We just got in touch with UK-based photographer Mafalda Silva and she was kind enough to talk to us about her personal and professional work. Shooting mostly on film, Mafalda walks us through her creative process and speaks up about the importance of intimacy in her shoots.
Hi, Mafalda! Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Hi, my name is Mafalda, which I've come to realize is a very weird name for most people. I was born in Portugal but I've been living in London for the past 8 years where I work as a photographer.
Who is Mafalda Silva when not shooting? What do you do on your down time?
I feel like I'm always shooting something, my personal work is mostly done during my downtime. I love photographing my life and my friends. After living in London for 8 years and loving the city buzz, I have started cherishing more and more being in the great outdoors. Whenever I can, I love going for long walks in a forest or being by the seaside. Getting lost in a new place is another of my favorite things to do on my downtime. I also love reading, watching films and listening to music. I will soon start learning how to play the piano, which I'm really excited about!
Tell us about how you discovered photography. Was it always something that was innate and natural or learned?
I can't actually remember my first experience with a camera and the exact moment when it all started.
When I was 15 my mum gave me my first camera and I started taking photos of my friends and my life, which I guess I'm still doing today. I did a photography course and after that I started assisting a fashion photographer and that is where it all started.
How does your professional work differ from your personal photography?
I think my professional and personal work are very much connected. I see my work as a whole. My personal series is connected to my professional series due to the degree of closeness I establish with the subject. It's really important to be able to establish a relationship with the subject, to create some intimacy; no matter the situation I'm shooting.
Ultimately I really like to let things happen and just capture a unique moment but this isn't always possible. If I'm shooting a fashion story it always requires some degree of planning and control of the situation. Even so, I try to create a relationship with the model as if I am photographing a casual situation, just like I would if I was photographing a friend.
No matter what work I'm doing I always try to let things happen in a very casual way.
In what area of photography do you think you feel most comfortable in? Or in what element do you find yourself more at home in?
I love doing portraits. It's always so exciting to meet new people and hear about their life stories and in some way translate all of that into a photo. Another thing I love about shooting portraits is being able to also visit someone else's world when shoots happen on location.
For example, I will never forget the day I photographed Bella Freud. It was a warm summer day and the shoot took place at her house in West London. There was a beautiful light coming in through the windows, walking up the stairs to her house with all her father's (Lucian Freud) paintings and photos hanging on the walls was absolutely mind blowing. If I hadn't been commissioned to do this job, I probably would have never had the chance to see all of this beautiful artwork and also meet Bella who is a lovely woman.
I feel very fortunate doing the work I do, it allows me to constantly meet new people and go to places I probably wouldn't be able to go if I wasn't taking photos.
What’s your favorite subject? Where do you draw inspiration?
I can be inspired by my friends, a film, a book, light, anything really. My photos are very personal, like a visual diary so they allow me to remember little details of my everyday life. I always like my photos to have an intimate feeling no matter if they are for myself or for someone else.
How would you describe your style in five words?
I think I would prefer to leave that for the viewer of my photos to describe.
In your opinion, what are the characteristics of a good photograph?
To me it's all about the feeling and emotional reaction you get from an image and not so much about technical aspects.
What’s your favorite photograph? (Your own) Why?
This changes literally every day but at the moment I really like a photo from one of my latest fashion shoots. The model is standing on top of a bench in a children's playground with two kids next to her. The kids were not meant to be part of the photo initially. While we were shooting there were some children playing behind me in the playground and without me even noticing these two kids came into the shot and stood in front of the camera posing. I quickly pressed the shutter without even being sure how the photo would turn out.
I was shooting in 35mm so didn't have the chance to see how the photo looked at that time. After getting the negs from the lab, this photo ended up being the select for the fashion story.
I love how totally unexpected the final result was. I can't help but laugh every time I look at the photo as it was such a funny situation, the kids look so confident and proud of themselves.
What camera/film/accessory setup do you use in your professional and personal work?
It depends on what type of work I'm doing. I shoot mostly in film unless it's for a commercial job that demands shooting with digital. When it comes to film I really like experimenting with different ones, at the moment I'm really liking Fuji Venus 800.
I religiously carry my Olympus mju II with me every day and I do a lot of my personal work with this camera. For portraits I love shooting medium format with my Mamyia RB 67 pro. When shooting in film for my fashion work, I usually shoot with my Canon SLR or with a Contax G2. When shooting digitally I use a Canon 5D. I also love Polaroids and at the moment I'm shooting with a Polaroid Land 320
Any upcoming projects? Please talk about them.
I'm currently trying very hard to find the time to put together a self published book which is something I've been wanting to do for a long time.
If you weren't a photographer, what would you be?
I would love to own a book shop with a cat. I guess I can still do both.
Any photographers/artists that you follow religiously?
There are so many artists/photographers that I admire it's hard to name just a few.
I love Louise Bourgeois and I recently had the chance to see her amazing exhibition at the Louisiana Museum in Copenhagen which I highly recommend.
I'm always super inspired by the work of Sophie Calle and Yayoi Kusama.
I will forever love Egon Schiele's work and his contorted body depictions.
In terms of photography Corinne Day, Mark Brothwick, Jamie Hawkesworth, Hart+Leshkina and William Eggleston to name just a few as the list is never ending.
Last words for our readers?
Get out of your screen and go outside, get lost and talk to a stranger. Look around you and pay attention to the small things in life, they are usually the most important.
We would like to express our gratitude to the artist for letting us publish this interview.