Tania Franco Klein (b. 1990) started her photography praxis while gaining her BA Architecture in Mexico City, which took her to pursue her Master in Photography at the University of the Arts London.

Her work is highly influenced by her fascination with social behavior and contemporary practices such as leisure, consumption, media overstimulation, emotional disconnection, the obsession with eternal youth, the American dream in the Western world and the psychological sequels they generate in our everyday life.

Franco-Klein work has been reviewed and featured by international critique including Aperture Foundation, The British Journal of Photography, Fisheye Magazine and I-D Magazine (UK), Der Greif, amongst others. And has been exhibited in London, Budapest, Mexico, Spain, France, Germany, New York, Vermont, Photo Basel and during the Los Angeles Month of Photography 2017 by Lucie Foundation. She has obtained the Sony World Photography Awards, The Lensculture Exposure Awards, The Felix Schoeller Photo Award of Germany Nominee, amongst others.

PROJECT SPOTLIGHT: Our Life in The Shadows

2016 - 2017

Influenced by the pursuit of the American Dream lifestyle in the Western World and contemporary practices such as leisure, consumption, media overstimulation, eternal youth, and the psychological sequels they generate in our everyday private life. The project seeks to evoke a mood of isolation, desperation, vanishing, and anxiety, through fragmented images, that exist both in a fictional way and a real one.

Philosopher Byung-Chul Han says we live in an era of exhaustion and fatigue, caused by an incessant compulsion to perform. We have left behind the immunological era, and now experience the neuronal era characterized by neuropsychiatric diseases such as depression, attention deficit, hyperactivity disorder, burnout syndrome and bipolar disorder.

The constant need to escape, to always look outside. My characters find themselves almost anonymous, melting in places, vanishing into them, constantly looking for any possibility of escape. They find themselves alone, desperate and exhausted. Constantly in an odd line between trying and feeling defeated. 

When and where did Our Life in The Shadows begin? 

I started this project as an autobiographical work while being in California for a period in 2016. I wasn’t really sure at the beginning how the series would end up looking, I just had a big need to translate a lot of the emotional and physiological states I saw in me and people around me, to my work. I can't separate my experiences from my practice, so in a way, it is an extension of my life. I also compliment my own thoughts and emotions with theory. In this case, I implemented ideas from The Burnout Society (Byung-Chul Han) into my life and into my work. It was really important to translate a personal topic into a general one; into something we all experience and we can all relate. That book in particular I actually found it in a bizarre way on a library 4 months before starting the project. I didn’t thought of making a project out of it at all. But then after the beginning stages of the series I realized that everything I was trying to talk about was related to that theory. That was when the work started having a life of its own separated from myself. 

The project began with self-portraits and still life’s that reflected my personal experiences. As the project evolved, it became multilayered. I began exploring ideas from the same topic, that wasn't necessarily drawn from my own experiences.

I think the emotions that I depict in my work are usually the ones that are deemed as negative, but nonetheless emotions that we are all familiar with and experience alone. I think that we all drift between the duality of emotions of what we are experiencing and what we transmit to the world. I also try to explore topics that I feel are not usually talked about because I think there is an obsession with positivity and no space to learn to cope with anything that might threaten what that implies. This series has allowed me to openly talk about these ideas with people I know and also with strangers. I have realized how relieving it can be to empathize and hear the stories of others.

Where do you see this project going?

The series is in its final stage. I feel like I already accomplished what I wanted with the series and it’s been more than a year already (I could go on to be honest, but I think is important to make closure when the work asks for it. And is not a permanent closure, is more like going to the next step). This series took me to a completely different way of creating work. I used to make a whole preproduction project and then would do the production and postproduction, almost like a cinema planning, for my last projects, but for Our Life in The Shadows I let the work develop through time. I would create work and constantly go back and edit at the same time. So it was more of a circular process and I think that allowed the work to evolve through time and mature. 

I already had the opportunity to have a solo show along with multiple group exhibitions with this work worldwide. And hopefully more will come. This work has had me travel a lot this year and has opened a lot of doors that I never thought possible, which has been more than amazing.

As it is such a wide series, it is possible to make completely different shows depending on the curation process. 

I am also currently working on the process of making a book with it, which is a completely different approach to the work and is really interesting to learn and experiment how to take the same project into different mediums as each one has a completely different potential and approach.

What helps you sustain your current creative practice?

In the moment I am fully dedicated to my photographic practice. I currently hold a year scholarship by a Mexican institution and have had the chance to sell my work worldwide which has allow me to continue working on my projects full time. 

I get really inspired by social theory books or just random articles of science, astronomy, social behavior and current measures of our times. I also belong to a really interesting process of making books in Mexico city called incubator in a place called Hydra where we gather around every two months to work for 10 full days on bookmaking with different editors around the world and I learn a lot from my peers.

On a daily basis I discuss photography with my boyfriend, he is also a photographer and although our methodology and work is quite different we continuously inspire each other and learn from each other, which is quite relieving as this type of practice can get very lonely at times. 

To be honest, though, I try and work as much as I can, for me, having space to NOT DO is also super important. My favorite things always come out of giving myself space and not overwhelming myself on my work. 

What’s next for you?

I have no idea what the future holds. Hopefully I continue meeting people that inspire me and also inspire people with my work. In the end, the most important for me, is to be able to open a door to reflect on topics that remain inside invisible layers on our society and connect with people through it. I hope I can continue to fund my life with the work that I love to do and that I can continue exploring without pressure to fit-in in whatever trend is happening in the industry. I like to see people creating different work and being genuine whatever that means for each person.