Much can be drawn a photograph and you can tell a lot about the artist in the way he or she composes the image. For Portugal-based photographer Mariana Dias, she chooses to use framing, the human form, and presence of detail and even its absence to create moody portraits and evocative images.
Hi, Mariana! Welcome to the Lomography Magazine! Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Hello, everybody! First of all, I'd like to thank you for this wonderful opportunity! So, my name is Mariana Dias, I live in OPorto, Portugal, and I'm currently 31 years old. I like to say I'm a visual artist, although I have so much to learn, still! I have a degree in Fine Arts and a Masters' Degree in Contemporary Art. I mainly work with analogue photography, but I also paint, do installation and video-art work.
Who is Mariana Dias when not shooting? What do you do on your downtime?
Mariana is a very curious girl who loves wandering around in her free time, daydreaming, mostly! I need time "off" and "alone time" so I can reconnect with myself in order to be inspired -- whether to do artistic work or as a daily basis thing. I'm a dreamer and optimistic by heart, which, mind you, doesn't invalidate me from having harsher moments... but that's just who I am, or want to be so I work on it. I love reading, watching movies (horror movies are the best!) and gaming. Very much so! I'm an obsessed fan of Final Fantasy since I was 11 among other games. I also love technology; I simply adore investing in good stuff! Love having long walks...breathing some fresh air... Love visiting the beach and just be. Well, I guess I'm not far from normal. :) Even though I can be VERY lazy.
Tell us about how you discovered photography. Was it always something that was innate and natural or learned?
Can't say it was innate. I never thought about photography until I got into university. It was during my 2nd year there that I've "found" it. We had this class, Multimedia, and we got a project development that involved photography (digital). All of a sudden I realized I could do anything I had envisioned! Simple as that! Just a click and the moment, the idea, the feeling, would be captured forever. It felt like I was having some sort of epiphany back then. It's wonderful how things tend to happen.
How would you define photography?
To me, photography is more than a technical/mechanical procedure. There's not really much magic to it if you think...what makes it magical is everything else you can not see, but that you can definitely feel! Art is meant to give you sensations, emotions. If a photo can give you that, then I know my work was done correctly. Photography, to me, is a memory, an outer-worldly moment, something that can make you forget where you stand, make you forget about time and space itself. It's magic.
How does your professional work differ from your personal photography?
100% opposite! Right now I'm working on retail. Although it differs from my artistic path, it's still something I love doing, especially since that I love working where I am at the moment. I work at our local Airport and I meet so many different people everyday! It's a blessing if you think about it. I'll never stop focusing on my artistic path, but I can't deny that most of the times it's hard to make schedules or even have time to stop and think. I have an awful flaw: I procrastinate a lot and I'm lazy too. I tend to question and doubt myself when it comes to what I do, artistically, so I postpone new projects (for example) until I'm grounded and centered enough to risk. Having a full-time work, non-artistic, really doesn't help getting your motivation or inspiration going on, so I need time by myself when I'm off-work to center myself.
In what area do you think you feel most comfortable in?
You mean artistically-speaking? I love illustration and traditional art and I'm trying to develop it in some way again. But I do feel more comfortable with photography for the time being, although I'm planning on mixing photography with new media (video and installation) in the future.
What’s your favorite subject? Where do you draw your inspiration from? What fuels your creativity?
I have a thing for details, especially when it comes to the human body: a simple touch, skin, a gesture...HANDS! I love hands! They're poetic and can say so much about a person. I don't really capture faces or do straight-on portraits. I like to hide faces because identity to me is not about the face at all. Also, a photograph can't be beautiful because the model/subject is pretty...if you know what I mean. So, I started hiding that. Uncovering and that led to more hiding and poetic fragments.
Usually, I draw my inspiration from movie stills...random movie stills! Can't really name them by heart. I can see something passing by and it captures my eye. I take a snapshot if I can! Something about the posing, the lighting, the stillness of moments of just being in and feeling the moment also fuels my creativity, hence my need to have my "alone time". Music also helps too! But I guess that's a general thing.
How do you come up with your concepts? How do you stay creative?
First I try to analyze myself in terms of 'what do I want to share'? Or 'what do I want others to sense'? I like poetic and strange environments. Something that when you first look, you can't really tell what's going on. Some kind of image that invites you in and, slowly but steady, shows you the way and you end up discovering more and more; even about yourself! Would love that to happen! I want to create emotion. That's what fuels me.
Is there a formula you follow in your creative process?
Can't say there is. It's like I've said above, I analyze myself first and try to come up with some kind of "visual story-telling". I'm not someone who plans a lot beforehand (although I should sometimes!). I try to have my mind focused on the "feelings" I want to capture and then I start photographing. Usually, I take a few digital photos to measure light and "warm up". Then I let it flow and focus on my instincts. Normally when I start getting "good" and "warmed up", the film ends. If I'm lucky, I have another cartridge.
How would you describe your style in five words?
Hmm ... let's see: poetic, strange, soft, nostalgic, pure. Film photography helps to achieve all of it, too!
In your opinion, what are the characteristics of a good photograph?
It has to have feeling. You can sense if a photo was taken with intention and heart. I don't really mind about technical characteristics as, to me, it's not what counts. A good photo can be taken using an old mobile, even! It all has to be with if you put heart into it...and what you're presenting us. Feelings. That "whimsical" sense as if what you're looking at it's not even real.
What’s your favorite photograph? Why?
Tough! Hmm... Fragmentos. The light in this one is simply stunning. The framing, the oddness. I've always loved this one because it's so structured, yet so odd!
What camera/film/accessory setup do you use in your professional and personal work?
I haven't done professional work yet, so the equipment I use for my personal work is my Canon AE1 camera with 50mm prime lenses. The digital camera I have to "warm up" and measure light with is a Canon 50D also with 50mm prime lenses. I prefer working with natural light. Film brands I normal use are Kodak (Portra and Ektar) and Fujifilm. I also use expired film. I want to try other different brands so I'm ordering some online as here, in Portugal, we only really find Kodak or Fuji.
Any photographers/artists that you follow religiously?
My friend (photographer and model) Inês de Castro is one. I have a few Portuguese photographers I love following such as Adriano Sodré, Pedro de Passos, and Nuno Silva. They're all in my Flickr following page. I also follow contemporary painters, such as Agnes Cecile. They're all an inspiration to me! I could name a few more, but I'm awful with names (shame)! But, like I've said, they're all on my Flickr page.
Who’s your dream collaboration?
Haven't thought about that in a while. I think that I'd love working with anyone that would request my participation. Honestly! I'm always happy to work together with new contemporary artists because it's always a wonderful experience.
Any upcoming projects? Please talk about them.
Yes! Hopefully! I'm still developing the idea, but I'll be shooting more human body type of photographs but I also want to try nature and still nature. Still with the same "emotions" and narrative as what I try to capture with a person. That will be a step up for me, trying to transfer human "feelings" into still life and nature.
If you weren't a photographer, what would you be?
A vet. Still a dream. One day I was studying to become one but I'm too fragile. I love animals but I suffer a lot. I can't detach or separate things so I could never be a vet. What I do is work with another kind of healing techniques (with animals). I'm all about energy, crystals and all that and they're pretty sensitive to it. I'd love to do some work at rescue shelters and veterinary ICUs.
Last words for our readers?
Well, I hope this wasn't a boring reading and that you all got to know a little bit about myself and what I try to share with everybody! Hope this has made some difference in your life. That makes my day! Thank you for reading and for the time spent! Means a lot!