Uncommon Moments, Uncommon Things, Uncommon People and Handmade Photography: By Marina Nacamuli

Anything handmade is special, and film photography is a great example. The mundane question ‘Can AI replace photography?’ surfaces regularly in photographic communities and the answer is a blatant no. No, because AI can’t replicate the unique perspective that humans bring to their work. Building interpersonal relationships is also an integral part of photography, and AI can’t replicate the human element of this interaction. digital photography couldn’t even replace film, it only succeeded in causing a rift and driving roll prices up, simply ‘cause it is a handmade product. There are also depths in film images you can’t see in digital. The colour and exposure of shooting film offer a dynamism which many professionals can see and tell the unmatched aesthetic from afar. You simply cannot pour some grain on it, it is all the efforts that were applied and the imperfections combined. 35mm, 120 medium format, or large format (4×5”, 5×7”, 8×10”, and larger), without including Instant Polaroid cameras in this conversation. 

Of course, it sounds costly, and truly, it is. Regarding the expense it costs to make art on film, it is kinda wild to be on the streets shooting films like Marina Nacamuli’s because of how fast-paced and dynamic the streets can be, but she is a photographer confident and sure of her skills either in commercials or working on side projects in downtown São Paulo, or elsewhere in the world.

São Paulo, Brazil, is special and doesn’t need introductions because their cultural identity never changed, and in Marina’s words: “Brazil is for most, a happy country. We have the carnival and we have samba, we have beautiful nature and exotic food and animals.“ Everyone knows what is what about Brazil but this article is about the unknown, being attracted to what is or used to be marginalized, abandoned, and rare moments most people wouldn’t have cared to take notice of.  

Do you think this series of photographs captures the soul of Brazil or it is just the tip of the iceberg?

To be honest I think it’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’m normally attracted to what is or what used to be marginalized, or abandoned. So my eye automatically catches these moments other people wouldn’t have even noticed happening. Maybe I capture sadness, but I don’t believe life is always happy. Brazil is for most, a happy country. We have a carnival and we have samba, we have beautiful nature and exotic food and animals. I’m not portraying that side. 

Brazil is known to be a very racially diverse place and there are rumours of segregation in certain areas, given this, do you face any difficulties when you try to make photographs in certain parts of the country?

We are a very mixed country. We had migrations from European countries, Africa, Middle Eastern (my father came from Egypt), and Asia… And in a few cities, we really see certain demographics. I normally “study” a place I’m not familiar with before going, and most important, I try to go with someone that is local. When we hold a camera in certain places, as the favelas for example, there is a lot going on that I would never want anyone to feel I’m invading or disrespecting. There are certain communities where people just know you are not from there. 

In your opinion, what makes an image qualify as a great shot?

What is a great shot for me? The first thing I noticed, besides the light, is the subject. I’m attracted to photos that have people.. portraits. But I would say it’s not about anyone, the subject being portrayed has to be cast, even if in seconds. I like uncommon moments, uncommon things and uncommon people, I guess this would be a great shot. 

Are there photographers who work you derive inspiration from? 

There are so many! I could spend my entire day talking about each of them 🙂 I would say the most important photographer for me is Nan Goldin. She made me notice that what I was shooting could turn into a body of work, and her subjects also interests me. Nan talks about love, loss and intimacy and she never stopped taking photos, and never will. I also love Araki, Larry Clark, Jerry Hsu, Joshua Gordon, and so many others, but I believe they all have something in common, the underground world, unique moments and love.  

When making street portraits, do you have a special technique that you use to approach people, can you briefly explain the process of approaching an unknown person on the street?

To be honest, it depends on the day, and on the person… Sometimes I’m really shy and introverted, so I will “study” what to do – walk around the block, photograph something besides the subject, or even photograph the person when she’s not looking. Other days I’ll just ask “Sir, can I take a photograph of you?” And he’ll probably say “yes”, which will probably give me the courage to continue to the next. Maybe he’ll say “no”, but that’s also ok. It wasn’t meant to be… 

In the series of images that you sent me, what I your favourite?

I think I sent you some of my favourite photos: IMG_1349: I was shooting a lot at night in downtown São Paulo because I was working on a photobook about a skateboard square here. In this process I met a lot of people, in between them were the people who did “pixo”, a Brazilian style of graffiti which are letters and very vandal. I got the chance to see them at work, it was the first time I saw them.  IMG_1340: This was a very hard moment. I wasn’t sure what to do. I was walking with a friend downtown, as well. We had just gone out for lunch and packed the leftovers. As we were walking back to his place we noticed there was a homeless person sleeping, and walked over to him to leave the bag. As I got closer I noticed he was sleeping on a box full of banana peels, and when I got even closer, his face was tattooed. I saw the photo in my mind but sometimes we don’t feel it’s right… So we left the bag and left. I couldn’t stop thinking about him, so we went back… I made two photos and left again.