Phillip Toledano is an editorial and commercial photographer who has also created several diverse personal photographic projects. His series A New Kind of Beauty, 2008-2009, includes portraits of people who have undergone radical reconstructive plastic surgery. In an earlier body of work, Days with My Father, Toledano tenderly documents his father in the two years before his death.
For his most recent project, Another America, Toledano used Midjourney, the artificial intelligence (AI) program, to create color as well as black-and-white images set in a fictionalized past. Toledano creates historical-looking photographs that look almost real. An image of a handsome boy in a beautiful coat, with several pigeons perched atop his scruffy hat, for example, or one of a fabulous fur-covered 1950s car depict scenes that could have existed. But the color photograph of an elegantly dressed lady whose hair is on fire is clearly fictional. Toledano’s photographs are paired with absurdist text by author, poet, and humorist John Kenney. In a text for the latter picture, Kenney writes that such fires commonly occurred because of the use of “Milk of Petroleum,” a precursor to Milk of Magnesia used to treat headaches. “Each bottle came with a tiny fire extinguisher,” writes Kenney, whose darkly humorous texts are a perfect match for Toledano´s photographs, shifting the series from realism into surrealism. Toledano´s otherworldly Another America project captures the confusion and deception – but also the artistic possibilities – of AI.