For anti-standard number 16 I spoke with film portrait photographer, Daura.
Daura found photography at a time when the world of medical school seemed to offer nothing but isolation. I’m excited about this interview and I believe it’s a good reminder of why making art is so important, always. This interview is available both in English and Portuguese!
“With photography I could navigate and create realities that weren’t so restraining, I could interact with people who were more caring, who had more empathy, with whom I could trade and share experiences and I think that that is really powerful.”
T &P: Do you have a memory of the first photograph you’ve taken? Or, alternatively, can you describe the first photograph you took that solidified your love for the craft?
D: I don’t have a clear memory of the first photograph I’ve taken, but when I was a kid I used to play around a lot with my parents’ Cybershot (I was born in 1998), which is kind of funny, considering a few years later I switched to analog photographs. As I got older I didn’t go much further into photography, primarily because I couldn’t afford digital cameras and had no idea how to work a film camera, nor I had access to them. But finally, in 2018 one of my best friends and I decided to travel together; she’d been studying abroad and I felt like taking pictures on my phone wasn’t going to be enough, so I purchased my first film camera (a Canonet QL-19). At the time, analog photography was having its revival (at least inside my bubble) and it didn’t seem so unattainable anymore. It was during that trip that I realized I really liked capturing the world in this way and since then I couldn’t stop!
Above is the first picture I’ve taken that I felt like it resonated with me, it’s a little burnt and out of focus, but it’s the first work I can say I’m proud of. It’s a little abandoned house in Münster, Germany and I’m, to this day, captivated by the way nature started to incorporate into its body.
T&P: Can you talk a little bit about portraiture, what does it mean to you to be able to capture others in soft/ magical moments, especially on film!
D: So, at first I was really averse about starting to take portraits because I’ve always been socially awkward and didn’t know if I’d be able to direct people and make them comfortable around the camera (and myself), which were my biggest worries. I stuck with landscape and street photography for about a year and a half before taking portraits.
Surprisingly, the process of taking portraits came quite organically to me. Initially my friends began to ask me to take pictures of them, which I did, turning that experience into test field to see if we could create something meaningful together and if my self-doubt was getting in my way as much as I felt it was. Since then I am completely passionate about working with people and crafting stories with them through portraits, I believe that working on film has also been a huge creativity catalyst because you have to make every picture count, in a way I have not been able to experience while working with digital, so there is a great amount of thought and work put into each picture, from the film I am going to purchase to the scene I am going to photograph.
Now I am able to work as a portrait photographer and I find it mindblowing how people that don’t actively know me want to work with me!
T&P: Take us through your journey as an artist, did you always know you were going to be a photographer?
D: Honestly, I never even had the thought before starting to take pictures.
I was born into a traditional family in the countryside, which in itself brings a different kind of baggage. In 2016 I started medical school in my state’s capital (Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais), I felt like that was what was expected of me and also at 17 I had no idea what to pursue in my life, so a medical career wasn’t something I felt comfortable crossing out so fast.
Throughout the course I can’t say I was happy, I didn’t enjoy most classes (in fact, I failed a lot of them) and it was very hard to find people who had shared experiences and worldviews with me, so I had very little meaningful relationships. To be honest, I believe that the environment was incredibly limited, politically shallow, and not positive to queer people and POC at all, so it was very hard for me to navigate that world.
Obviously, that has taken a toll on my mental health and the only place where I received positive feedback about what I was doing was when I was photographing. With photography I could navigate and create realities that weren’t so restraining, I could interact with people who were more caring, who had more empathy, with whom I could trade and share experiences and I think that that is really powerful. So, I officially dropped out of medical school on February 3rd, 2020! Now I’m enrolled in film school and work as a freelance photographer.
T&P: What’s your favorite experience as a photographer thus far?
D: This is a very hard question for me to answer because I’ve worked with many dear and talented people. But, a personal portrait shoot I did with a friend of mine is the one that I hold most closely to my heart at the moment, it was one of the first shoots I did and it was the first body of work of mine that made me feel like I was on the right path. Here are a few photographs:
T&P: When you find yourself needing inspiration, where or who do you turn to?
D: If I’m crafting a concept alone, I turn to my experiences, think about the realities in which I navigate and reflect on what I’m able to create from that, and also on what I’d like to see in my work. When working with other people, I focus on merging our visions and blend them as much as possible to create something that represents us. I can sit on an idea for days, months even, and if I have the opportunity to take my time, which happens mainly on solo projects, I feel like the work is more substantial and translates better to what I am trying to say.
T&P: If you could dedicate your art to anyone who would it be, and why?
D: To myself. I understand that the road I’ve taken to be where I am now was not an easy one and to have the strength to face future challenges I have to believe in myself and my message. I am my harshest critic because I am building something that is going to outlive me and I want people that don’t fit into patriarchal, heterosexist, and transphobic ideals to be able to see themselves represented in my work. My art changed my life for the better and if it can have a positive impact in someone’s life I also dedicate it to them.
T&P: Can you share your favorite Polaroid you’ve taken?
D: My favorite polaroid was taken on this year’s carnival when me and my friends gathered in each other’s houses before the parties and had our own little intimate pre-parties.
Keep up with Daura!