MADRID.- The young Swiss artist Yann Gross obtained the PHE 2008 Descubrimientos Prize for his series Horizonville, a work that analyses the subject of identity.
This group of photographs portrays life in several places in the Swiss Rhone valley in the Valais canton.
The exhibition comprises approximately 50 photographs in which Gross portrays the inhabitants of an area close to one of Switzerland's major tourist spots who, fascinated by the American lifestyle, have adopted its sense of aesthetics and hobbies.
Without having ever visited the United States, the protagonists of Horizonville, completely seduced by this country, copy everything they have seen on television or in films, living their own American dream and developing a sense of belonging to a culture that they actually do not know.
Yann Gross (Vevey, Switzerland, 1981) studied visual communication and photography at Lausanne's University of Art and Design. He has prepared photo essays on various subjects as well as assignments for clients such as Prism Clothing and Inout Designers. Since 2005 he has participated in group exhibitions at the Zurich Design Museum and Photokina in Cologne, and in 2008 he entered the Piece Of Cake (POC) collective. His work merited the Lucky Strike Junior Designer Award, the Vevey Grand Prix International de Photographie, the Swiss Press Photo Award and an art grant from the State of Valais, Switzerland. In 2008 he was also nominated as one of the years 13 Emerging Photographers by the American Photo magazine. His latest work Kitintale skates, portrays young Ugandan practicing skateboard.
PHE- What were your beiginnings like in visual arts?
Yann Gross- I always was interested in photography, but I started with several medias. I used to work as an illustrator & graphic designer. But at the end, photography became my favorite media. It permits me to leave the computer and discover what surrounds our everyday life, out of our walls.
PHE- How has your work evolved since the photographs we see in the PHotoEspaña exhibit up to today?
YG- Actually, I dont think it evolved a lot, because it was only year ago
Regarding the project, I definitely want to add some pictures and take some off, but at the moment its quite my style of photography.
Im trying always trying my limits further, and now I need to start a new project.
PHE- Which of your projects was the most difficult to face?
YG- Each project is difficult at the beginning, you need to get contacts and to be accepted as a photographer. Once your are in and people understand what you want to do, everything is fine.
But the project that take me a lot of energy and time, is my avalanche project. I have been working on for 5 years now, and I was only able to make 7 pictures. There so many factors in that project, that makes it almost impossible
PHE- Could you explain us a little bit your work Horizonville? Whi did you decided to do it?
YG- Well, the area where I live is quite quiet, and I was looking for some adventures
I used to spend a lot of time in the mountains, but was always wondering who was living in the villages below, in the valley.
Nobody stops there, because when you go to the mountains, I take a highway that goes straight trough the valley and brings you immediately in the touristic resorts.
There a lot of ochard, wineyards, graveyards and petrol tanks in the valley, so theres no interest stopping there at the first sight.
But, once I decided to visit a bar located between two tanks, in a industrial zone. There was a rumour about that place, but I didnt know anybody who has ever been there. It was supposed to be a dangerous place where hells angels and other bikers used to meet.
Finally I spent almost my entire summer in the bar, meeting people and asking about their experiences and dreams
It came out, the place was a kind of oasis where people could escape from everyday life (most of them living were working class people).
Then, the next summer, I wanted to push the work and getting more involved in it myself, so I decided to be part of that world and become a biker myself, by riding a small motorbike (it couldnt go faster than 30km/h). I went on a road trip in the valley during three months, looking for exotism in my own country. I wanted to see something else than the usual clichés I had regarding my area. So, I decided to depict a dreamed world by associating several images I took during my trip. But, at the same time, it was important to me to keep it in a documentary way. So I never invented a situation or staged any picture.
PHE- What projects are you currently working on?
YG- I work on the Horzionville book project, which should come out next year. Im heading back to Uganda for a few weeks this summer to work in the suburb of Kampala and Im going to organize a workshop in Kirghizistan with contemporary artists in Autumn.
At the moment, I try to travel as much as possible, but Ill probably work again on Switzerland quite soon.
PHE- What are your plans for the future?
YG- Id like to keep on working with people and communities im somehow related to... Im really interested the way people come together. Everybody has need a sense of belonging to a group or a family. You become happy when you can share something with someone else
I sometimes I think about making movies as well, I did some trials and I really enjoyed it. It brings me a step ahead, and I definitely think I could mix it with my photography.