, but the camera at least helps me feel like I can change the way I perceive it. There is an amount of freedom that’s specific for street photography too, in that what happens in front of the camera is inherently out of your control. You can’t make the scene look better but simply have to see it better. I like that challenge.7 / 13
Lighting in Metropolight seems to take on a very important role, is there a particular reason for why you juxtapose lights and shadows in the way you do?
I guess I like the tension the contrast brings. I like the light’s power to accentuate whatever it is that caught my attention, but I couldn’t do that if everything else was bright in the photo as well. Light has an enormous power to direct our gaze and define the mood of a photograph and it just feels really pleasant to be exploring that.
You finished your anthropology degree with a dissertation exploring the autoethnographic aspect of street photography in relation to understanding the urban mentality. What did you conclude from your research? Was this where the seed of Metropolight would soon blossom from?
Photographs tell just as much, if not more, of the photographer than of the subject he or she photographs. I concluded that the huge amounts of street photography that is being produced these days is a fascinating window into understanding the way we perceive and experience the cities we live in, and that it is an untapped source of information. The dissertation topic is something I think of a lot anyway, so I don’t think it particularly influenced the book itself.8 / 13
Will you continue to explore the human condition within the urban landscape in your next project?
I think so, although probably not as directly related to architecture as in the case of Metropolight. Street photography is a genre with a bad reputation for being detached and impersonal, which is undoubtedly the case for a lot of work out there, but I think it has a potential to speak on broader societal levels when done well. I want to explore that possibility a little more and see if I’m good enough to do it right.9 / 13
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