GIFs by Brandon Tauszik
Interview via emails, April 2017
When did you transition to GIFs, and what sparked that?
I moved to Oakland six years ago and was feeling a bit bored with my creation of digital stills, maybe due to the lack of process involved. Having worked professionally with video since a teenager, the GIF seamed like this unexplored hybrid between both mediums – incorporating video’s passing of time with photography’s arresting aspects. Although mostly used for jokes and memes, there’s something deeply satisfying about watching a perfectly looped GIF.
I began wondering how the format could be used in the documentary space for work living expressly on screens. Tapered Throne began with me testing and experimenting here in Oakland, but after a few years ended up as a completed GIF-based project living online.
Tell us about the Syria Street project.
Last year I received a commission from the International Committee of the Red Cross to create a GIF-based portrait on one of the many regions they serve. We discussed numerous ideas and locations until we landed on Syria Street in Tripoli, Lebanon.
The project documents the tensions between two adjacent neighborhoods, one Sunni Muslim, the other Alawite Muslim, aligned as they are with different sides in the Syrian civil war. They have engaged each other in close combat, suicide bombings and tit-for-tat attacks. Ironically, the two sects are separated by a street named after the war torn country only a forty minute drive away.
I spent time there making work with a cross section of people from both sides and brought them together as one collective voice. Within that voice there are shared beliefs, as well as discord. After the shoot it took me around five months to complete the edit and work with the web firm on layout and design. The finished experience is mobile-friendly and trilingual in English, French and Arabic.
What's something you learned in Lebanon that you weren't expecting?
Lebanon is a small country, only a little larger than the state of Delaware and bordered by a sea, an anarchic Syria and a volatile Israel. I wasn’t aware of the astounding religious diversity that exists within Lebanon’s borders. With 18 different sects all living in fragile harmony, it’s the most religiously diverse country in the Middle East.
The fighting in Tripoli initially appeared to me as purely sectarian. However when you peal back the layers it unfolds into this complex web in which various actors are instigating and exploiting the violence there. On the Macro level there are large regional powers (Iran and Saudi Arabia) fanning the flames of Sunni/Alawite tensions as a proxy war. On the national level there are politicians that vie for influence by arming and funding various militias. And on the street level there is a chronic poverty that plagues the people of Tripoli. Through the making of this work I’ve learned that causes of human conflict are entangled and in many cases it’s the poor that pay the highest price.
With 18 different sects all living in fragile harmony, it’s the most religiously diverse country in the Middle East.
In what fashion do your projects usually develop?
Syria Street was a little different in that it was a commission, but usually the process is rather slow and frustrating. Reading and note taking and pondering. Sometimes I wish it was more immediate, but that’s not how my brain works. Apart from longer term projects I’m always making single still images and portraits which contribute to a larger, cumulative body of work.
Who are folks that you're inspired by?
Lately I've been really into the work of British photographer Peter Fraser. He has a way of melding the creation of the document with a free form act of consciousness that’s hard to put a finger on. I definitely recommend checking out his monograph that Tate published.
What compels you to make work?
I’m fascinated by the mechanics of our world and the myriad of ways in which humans live within those mechanics. Art examines that makeup while at the same time existing as a small part of it all. Crazy.