Interviewed by Valerie Stupnikova
Hi Sofia. What are your favourite genres of photography and videography?
Hello, Arcca. First of all thanks for having me.
My mum is a dancer so I grew up backstage, seeing all the rehearsals and the performances. I have always been moved by the art of dance and its ability for creative expression. For quite foolish reasons I never pursued it and I feel the need to be part of it by doing what I know: to capture it.
I’d have to mention portrait photography too. I love photographing people in a way that captures something I see and feel, something that emanates from them, that maybe goes unnoticed. It doesn’t need to be spectacular, many times the subtlety is what makes it so interesting.
I remember a conversation I had with my mum many years ago. We were looking at some photos and my mum thought they looked a bit dull and scary because they weren't smiling. It led me to think that if we only saw photos of people smiling -selfies, instagram, facebook…- we’d have a very unrealistic picture that wouldn’t acknowledge the diversity of human’s emotions. It’s the responsibility of a photographer to catalogue this range of emotions.
I also love documentaries and photojournalism for the very same reason. The context and possibilities of this form of photography and film are multiple and diverse, but their intention is a unifying one: to capture truthness. I love that it involves telling human stories and it allows me to focus on those issues that are compelling to me and I feel are important to tell.
Nature and the body are also topics I’m constantly exploring. My own nature is ever-changing and so is my work.
I love photographing people in a way that captures something I see and feel, something that emanates from them, that maybe goes unnoticed.
You work with people from a range of different creative fields. What are your favourite ways of collaborating?
What I love about collaborating with people is that you get all these different perspectives that through one lense make sense and fit like puzzle pieces. I find that, when working in a team, the idea grows faster, bigger and stronger. You can feel the energy that builds as the idea is passed between people, having this constantly growing system of inspiration and creativity. Right now I’m in a moment of my life where I’m surprised at how many amazing and creative people I’m meeting, despite the global situation. It happens in a very natural way and often serendipitously. I find I can’t really control those connections that spark between two, three or more people; they just take place. And often it happens similarly with the collaborations: they just happen to emerge from that connection.
For example, one of my first collaborations was with the wonderful musician Marta Casanova (MAVICA). We met years ago through a friend to work on a music video and the connection was instant and unquestionable. She’s one of my best friends now and we work together every chance we’ve got. Vera Moles is an extremely talented costume designer, and she happened to be my housemate two years ago. I have to thank her for her creativity and perseverance, because thanks to her I could explore another way of working with the image. Working with her means merging conceptual, political and visual. The beauty and elegance of her work is admirable. Much more recently, precisely during quarantine, I met creative Adrian Casani during an improvised “balcony party” in our street. He was living downstairs from me and the only way we had to communicate was through the windows. We had to see each other’s reflection on a window across the street and half shout to be able to hear each other.
And last winter I met filmmaker Paula Piñón while shooting some content for my friend St. Woods in London. Again, the sparks were undeniable.
Now Paula, Adrian and I are working together on an exciting multimedia project, and I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be the last one. They are both full of love and light and I’m very lucky to have them around.
I find that, when working in a team, the idea grows faster, bigger and stronger. You can feel the energy that builds as the idea is passed between people, having this constantly growing system of inspiration and creativity.
What collaboration or project has been the most memorable and why?
Crossed Out was my first film project. It was long ago and I’ve learnt an infinite number of things since then, but that was when I realised I really loved directing. Before that I didn't really know what I wanted to do specifically. I knew I wanted to be part of the film world -apart from being a photographer-, and I even thought of being a DoP.
This was the first time I was working on a project that involved months of pre production, a whole crew and the responsibility that comes with it. There was so much love and passion behind it: all the people involved were doing it for free - they believed in it. That made me see the power that a project like this could have. It’s overwhelming that they were all there just because I had this idea and they wanted to be part of it. I’ll always be grateful for that.
What are the main messages you want to convey to your viewers?
My answer to this question is usually “I take photos so I don't have to say anything about them.” But I’ll try to develop the answer a bit further this time. It usually depends on the project. I often focus on observing and finding the beauty around us. And when I say beauty I mean coincidence, I mean just the way the light touches something, or the way two people are framed within a space - looking around, observing and also accepting what’s there. But also wondering what’s the story behind it. I might look at someone and see an entire story, and so I see how an image can tell that story. I don’t want to dismiss the importance social issues have on the way I want my work to develop. I’m always thinking about what my work and I can do for the causes I think are important to address in today’s society. Feminism, anti-racism, anti-transphobia, anti-oppression...
In future projects I'd like to talk about things that are overlooked. Tell stories of experiences I find compelling within myself and my circle -bisexuality, mental health, empowerment, sexuality- and help telling other stories that many rarely see in mainstream media all from a very close perspective, letting myself be guided by those who know and live those stories, and treating them with all the respect they deserve.
when I say beauty I mean coincidence, I mean just the way the light touches something, or the way two people are framed within a space - looking around, observing and also accepting what’s there. But also wondering what’s the story behind it.
You have assisted lots of art directors in music videos, commercials, and short documentaries. What were your major responsibilities in these roles? What have these experiences taught you about your own practice?
As a photographer it was often very helpful that I knew how props and other elements were going to affect the image - how they were lit, framed and shot and how they were going to affect other departments and make an impact on the final result. From it I learnt to be even more aware of details - to put more care into them, both in photography and video. I also realised how important the art department is and how frequently it’s undervalued. I’ve noticed this especially on music videos and commercials where there’s only one person in charge of the whole set design and art department. You need to have so many different skills and it’s amazing how much of it is in the mind. It was working with Phoebe Darling that I learnt the most. Often when she explained to me what to do it’d seem fairly easy, but realising she had had to picture not only the way she wanted it to look like but also all the technical specifications to get to that point was amazing. It definitely is a fusion of creativity and engineering. So as a director I definitely want to properly value their job.
You briefly mentioned your video on censorship of the female body - “Crossed Out”. How did you come up with this idea?
It was my last year of university. I had a notebook full of ideas for different projects and there was one idea for a photo project on censorship of the female bodies. For many years I had followed the work of many fine art photographers on Flickr and DeviantArt where their work was hardly censored at all. But then Instagram started to become a platform for their work as well, and that's when all these nonsense rules about censorship of the female nipples started to constrain artists’ feed. I always found it stupid that society put so much effort into differentiating between male and female nipples. I realised that the process of censoring the latter and making them a taboo was relegating them to just an object of desire, objectifying them. I wanted to express in my own language how senseless this was.
One day explaining the idea to my friend Noa Yanski, a wonderful dancer and artist, I realised I could turn the project into a dance video.
The idea was to start the video showing the neutrality of the flesh, naked skin that we can’t categorize. Then you see they’ve got the same hairstyle, the same clothes, all to emphasise that they are basically the same, but they are treated differently. They both wear a bandage covering their chest; for him it’s easy to get rid of it, it’s a fight for her. This was made years ago, and I’m aware of the flaws the video might have conceptually. I've evolved as a director and as a person since then, but I'm still proud of it. It represents the urge of a 21 years old Sofía to take a stand and speak up. And I hope that in the future, when I look back at my work, I see a trail of improved but imperfect pieces of work. Hopefully it means I keep learning. Hopefully it means I keep fighting. Hopefully it means I keep creating.