Matilde Viegas is an explorer of light and sensuality, based in Portugal. In getting to know her, I set out to find what went into creating art so intimate and personal. This curiosity stemmed from a comment made by an instructor of a street photography class; he told me that simply being a tall man would make it more difficult for me (than for someone who appears less intimidating) to create art that earns trust and intimacy from strangers. This comment, although seemingly innocent, added a filter to my artistic view – seeking out layers of rapport within art. Have a look:
Much of your photography is focused on intimacy, diffused lighting, tender relationships and cosy spaces. What in your life has made you look out for these elements so deliberately?
I guess it came after focusing on a transformation within myself. When I first started shooting, I would look for the party-drunken kind of atmosphere, the one you used to see all over the internet, but it didn’t work out for me. In the beginning I focused on solitude also, portraits were mostly taken when the subject was looking away, in an introspective manner. As time passed, and as I became a warmer person, I guess it just became clearer what I wanted to portray, I wanted happiness and comfort rather than sadness and discomfort.
Please tell a story of something funny (in hindsight) that has gone wrong during a photo shoot.
The first time I shot someone nude: I was scared, even though I was the one who asked my friend to do it. She came to my house and it took about two hours to start shooting because I was simply too uncomfortable. She noticed it and told me “Let’s do it?” as she walked into my bedroom. After she took off her clothes, my anxiety subsided. I was very lucky, because she was one of those girls that doesn’t act differently with her clothes off.
When you want to photograph a person or their home, how do you normally ask them? Is the intimacy you portray through your art ever awkward to obtain?
It depends. I live in a rather small town, Oporto (Portugal), where all of my friends live, work and study. We spend time together at each other’s places and there’s an understated permission for me to access their lives. Most of the time, these photographs come from those situations, in which I simply happen to be in their bedroom talking with them. But there’s also the opposite, when I ask people to come over and shoot. Most of the time, people have grow to trust me and what I’m capturing. I guess a person in their own environment moves me the most.
Do you think most viewers react to your work in ways that you intend?
I suppose so. A couple of days ago, I asked someone what he got from my pictures. He answered, “You are calm and attached to your town;” and that is quite true.
Have you ever had a meaningful relationship develop out of your love for photography? If so, how did it happen?
Yes, as I have mentioned before, I live in a small town where everyone knows about everyone else. People that were aware of my photography would start to follow it, and then, someday, our paths would cross. Perhaps people artistically similar have an affinity for each other. Some of said people have become close friends of mine, and it is inspiring to have a group of peers that all respect and challenge one another.
In what kind of space to do live in/create art in?
In a white and luminous one. Full of details, little things, pictures on the wall. It is kind of dreamy, somewhat kitsch. I just can’t live in a space that feels cold or sterile.
How has your art developed as you’ve gotten older?
I became more conscious about lines, composition and what I really what to shoot. I also became capable of thinking about a concept and following through, which used to be quiet of a struggle of mine. I guess I have more confidence in my own camera (the same one I’ve always had) and in myself as well. I don’t fear rejection when I point the camera towards someone, I just don’t care. Lots of photographers say that you shouldn’t ask, you shouldn’t hesitate, you just go and take, you’ve got to act like a thief. I finally understand that.
What is one silly expression you use?
I say “sad sad situation” too often.
You can find more of Matilde’s photography on her Flickr page.