For Women's History Month we want to have a closer look at the work of aspiring female photographers. With projects like Curated By Girls or Girlgaze Project more and more platforms are being created to feature the female view upon the world. But how exactly does that look like and in what way does gender influence art? How do they themselves experience working in the male dominated business of photography?
LomoAmigo Mirella Cardoso recently sat down with us to talk about her work as a young female filmmaker, photographer and painter. A big part of her work focuses on self-portraits and we wanted to know how she came to the strength and confidence to give the world an insight to her very personal view upon her own body and personality.
What sparked your decision to focus on self-portraits, what fascinates you about them specifically?
I took a B&W darkroom class two years ago at NYU and throughout the class I shot documentary photos. I love documentary photography because of its storytelling. For my final, I had a meeting with my professor and she pointed out to me that I portrayed women in a very strong and intimate way. She proposed the idea of me taking self portraits for my final. At first, the idea of taking photos of myself and presenting it as my final was nerve wracking. I ended up ordering a medium format camera, which I had been wanting to shoot with for a long time but never thought would be practical for documentary photography. For weeks I took photos of myself everyday.
It came to me at a very important time in my life. I was taking this class post-break up as a way to encourage myself to make time to do something that I’ve always loved. In an unhealthy relationship it’s easy to lose yourself and it sounds cheesy but it’s true! Photography helped me find myself. I discovered my self confidence, and since then I haven’t really stopped.
Is this confidence something that grows whenever you look at a good photo of you?
The process of taking the photo, and the quality of the photograph makes me feel confident. Of course there is also a confidence in how I look physically, that’s a very important part of wellness, but what encourages me to take more photos is the challenge artistically.
You said you started this at a point at which you didn’t really know yourself. In what way did taking photos help you get to know yourself?
Yes, I came out of a relationship really confused. I didn’t know what kind of art I wanted to make but being alone gave me the opportunity to really think about it. Suddenly I had a lot of time and freedom. I took a break from filmmaking to take more photos and paint, things that I could do alone in order to find out who I want to be.
Do you feel like you are exploring different sides of yourself with your photos?
Definitely, yes. I portray myself as a very serious person, which I am, but I also have a very goofy side. It is very difficult and awkward to take a photo of yourself laughing (laughs). So maybe that’s a side that doesn’t come across that much. If you know me you know that I laugh a lot and that my laugh is recognizable in a 20 foot parameter.
You post your work on instagram and have a lot of followers. As you said your photos are very intimate, it is you in the photos but it is also your perspective of yourself. How do you feel about putting these photos out into the world?
It depends on the photo I think. Most of the photos I release, I feel pretty confident about. There are some photos nobody will ever see, that are for myself. So it is definitely something I think about, knowing that there is a public audience on Social Media.
You also work as a model sometimes. Have you ever had any very good or bad experience as a female model in this world?
To be honest, I haven’t had much experience modeling and most of it has to do with the fact that I’ve had a few experiences that have unfortunately been really uncomfortable and therefore have prevented me from trusting a lot of people that have approached me via Instagram. Instagram can be an extremely valuable platform if you want to connect with other creative people but if you want to pursue a career in modeling I would suggest signing with an agency or perhaps reaching out to other models for advice.
I don’t want it to seem that I’m generalizing that photographers are creepy. I’m talking about men who use photography to exploit young women. Most of these men I wouldn’t even call photographers.
On the other hand there have been many famous photographers who are now finally receiving consequences for their abuse of power. You can have a wonderful experience working with a photographer who makes you feel comfortable and inspires you creatively but there is something wrong in the industry if this is the exception and not the rule.
I’ve had the opportunity to work with some incredible people and I hope to work with more of them in the future. The crew of the We Don’t Talk Anymore music video, the casting, creative, and production team of the Chanel x Vogue Boyfriend Watch ad, and the wonderful people (thank you Brandon!) at Milk have all changed my life. The good experiences remind me how worthwhile it can be. I thank them. Also a shout out to the cast & crew of my short who gave me the confidence to be both in front and behind the camera.
What about being a female artist in this world? Have you ever experienced that other male artists did not take you serious because of your gender?
Definitely, but I don’t have to tell you, just look at the facts!
Women have to work so much harder to get the acclaim and opportunities that men are more easily given. We constantly have to prove ourselves. If you identify as a woman and you’re a POC opportunities are even more scarce . The physical attributes we are born with set our circumstances controlled by structural problems. It’s not fair but it’s our (as in everybody’s) job to change that and promote fair representation.
You do so many different things. You are a filmmaker, photographer and painter. Is there one thing in particular that you want to pursue more professionally than the others?
I like doing everything, but I really do want to make more films. With so many people and factors to account for, filmmaking is a challenging medium which makes it very rewarding. Most of the work that I make is alone which has its own benefits, but there is something really beautiful about working with a team of creative people.
Do you think there is such a thing as the female gaze in photography? Do you think people can tell whether it’s a woman behind the camera?
I don’t know about that, that’s tough. I just a went to a couple of art shows with photography this past weekend and realized I couldn’t really tell whether works were done by a specific gender.I don’t like the idea of something being labeled as “feminine” just because it was made by a woman. Creativity is not gendered. Personally, I think labels like these are limiting and I think they are only apparent now because people don’t really know how to approach bringing women into the commercial art world.
I’m not saying there shouldn’t be all female art shows/production teams or a focus on women creatives- YES to that! We need to have more representation but that doesn’t mean that our work should be labeled before it is even seen.
Back to the question but slightly off topic, I will add that it is usually evident if a man wrote something vs. a woman when it comes to the portrayal of a women in film & television.
Do you have any role models that inspire you and your work?
I think my photos are less inspired by specific photographers and more inspired by films that I admire. Agnes Varda is perhaps my biggest inspiration. Jacques Tati, Jean Luc-Godard, Éric Rohmer, and Wes Anderson are others. I like to think that some of my favorite aspects of their films have translated in all of the mediums I work in.
Any advice for other young female artists that you’d like to share?
Don’t let anyone tell you what you're capable of. Stay passionate and don’t stop working.
Follow Mirella's work on her Instagram