Conversation with photographer Tatiana SaavedraNovember 26, 2021
Featured photo Blue birds Act – I
Tatiana Saavedra graduated in Cinema at Universidade Lusófona, but confesses that, although she is passionate about cinema, it is in photography that she finds her element.
Even so, the map of her life shows several milestones of a rich career as a filmmaker, writer and director, and it was in this skin that she won the European competition “Cinema and Industry Alliance for Knowledge” in the 'Best Project' and 'Business Plan' categories.
The film premiered on DocLisboa in 2017 The Rest in the Intensity of Colors, this being just one of the many national and international film festivals in which he has been present.
Filmed and edited a 14-episode documentary series about Portuguese singers for the Brazilian network Globo; received an Honorable Mention at the Zon Award for the short film white board written and directed by her and in 2020 she wrote and directed for RTP, the series in five episodes Hi, how are you feeling? wrote and performed The Lucidity of the Absurd and Rest in the intensity of colors. Performed the animations: Coronavirus, the Unwanted Traveler, Storm Night, The Lost King, The Gypsy Boatman and The Legend of the Gypsy Violin.
Professionally, she collaborated for three years with TAP Air Portugal, where she was involved in the direction of communication, in the area of directing and photography.
As a photographer, she has been featured in national and international magazines such as Público, Revista RUA, Dodho Magazine, Our Culture Mag, Fisheye Magazine 2020, Cherry Deck, and many others.
With the photograph for the poster for the film Ouro sobre Azul, he won first prize at the Sophia Awards in 2019.
He has just arrived from Paris where he participated in the prestigious ImageNation exhibition.
For all this and for more that I would discover, I invited Tatiana for a chat and it was in the friendly tavern, at Graça, which she chose as the stage, where we had a pleasant and relaxed conversation, where we talked a little about everything.
Tatiana is, above all, a great communicator and a very interesting person, a serene person who believes that dialoguing, more than any other way, can overcome barriers; has a nostalgic soul; It's activist of peace and understanding and believes in positive thinking. Attentive to the movements of the Cosmos, she knows what she wants, but she doesn't stop looking and she searches for it in people, in the outside world and much in her inner self, which doesn't get tired of challenging, and which doesn't stop provoking until to the limit.
Artes & contextos – What is ImageNation?
Tatiana Saavedra – It is an international exhibition of contemporary photographers. It takes place annually in Paris, Milan and Los Angeles.
B.C - With how many works you participated.
TS - Common. All artists present a single work.
B.C - And how was the experience?
TS – I loved the exhibition. I'm suspicious, but I honestly think if I had gone to this exhibition without my work there, I would have enjoyed it just the same. I already knew most of the artists and I'm a fan of their work. Being a colleague at the show instead of a fan is weird.
B.C - Do you have anything else on the horizon?
TS – I have a collection of photographs that have not yet come out into the world and that I would love to exhibit in Portugal or Macau, which are the places I love most. If anyone reading this interview wants to make me a proposal or make this dream come true I would be very happy.
B.C - Is being a filmmaker or photographer in Portugal very complicated?
TS – Yes, and really in Portugal they only value you when they see you outside, you always need the approval of others. Until then they'll despise you, and yes, it really is. One sad thing I came across was the fact that there only started to be “sims” from magazines, etc., when they started to realize that it's already out there… this happened a lot and it makes me very sad, this is very small .
B.C - Have you ever considered leaving Portugal to work?
TS - I have already left, I even lived in China for this purpose, but Portugal after a while starts calling me like a magnet. When I was younger, I lived outside Portugal for many years. I was used to knowing what it's like to have one foot here and the other on the other side of the world. I grew up always missing being with family members, feeling their scent, affection and the sweet taste of their hugs. I think it made me a nostalgic person to go through these emotions and feelings. As soon as I made friends I had to move to another place, and it was adaptation after adaptation. So nowadays I really value being in my country, it's my home, where I feel complete, I don't like the feeling of being divided and feeling like I'm never full. That's why I learned to value Portugal and want to make a living here. Even though it is more difficult.
Like many other artists in Portugal, she realized that she was only “seen” in the middle, after international exposure, which she confesses makes her very sad.
B.C - When did you first realize that you wanted to be a photographer for the first time, in your childhood or adolescence?
TS – I always wanted to follow cinema, but my mother was against me following the arts. On the other hand, I always got good marks for languages and also as I lived in Germany she advised me to go for languages. I went, but once I was on the subway and I met a guy I hadn't seen for centuries and when I asked him how he was doing, he replied that he was making a movie. He had a twinkle in his eyes that when I got home he said: "it's over, I'm going to the movies, I can't stand another day of this". I was getting good grades and a very good average, but I decided to go to my father, who is in the United States, to learn editing programs etc. I spoke to him, he bought me the ticket, I left the Nova course halfway through and went. My mother was a little shocked, but the following year I returned and started the course at Lusófona.
Tatiana started as a child and with direct and indirect influence from her parents, to express her artistic creativity. Indirect, because they were both in the field of photography, direct, because from a very early age they started giving her cameras and film cameras, which quickly became her favorite toys. Tatiana says that already as a child, at school, she used to summon three or four little friends to whom she distributed roles and made small films that she would later show at home, for the parents of these characters.
B.C - Why didn't you stay in the US when you went to learn and work with your father?
TS – For the reasons I have already mentioned. Besides, I never chose the “easy” paths. I always choose what makes me feel consistent with what I feel and am.
B.C - Is the world of cinema and photography sexist?
TS - IT'S. I even went to an interview where they told me “we like your work a lot, but we're not going to stay with you because the job requires walking in mud and we think it's wrong for us to have a woman do it”.
B.C - So someone decides for you, what's good for you…
TS – Yeah, and another thing that's been around for a long time is the mansplaining which is an English term that, in this case, explains that men – generalizing, of course – in the field of cinema, assume that women are just creative and do not understand anything about the technical part. Even in the movies, they didn't want the woman to carry heavy material that could tire her out, meaning there was a suffocating overprotection that I didn't like at all. As a photographer I don't have to deal with any of this as it is a more individual process, I feel that I am not exposed to this male “benevolence”.
B.C - I note, however, that although this saddens you, it does not affect you, it does not affect your optimism or your positivism.
TS – Yes and it is often important to confront these people, because they might not even realize they are being sexist, I would almost say that most of the time it is not conscious, it is something that is rooted in the primordial dynamics of both cinema and society.
B.C - I believe in the signs that things are changing.
TS – I try to be a bridge person. Someone who can hear different points of view and who, even though he doesn't agree, tries to explain why in a clean and calm way without the other feeling threatened with his/her truth. It's not always easy, but ultimately what matters is finding common solutions to a problem. Meet halfway.
B.C - I imagine it is exhausting to start a project with this awareness, with the awareness that you will face this once more, that you will have to demonstrate against a reality that is difficult to fight.
TS – Yes, but the artist is also an activist. I like to see him and live like that.
She is considered workaolic, when she is at home in her spare time, she keeps them working, which in her own perspective is not even a lot of work. per se since everything he does, he does it for pleasure and with pleasure, and he confesses that, unlike the cliché, he only creates when he feels good, when he's down, he feels like hibernating.
B.C – Do you think it is an artist's obligation to share her work?
TS – No. It depends on the artist's intention. There are artists who use art as if it were an extension of them, as if it were a diary, for example. The word obligation can be stifling in the creative world.
She teaches photography at IPCI, at the invitation of António Pedrosa, which turned out to be a surprise for herself, since, being shy and not liking to talk to an audience, she realized that after all she loves talking to her students.
B.C - You received the European award: “Cinema and Industry Alliance for Knowledge”, in the “Best Projec” and “Business Plan” categories. What is awarded here, specifically?
TS – It's something that I think many artists lack, which is to see their idea as a business as well. If you can do both, you get the best of both worlds and that has great potential. In other words, "I want to be a photographer, but how is this done?" it is also necessary to think in a rational way to make art a business and I think that most artists are very prejudiced about making money with their art. This award means that they saw me with potential and that it is worth investing.
With the diversification of his work, both amateur and professional, he built a portfolio that made his work attractive, also because he always worked in several areas simultaneously, not missing out on opportunities to produce and show his work, but he confesses that the best works what he did or those he liked best to do, were not paid.
B.C - Your works are very intimate, in the sense of exposing you a lot. Doesn't that make you feel ashamed of overexposure?
TS – No, my mother also sees this as an issue, or a problem, public exposure.
B.C - I don't think you understood my question, I'm not referring to the physical appearance, but the way you put your self in the photos. Your photos are very personal and emotional and there is a lot to read beyond the perception of the image; one guesses stories and moments that are neither occasional nor arbitrary. Aren't you afraid you're opening yourself up too much to the world?
TS – I didn't understand from that perspective, but no, it doesn't worry me. For example when I studied cinema and I made my first movie (The Lucidity of the Absurd) I made sure it was autobiographical because I really wanted people to have access to my intimacy and vulnerability, as difficult as that might be, because I couldn't explore the intimacy and vulnerability of others, not doing it myself, because I would be cheating. It's a matter of honesty. It was a very important starting point that I agreed with me: “you are going to talk about others, start talking about yourself, you are going to expose others, you have to expose yourself to yourself”.
B.C - Your most important expression force is the human body, but looking at some of them, namely the sunflowersOis by Van Gogh, (in Silk Poems) The Path (in Liquid Poems) or Inside the labyrinth (in Silk Poems), the nude does not even claim protagonism, it is one more element of the mise en scandhuh, on the other hand, there are others where yes, like the heart hotel (in Silk Poems), for example. What separates these two realities?
TS – What separates is the person being photographed. They are always different and I want to retain some truth if I'm portraying the person's intimate part, not only the body, but the inner part, and that's an extension, I don't like to see the body as an object and when there are people who feel uncomfortable, because it's something new that they're experiencing, – in general these people have never had a nude photo shoot, it's a first contact with this experience – and there are people who feel very comfortable and there are others who feel uncomfortable, I don't make a big effort to make that feeling go away.
B.C - The whole of the image also reflects the model itself…
TS – Yes. I'm photographing and I'm sensitive to what the person conveys to me, the way they feel about nudity. And if the person feels uncomfortable, that for me is also material, that is, it is a feeling like any other. When the nude is not the protagonist, it will be because the person is very uncomfortable and when I feel this I respect him because sometimes I receive this energy and this discomfort is also uncomfortable for me. I just want people to feel safe, but I can't do anything about this discomfort, I have to respect it and I can use or not this feeling that is almost always fleeting, they feel great in the end and loved the experience. . Other times I put them in an even more uncomfortable position until they forget what the discomfort is and in the end some of them end up thinking that the session was therapeutic and I can even enjoy it and this discomfort ends up becoming something else.
Other people feel so comfortable, they are so comfortable, they are loving being photographed and then the body will become more important than the surroundings.
B.C - There is a strong inter-art dialogue in your art, which you yourself denounce with the connection to poetry, and I think that your series Liquid Poems is very dialogic with painting. It's all very impressionistic, for example the photo Monet and OfIt'sread, it even has it in the name and it really looks like a Monet painting. Have you never felt an appeal for other forms of artistic expression such as painting, music, for example?
TS – As I come from the cinema, when I go to a session, I always take story boards, I have a concrete image of what I want to do with that person and I take drawings that I do with what I want from the session, but I love the imponderables and I like to play the imponderables with the things I control and join them together. What do I do with what I don't control and what do I do with what is already thought out and then it's like having a plan A and a plan B and I can take advantage of both, I don't need to choose one of them. I'm not really good at drawing, but people understand what's important to understand.
B.C - Your photographs, in general, have a lot of narration, and this is somehow even explicit in the names of the series, which are all Poems. Do you write?
TS – Yes, but most of the things that are born in my brain are images, they are not words, I have a lot of difficulty writing if I don't have a very strong image in my head.
B.C - Could you write a story from any of your images?
TS – Yes and sometimes I find it necessary to write something because I complete ideas that may not be very obvious and that I want people to understand. But I don't feel that at all, just the ones where I think writing can make the essentials of the photo more visible.
B.C - What is the artistic expression, apart from the obvious cinema, that you think most dialogues with photography or with your photography.
TS – It's the music, no doubt. Sometimes when I lack inspiration for a name I look for a song.
He had already confessed to me that he likes all kinds of music. She considers herself very eclectic in musical taste, which she confesses to being the art she likes the most, so much so that it's difficult for her to name something she doesn't like. She says that if one day she has the misfortune of falling into a coma, she just wants to be put on some headphones and let her listen to music. (He is very fond of Tom Waits, which, of course, made all my bells ring).
B.C - Can you imagine a song for each photo of you?
TS - Yes, I can.
B.C - Do you have this association made?
TS - Yes, I have.
B.C - Give me an example.
TS – There's a girl in the grass (Green Grass, in White Poems) that reminds me of the song Green Grass in Cibelle's version, maybe because it's a girl, but the original is by Tom Waits. – (I do not say?)
B.C - So thinking about the Alice by Tom Waits, which one of your photos would you “stick” to this theme?
TS - The photo Patricia (2017, in Silk Poems)
B.C - And on the contrary, can you photograph a song? in other words, can you imagine listening to a song and taking a photograph that says the same?
TS – Yes, but it depends on the music, with some music genres it will be easier than with others. For example a metal song would be more difficult because my photography is more nostalgic, with more nuances dreamy and maybe I would have to do something more raw, more dark, even because I have some difficulty dealing with anger. I suppress it and turn it into something else.
He prefers color to monochrome and states that "as Alex Webb would say “color is so much about atmosphere and emotion and the feel of a place”. You don't feel that black and white is part of your visual language.
B.C - Following what you said, for the most part, your images are essentially serene, peaceful, which also has to do, as you say, with your interior, but in the series Sequin Poems I feel in many of them a kind of subliminal violence. For example, in the I can never go home, at empty streets Or the fast car, I feel a negative aura, something very surreptitious, but in almost every series I find this feeling.
TS – Yes, it makes sense because they were all taken in the context of intimate conversations. For example in fast car, Gabi, moments before, commented to me about having been raised in a Guinean house describing various memories of her family, the fact that they get together every day and always eat together, whatever the time. And the famous and adored by all “djumbai”. In conclusion, he shared that he felt that he was constantly missing what he had already experienced with his family, but also what he never lived and will never live. It was at that moment that I took his picture.
B.C - Well, it can be seen in some, I wanted to avoid the word pain, because maybe it's too strong, but…
TS – Maybe that's the right word. We all all have our shadow side and our light side and I like to get to the intimate and real places that people give me access to. Maybe a laugh is just as important, but I tend to like the nostalgic side more associated with some “growing pain”.
B.C - What are your references?
TS – I have a recent one who is Ryan McGinley.
B.C - Do you like that minimalist and surrealist photography, which is almost the opposite of what you do, like Man Ray, for example?
TS - Really like.
B.C - But it's almost the opposite of yours…
TS - Why?
B.C - Because yours are full of humanity from insiders, they're narrative, they're emotional and most Man Ray's are devoid of humanity, all communication is surreal and subjective.
TS – He's very experimental, but I really like him.
B.C - how did you take the photo Levitate? (in White Poems)
TS – This was one of the craziest pictures I've ever taken. I have a friend who is a dancer for Olga Roriz and I told her “I want to make you fly” and so we spent a week trying to find someone who would lend us a trampoline because renting was very expensive. We found a gigantic trampoline, we took it to the beach and suddenly we had a lot of people watching, as if this was a performance, including the police. There were about forty people watching her jump naked on the trampoline and I was photographing her and when I saw the police stop I thought “the party is over, we have to go”, but no, after all they just wanted to see. I made so many that I had a hard time choosing.
B.C - How do you see yourself in twenty years?
TS – I would like to teach at the University, have a more financially stable life and continue in the arts. And I like to imagine myself being healthy and surrounded by the people I love and will come to love. And happy.
B.C - Finally, tell me, from any area, three names, the first ones that come to mind.
TS – Bergman, Paula Salas, (Tatiana's mother) and Cat Power
Tatiana is superstitious, believes in luck and intuition, and believes in the power of the mind and positive thinking. "When we manifest good things, they are more likely to happen."
And we… we believe in Tatiana.
ImageNation Paris on Instagram
You may be interested in: A Conversation with Richard Sorce