Phillip Toledano

During the first hangout for documentary students, Maurice Timmermans mentioned photographer Phillip Toledano. Here are a few brief notes:

Days With My Father


A series of intimate portraits, taken over three years documenting with humour and kindness Toledano’s father and his failing health and memory. I find the work extremely affecting, poignant and clearly full of love and respect. The intimacy in the photographs is evident and only possible because of the close relationship the photographer clearly has with his father. This sort of work is impossible to fake, an example of how integrity of purpose is such an important tool to use in connecting photographer and audience. The series reminds me of the last years of my grandparents and the difficulty this presented as their needs grew and health deteriorated. And yet, there was much positive during this time, memories of quiet moments of intimacy that are precious to me. The work also makes me consider mortality in general, mine and those close to me. I wonder what the future holds for me and what kind of effect this will have on my children.

Although Maurice cited being influenced by ‘The Many Lives of Philip Toledano’, I am struck by the similarities in this series and his submission for assignment 5 ‘You Cannot Not Communicate’ which features photographs of his father who suffers from dementia. Maurice was unsure about submitting this for his final assignment as he felt it was too easy. Personally, I believe it is an extremely affecting work, full of authenticity that I aspire to capture in my own photographs.

The Many Lives of Phillip Toledano

‘The Many Lives of Philip Toledano’ is a series of self portraits in which the photographer imagines himself in a number of hypothetical alternative universes. I find this quote from Toledano compelling: “Photography is always about the past. The moment the picture is taken, it’s behind us, in history. This project is about the future. But how do you research what has not yet occurred?” (Wiseman, 2015)

Toledano uses prosthetics to alter his appearance for these pictures, some of which are more convincing than others, I wonder if this deliberate – an attempt to emphasise the artifice of the images? These are undoubtedly accomplished photographs which show a great deal of work on the part of Toledano, not only in physical terms as he approached the project like a method actor researching each persona. For example, for this image,  he consulted with fortune tellers, hypnotists, numerologists and palm readers in order to arrive at his persona. Although the physical transformation using prosthetics was a challenge, Toledano refers to the greater burden of the emotional impact which often hit the hardest, for example, this image in which he envisages himself being homeless.


Toledano, P. (2010) Phillip Toledano: Days with my father. The Guardian, 16th May 2010. Available at: [accessed 24th August 2017]

Wiseman, E. (2015) The many lives of Phillip Toledano – in pictures. The Guardian, 11th July 2015. Available at: [accessed 19th February 2017]

One thought on “Phillip Toledano

  1. Bryn says:

    Hi Michael,

    Nice recollection of the hangout.

    You mention this type of photography is impossible to fake. I wonder if it is more a case of if it would be ethical to fake? In Part three there is a project on performative documents which completely changed my thinking on the matter and subsequently ethics in Part four.

    Always nice to revisit some older discussions. I’m looking at this in hindsight wondering would I think the same if I had read all the coursework before I wrote some of my conclusions to earlier exercises and case studies. Perhaps even me writing this is a form of influence.


    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.