“What we see in magazines and adverts is a lie and I think that is sick. The subtlety in photography is disappearing.”
Teresa Sa is a contemporary photographer from Portugal presently based in London, England. For Teresa Sa photography means finding her own view of reality and creating a visual representation of it with its own beauty.
She aims to keep things natural by using light and composition rather than applying excessive post-production techniques.
Interview with Teresa Sa
Teresa, you originally studied literature and cinema. How did both lead you to become a photographer? And how have both subjects influenced your photography?
They’re all forms of storytelling.
One subject you have recently been dealing with in you photography is the “over used digital transfiguration on photography”. What exactly do you mean by that?
The manipulative air brushing culture especially in fashion and beauty photography. An audience that aims expressionless features without wrinkles and with perfect bodies. What we see in magazines and adverts is a lie and I think that is sick. The subtlety in photography is disappearing.
How do you deal with that subject photographically?
On my portraiture work I don’t airbrush “flaws” as it’s part of who we are. I believe something is really wrong if we don’t allow imperfection in way we look.
The excitement of photography for me is to reveal beauty using the composition, the settings, all what takes to make a photograph. It’s not about the hours in front of a screen airbrushing someone’s wrinkles and imperfections just because it looks better because that in the end it’s a lie.
“It’s a matter of finding our own view or vision thorough the real world around us. And then create something different and with its own beauty.”
What makes photography so special is that we see what everybody sees, it’s not like painting or sculpture that you create some new reality. But it’s exactly the fact that we use the reality of what we see, it’s just a matter of finding our own view or vision thorough the real world around us. And then create something different and with its own beauty.
Why do you consider photography a suitable means to deal with personal matters?
It’s a catharsis.
Henri Cartier-Bresson once said something that I truly agree:
“In French, there is a phrase – petit mort, or ‘little death’ – that alludes to the orgasm. For me, photographing is like this.”
“It is a physical joy, a dance, space and time reunited. Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Like the end of Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’. To see is everything.”
I am a pack of nerves while waiting for the moment, and this feeling grows and grows and grows and then it explodes, it is a physical joy, a dance, space and time reunited. Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Like the end of Joyce’s “Ulysses”. To see is everything.
How has your personal work questioning basic concepts of visual imagery in today’s society influenced your editorial work? How do you keep a fresh mind?
I guess I have the same nostalgia in both works.
I try to keep myself inspired by watching movies, listening to music, reading and observing people. I love to find new voices that keep me inspired and love to feel almost hypnotized when I find some new great piece no matter if it’s a film, an album, a painting, or just something memorable.
Apart from shooting digital, you also enjoy analogue photography. Why?
Because of the grain, because of the colors (or if we are using b&w, the wonderful grain) because we can print large-scale, because you can play with different films, because of the sound of the shutter. I always take the same shot on the digital prior to shoot with the analogue and when compare it’s always a great difference between them.
Why do you consider it important to still be working the old-fashioned analogue way? And what can you learn from analogue photography that helps you to become a better digital photographer?
The old-fashioned way has some sort of poetry that the digital doesn’t have.
“To understand how the darkroom works I think is essential to become a photographer.”
With the digital way, everything is very fast. Sometimes you have to deliver the pictures the same day you shot them. It’s good when you have a few days between the photo-shoot and when you have the shots on the screen. You are not emotionally attached to them and therefore have a more objective critique.
But of course, for some commissions you don’t have time to wait and digital is the better option.
To understand how the darkroom works I think is essential to become a photographer.
Susan Sontag once said “The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually in one’s own”. How has photography changed the way you look at the world and what have you learnt about yourself?
It makes you observe instead of looking.
Every photographer is going through different stages in his formation. Which “landmarks” do you recall that have marked you and brought you to the place where you are today as a photographer?
The first time I saw an image appearing on the photographic sheet submersed on the developer.
Then it was when I purchased my first digital camera back in 2003.
Again when I got back to analogue (medium format) around 2010
Last but not least, let’s switch roles: Which question would you have liked to be asked in this interview about your work that I didn’t ask? Please feel free to add it – as well as the answer.
Q: My latest projects?
A: Apart from working on If I wake up before I die photo series, I am also working on my first script for a film I am trying to put together.