David Favrod Explores Dual Identity Through Japan and Switzerland


WordsSolenn Cordroc'h

Mishiko, 2012 ©David Favrod

In a tireless quest for identity, the Swiss-Japanese photographer David Favrod portrays his Japanese and Swiss roots in stories of photographic fictions.

Born in Kobe to a Japanese mother and a Swiss father, David Favrod was only six when he left Japan for Switzerland. At the age of 18, he applied for dual nationality from the Japanese embassy, ​​and was refused on the grounds that dual nationality was only granted to Japanese women who wished to take the nationality of their spouse. This feeling of rejection, coupled with his desire to assert his identity shaped by two cultures so different from each other, finally convinced him to undertake this photographic project.

Following his studies at the Lausanne School of Art, David Favrod began to devote himself to productions staged in Switzerland, incorporating the Japanese myths and stories told by his mother or grandparents and the specificities of Japanese culture and the shadow of the war. In Switzerland he began to reconstruct a Japan of which he felt he knew too little in a series of two diaries that report his family history, as well as his emotional state in the face of the universal question: ‘Who am I?’ In his biography, he writes: ‘For the Swiss I am a Japanese and for the Japanese I am a Swiss or rather a gaijin (Japanese word for a foreigner)’.

In an attempt to answer this question, Favrod created the series ‘Gaijin’, where Japanese symbols such as bonsai, Godzilla, a sumo or a geisha come to blend in with family portraits or self-portraits with the Swiss mountains as a backdrop.

Another of his series, ‘Hikari’, literally meaning light in Japanese, recreates the memories of his grandparents: the Second World War, the illness that had took away their sisters and the shame, relief once these episodes ended. These familial elements are intertwined in an inexhaustible source of inspiration for David Favrod who transcribes in his photographs the story of the bombing of Kobe for example, a story he did not experience but which is an integral part of his family history.

Pour Sadako, 2012 (For Sadako) ©David Favrod

Autoportrait en poulpe, 2009 (Self-portrait in octopus) ©David Favrod

Le Dôme, 2009 (The Dome) ©David Favrod