Hello Ana, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into photography?
Hi, Nicole, I'm an industrial design student and for the first two years of my undergrad, I had special photography classes. These classes were my first real contact with the field, granting me a way to express myself and talk about things other than just register family moments or travels. By the end of 2013, I decided to go on an exchange program to a university in Toronto, CA, where I spent a year focused on visual arts – especially photography, which I already knew would be an important part of my life and career.
You submitted work of your photo essay „Together“, which is about black and mixed race young women. What is this work about?
"Together" is about so many things! I and my work have always been connected with the themes of emotion, intimacy and stereotypes, in a sort of political way. My projects are usually about myself but in this project, I decided to make things different. I wanted to have other women with me, women that go through similar experiences and that many times are labelled the same way as I am. I wanted to talk about love and support between us, about our sensibilities, our bodies, our beauty.
More than half of the Brazilian population is black or mixed. We have the largest African diaspora in the world but it still doesn't mean that the aesthetics of this group are seen and represented on the traditional mass media. Even though that has been changing a bit lately, we, as culture, still follow many European centred beauty standards. The effects of that on the young black and mixed Brazilian woman can be really serious, leading us to a sad story of internalised hate, low self-esteem and depression.
Another issue we have to deal with is the myth of the strong black woman that can support and survive anything, adding to the general idea that women are too sensitive and need to learn to contain themselves. This can lead to deep and dangerous suppression of emotions.
So you can imagine what it means for us to have a space to celebrate our emotions, our beauty and aesthetics, a moment to celebrate the union, friendship, love. As a brazilian philosopher and feminist Sueli Carneiro says, we need to claim our right to be, as black women, fragile, vulnerable, worth of care since through history that has been taken away from us.
We live in 2017 and unfortunately, there is still a lot of racism in the world. I was surprised to read, that even in Brazil there is made a big difference between white and Black/ Mixed people. Can you help us to understand what’s the reason for this?
There is always a big difference being made between white people and the other ethnicities. Things have been complicated since European countries decided to go around colonising the world, separating people in "us" and "them", with the last group being taken as less worthy, less human and less developed.
In Brazil, the last country to end slavery, the black population became officially free only in 1888, less than 150 years ago. For the most part of our history, black lives and bodies have been violently exploited and excluded. The official end of slavery didn't mean preparation, inclusion or acceptance in the Brazilian white society. Instead, we had official government moves trying to whiten the population – to make it look more like Europe – like for example, the encouragement of migration from European countries and other places to Brazil. We had theories that propagated the idea that we, as a country, would only be civilised and developed once we were more white. Because of that, even after 1888, Brazilian black population kept being excluded, marginalised, criminalised, killed.
We can say that a lot changed for the better, but we are still far from equality in a country ruled by white rich – and many times untouchable – men with no intention of seriously talking about these deep-rooted inequalities. In a country like this, where race still dictates class and social position, it's harder to have strong black representation in the mass media, on the universities and governments, for example.
Anyway, we will fight and we will shine!
We all know, that there shouldn’t be made a difference about skin tones, gender, religion or sexual orientation of people. We are all one and the best would be to care for each other and live respectfully together. Do you think especially women have a worse standing in Brazilian society? Unfortunately, yes. If not even in countries considered rich, developed and stable – politically and economically – we see equality between men and women imagine here!
High numbers of domestic violence and femicide, deep conservatory views and politics on abortion, low representation in academic, political and business environments, ultra sexualization of the female body… These are things that we face here in Brazil and that show the urgency of change.
What do you think could help to change this?
Men need to stop thinking they can talk for us, decide for us, govern for us, create for us. We need to break into these environments dominated by white man. Women also urgently need to create space for ourselves, create unity and support each other because we are stronger together.
Let’s talk about your workflow. What were you looking for when you captured your images? Did you have a certain vision about the composition?
I had certain feelings that I wanted the photos to incorporate and some few compositions to try, but things developed very easily with the girls involved. We all knew each other, and I believe it created a comfortable space for the moments and consequently for the images to be developed.
There were also some art direction choices. I had very clear in my mind the colours I wanted and how the poses should feel intimate and delicate. I was looking for beauty, vulnerability but also strength, supportive and positive relationships.
What would be the best compliment you’ll get for „Together“?
That's a hard question for me… I think it would be someone saying that felt represented on my images, that felt deeply touched by them and what they mean.
Thanks a lot, Ana…
Thanks a lot, Nicole, for this conversation and for the space you've created for us women.