Project Space: Alex Dorfsman: Rolodex
by Leslie Moody Castro
I was recently struck by an overwhelming sense of awe when I visited the studio of photographer Alex Dorfsman. As one of the foremost and youngest photographers that has come from Mexico City, Dorfsman's work has continually astonished me. It's always beautiful and breathtaking. The formal elements are balanced with the intricacies of whatever is on the other side of his lens, and his commitment to beauty and nature results in photographs that are impossible to imagine as real places.
That day, however, Dorfsman was almost giddy to show me his latest project.
Titled Rolodex, the project was conceived when Dorfsman stumbled upon an antique Rolodex in a market. The Rolodex was still full of phone numbers, contact information, address and notes from the owner who obviously cherished it enough to keep everything contained in such an organized fashion. In our current fashion we are all accustomed to the digitization of our contacts and information, and the contrast of the antiquated item made it all the more precious. Indeed, as Dorfsman was describing the object, it was clear that he was seeing this Rolodex as something that had once been imbued with a life of its own: it was a tangible object that served as a metaphor for personal connections, associations and how these things are archived. This is where the project began.
Dorfsman embarked on a research process that is dizzying. He began to research the main influences in his work, life and the references that were important to his development as a human being. He relied heavily on the internet to provide images that he would normally not have access to, he mixed these images with his own, printed them and filed them away in a democratic alphabetical order, where Madonna was among the same classification of "M" as his mother. Naturally one influence would weave its way to many more, and the list began to grow as Dorfsman's archive of visual references grew. Suddenly the lines of authorship began to blur. The printed images from the internet imbibed with the same sense of authorship as the ones he had taken himself. Indeed, this process was natural, as both sets of photos were associations taken from his own life, history, relationships and memories.
But this was only phase one.
After amassing the information and images associated with this information the artist began to remove the images from the alphabetical classification which he had originally given them, and instead began to recognize their formal associations, pairing them in classifications that are endless. What remains is a large, endless crossword puzzle of visual associations. It extends, meticulously and beautifully, one image leading to the next in a gorgeous web of visual associations that the artist has created, and that map his own personal history. For the viewer, the personal references are lost and unimportant as the overwhelming amount of images extends in every direction, allowing the eye to focus on the beauty of the photos themselves.
Rolodex still remains a work in process, and after my conversation with the artist I realize that it may never be finished considering his list of references continues to grow daily. His process of documentation and research is exciting, and the project is ambitious. After all, when was the last time you made a list of all the references you've had that shaped and molded the direction of your life and career?
Leslie Moody Castro is an independent writer and curator living in Mexico City.