Teresa Freitas

Ilustration by: Vicente nirō

Interview by: João Miguel Fernandes

teresa freitas photography

Occupation: Photographer

Click here to read the interview in Portuguese


1 – Tell me about a moment in your childhood that has been important to you. 

I had a very normal childhood, filled with uneventful happiness. One of my favorite things was to watch my brothers playing video-games. I remember when one of them was playing a third-person shooter action-adventure on Nintendo 64, and I was so excited about it that my brother – with his brotherly patience – would invite me to watch every time he played. One of the tasks of this game was to find the missing pieces to rebuild the main character’s sidekick, a flying robot called Floyd. I remember being super happy when “we” finally got all the pieces. Shortly after, as usual, I was holding the second-player remote and randomly pressing buttons as my brother played, until I pressed one that made Floyd come to life, now controllable by me. I was incredibly excited – I could shoot some lasers and help my brother defeat the bad guys. This is the kind of moments I remember (and, if I remember them, they’re important to me somehow – I’m not one of those people who know what they had for lunch the day before yesterday).

2 – Which person (s) most influenced you in your life?

It’s tricky to avoid the “family” answer in this question. I actually think that I was influenced more by things than people. Like the Golden Rule of Confucius.

3 – What keeps us close and what keeps us afar from other human beings?

Magnetism. We have a side that attracts and another that repels, it depends which side we feel like facing when we get out of the bed in the morning.

“Photography has become democratic. Good photographers are still good photographers, but now we have more of them – because it became easy for everyone to discover and explore their potential in photography.”

4 – Digital evolution has revolutionized the way we share our work and how we can explore collaborations and new markets. How has this evolution changed the notion of photographing in general?

Above everything, it brought many – many – people into the world of photography, people that would never risk calling themselves photographers before. In the olden days, people who photographed with a film camera knew firsthand just how expensive and time-costly it would be. Photography was very serious and something you needed to truly commit to in order to make it work. Many didn’t succeed. Today, a lot of these people could have their images shown to an audience of thousands and more. Maybe they would succeed now. And these thousands are not – in their majority – gallerists, art critics or even involved with the art world. These thousands are people that have different careers, different ages and interests, spread around the world, and they can instantly make your success. Photography has become democratic. Good photographers are still good photographers, but now we have more of them – because it became easy for everyone to discover and explore their potential in photography.

5 – Your poetic style, with pastel colors, visual illusions and surreal elements reminds me of the work of some cinematographers like Robert Yeoman, Luciano Tovoli (in particular Suspiria from 1977) or Rafael Corkidi (in particular the film Holy Mountain ). Would you like to work in cinema?

Definitely. Cinema was and is one of the biggest influences in my work. Edward Scissorhands, for example, (a movie that I probably was too young to watch when I did, resulting in a series of nightmares at the time) has these incredible images of the american neighborhood where people lived. Those images stuck with me until today, much more than Edward’s creepy hands. One day, I’m going to make movies that are filled with this sort of images. Without that dreadful middle part where something has to go wrong in order to end things right. Small movies where nothing really good or bad happens: simple stories that are focused on the image, much more than the narrative.

6 – Some of your photos remind me of a specific part of the film “Dreams” by Akira Kurosawa, in which the protagonist enters one of Van Gogh’s paintings and meets the painter himself in his “universe”. This is because your work seems to me to be very “alive” and in “movement”. Did you ever think of developing your art in motion design? Or collaborate with a writer and create a kind of comic book with photographs?

I haven’t considered any of those possibilities. Although I’m a designer by training, I don’t feel my images would gain something of (my) interest from motion design. But a comic book with my photographs? That excites me. I’ll be waiting for proposals.

“There is an idea of utility – “don’t do arts because you are not going to be an artist” – so the idea that some subjects are useful and others aren’t. This way we might be denying the possibility of people discovering their potential and talents, whether they are interested in science, arts, humanities, etc. “

7 – In most of his films, Hayao Miyazaki portrays different phases of the seasons, focusing on their colors to give them personality, functioning as an element of a living character. When you photograph a landscape do you also consider it to be a living element? What is the main difference if you have a person in the shot at a preparation level?

When I choose what to photograph, I’m always looking for the same thing: pure visual pleasure. It starts from there. The aesthetic experience. It doesn’t need a story behind it, an idea or fit in a certain category. If it’s alive or dead, pardon the expression, isn’t really a concern. This is very much what Miyazaki’s movies gave me: they’re extraordinarily beautiful, with color schemes and elements that bring a feel-good sensation. There is a meaning in the tones that are used that helps us shape that feeling we get – the feeling they want us to get – when we’re looking at each image.

There’s not really a difference in preparation, but if it’s someone passing by on the other side of the street, I have to act fast – unlike when shooting a landscape. Or I’ll just have to wait that someone passes by again.

8 – In a previous interview you said that you used to capture what you saw and now you capture what you think. What you photograph now has a more strategic component and a more substantiated narrative than before?

When I said that I was at a point where my photographs were much less representative of reality than now. I ended up developing my work in a way that I still capture what I see, but I work each image afterwards so it becomes something slightly different. Something that exists, but at the same time it doesn’t. The cinematic look comes in.

9 – Surrealism is present in several of your works. Do you consider it essential to stretch your mind to different realities?

I don’t think it’s essential to everybody. It depends. What I do feel that is essential is that each person spends the most of their available time in learning and developing what they like or want to do well, do better. In my case, this is important. When I started photographing with my phone I did surreal edits that were very literal and ended up not being what I actually wanted to do. But I always liked that feeling of out-of-place/fantasy so I worked in that direction, until I reached a much more subtle effect that is more my cup of tea.

10 – How do you see the current situation of arts education in Portugal? What do you think should be changed or added?

I wouldn’t focus on the arts, but on education in general. We have an old learning system that works like an industrial process that is focused in producing certain types of people. There is a very clear hierarchy, where certain subjects are seen as being much more important than others, and eventually there is a complete separation of knowledge fields. As an effect, we end up alienating and disregarding a lot of children and young people that are attracted to other ways of working. There is an idea of utility – “don’t do arts because you are not going to be an artist” – so the idea that some subjects are useful and others aren’t. This way we might be denying the possibility of people discovering their potential and talents, whether they are interested in science, arts, humanities, etc. We end up splitting these subjects because we think they’re completely different between them and we don’t consider how the thinking process, the creative process, can be exactly the same – and how by learning one can bring advantages while learning the other. When we know we need and depend on creativity and innovation in the emergent economies, because technology is advancing at a ridiculous speed, the population is growing and there is a constant demand for the earth’s resources, we are not thinking of the digital natives that are in our schools right now and preparing them for it. Instead, we’re stuck with an ancient model that was created for the economies of the past.

11 – Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka is a manic, insane and psychotic being, while Johnny Depp’s is more goofy and comical. Which of the two do you identify with most and why is this character so relevant to you?

Thankfully I don’t really identify myself personally with either, but the idea of having a chocolate factory seems like an excellent life plan.

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