What’s the idea behind this body of work?
The idea for this body of work appeared in the middle of a trip I took through South America. During the trip I went through a very difficult time, which caused me a lot of pain. And since photography is my main way of expression, and all that I produce is related to what I see and what I experience, I decided that it would be ideal to produce images that somehow could speak to this pain I was feeling.
The main idea of the series was to mischaracterize this body, remove it’s entire identity and present it in the vastness of nothing. The body has no name, does not belong to a man nor a woman, doesn’t have a nationality, does not speak any particular language, and has no flaws, qualities or defects.
It’s just a body. The only thing we can say is the fact that this body feels pain, and is presented in a static immensity that is bigger than any one of its afflictions, and so it will always be. The body surrenders to the space in an attempt to lose itself, mixing with the colors and lines of the desert to finally disappear.
We were traveling in some very absurd and powerful landscapes. And this vastness somehow made all the individual problems of each one seem completely irrelevant. My intention was to show some of that with pictures. I was very happy with the result because this essay is more personal to me than anything else, and I think what I was feeling translated very well through the images.
How selective were you in finding locations for each photo?
The photos were taken during a trip through the deserts of Bolivia. So basically, everything was extremely photogenic, it was not hard to find locations at all.
I was trying to choose landscapes that could differ from each other, and where the body somehow could become an organic part of the space. So we were basically walking around, and sometimes I just thought “It’s here, let’s make one of the pictures right here.” We photographed in many different spots in the desert, and in the end I made a selection of the material that matched with the concept of the essay.
You started the very successful project Achados Humanos in São Paulo. How did that come about?
The idea of Achados Humanos came about two years ago. At the beginning, I used to photograph people around the city without letting them know because I’m very shy, and I couldn’t create a conversation with any of my subjects.
Later, I was doing a Street Photography workshop and one day the teacher just said to me: “Why don’t you ask people to make a photo? The worst thing that can happen is they say ‘no’ and for each ‘no’ you get, you will definitely get a lot of ‘yes’.”
Since then I’ve started to ask people on the street just one basic question: “Can I take a picture of you?” and then I’ve called this Achados Humanos.
‘Achados’ in Portuguese means something special, something that you find, and that is also unique. The project explores the first visual impression between the photographer and the subject. I don’t know these people and I have no idea who they are or what they do.
But for some reason they’ve caught my attention, and then I’ve had an absurd need to take a picture of them.
They still remain unknown, but from the moment a photograph is created, something changes, and the picture becomes a reflective mirror.
Eventually, I created the page on Facebook, and I think people just like it because they can see themselves in each portrait (and for me this is the most important thing).
You’re moving from São Paulo, Brazil to New York later this year. Why the big move?
I think Sao Paulo and New York speak to each other in a lot of ways and have many similarities. But for me, New York has this great fact that nobody seems to really belong to that place. It’s a huge city of ‘no one belong’. They are all coming from somewhere else, and everybody is there to start something new all the time. And I just love this feeling. It’s something that really pushes my creativity forward.
It was a decision that was already made since I spent three months in New York a few years ago. That period was very important to me, especially for photography. It was a time where I discovered and understood many things related to my production.
Since then I couldn’t stop thinking about going back, and I realized that’s where I should be to hopefully become a better photographer one day.
Camila Svenson is 24 years old. She lives and works in São Paulo, Brazil (but could live and work anywhere in the world).