I'm not very good at talking about myself, but to be honest, I feel like I'm a more of a reflective woman today, although I'm full of dreams and energy. I feel that I have a strong responsibility on my shoulders because I cannot afford to betray my dreams and those who trust me. The greatest joy is being able to do my work in a way that is free of constraints. I am a very strict photographer with myself, who has always given herself strict discipline so as not to lose her goals. As a rule, I take photographs for my own pleasure, without asking myself what the public, the curator or the critic on duty want: it is a rule that I have set myself to carry forward my ideas without fear of being misinterpreted or of disappointing someone. After all, there is no harsher critic than ourselves!! I have a wonderful son, born in Italy from an Italian father, who I raised with great difficulties and who represents everything in my life. The lack of a real family, of a father and a mother, of roots, weighs me and to fill my voids I use photography in the therapeutic field, the basis on which I carry out all my work.
I am writing a book on psychology portraiture, a book that I hope will take my story around the world and communicate, to people in need, that each individual has a superior strength within oneself; that anyone is capable of reversing the state of things, just like I did.
My biggest dream is to create a foundation for maltreated girls by awarding scholarships and job opportunities for a better future. My head is a continuous erupting volcano and I find myself doing a thousand projects at the same time, including an ambitious project by a collective of photographers called Brera Photography, where I and my partner Viola Cadice will be curators. Our intent is to make a significant contribution to the value of photography, which today has been lost in the great confusion of ideas. A place only for people who really love photography, and not to feed one's ego. It will be a very challenging project but I love challenges and every job of mine has to go beyond what it was before.
Your childhood and adolescence were marked by suffering and abuse: what was the spark that gave you the strength to rebel and succeed?
I understood, with time, that life always puts us in front of difficulties. I see them as tests, if you are strong and tenacious, you can overcome them and reach your goals. But the goal must come from the depths of the heart and the stomach, you must believe it and want it with all your strength. As a young girl with dirty feet and a face marked by hunger in a favela in Saõ Paulo, the chances of becoming something good are few, but I am stubborn, I watched the sky and imagined a life full of beauty and worlds to discover, they were images that I created with my imagination. A powerful spark inside me, which I made to grow stronger and stronger, because the key to changing that life somehow I knew was mine.
I believed in my strength and wanted to overturn what was not good for me. I wrote in the stars that I would travel the world and I would tell my story proving that when you believe in yourself, you can even move the mountains, and that's how everything I ever wanted, is becoming my reality!!
In your life, first as a model, then as a photographer, you embodied and then portrayed the female body: in the image world, nowadays, does female image represent more an object or a subject?
The harmony and beauty of women can be read in various forms. The status of the object or subject depends only on the look of who is watching the woman. It must be said, however, that in terms of marketing of any product, the female body is more attractive than any other subject and is therefore abused.
I could use the formula glamourous nude or semi-nude women to have more people following me, but I would betray my vision, my path, my story. I lived a life of abuse, therefore myself victim of my body, object of violence, this is the reason that led me to a more intimate and reflective photography. The nudes of On My Skin project, for example, are images of a naked body, used as a surface where I brought my thoughts back to an art form with delicacy and respect towards the girl photographed. A project where people see anything but the nudity in it!
What is the difference between the image of women seen from the male and female gaze?
In the first instance, I have to say that it is all in the photographer honesty. Without wanting to be controversial, I believe it is difficult for a man to look at a woman in a detached way. It may be subtle or violent the difference of gaze from both sexes, but as a careful observer I am, I find subliminal details in an image made by a woman or a man, which leads me to understand the nature of who shot a certain picture.
What does a woman's eye discover through the photographic lens?
I believe that photography is a summary of the experiences one has had in life. The eye of a woman condenses, in general, in the lenses, her personality and her experiences, therefore the feminine gaze transmits poetry and intense beauty but delicately, being she a giver of life, bearer of harmony.
Can you summarise the aims and the modalities of your interpretation of photography and which, among your works, represents it better?
First of all, I don't shoot to prove something but to satisfy my thirst for knowledge and my curious soul. Photographic art is therapeutic for me, it helps me to overcome difficult moments. I gain inspiration from every moment of life. In my photography one can find all the books I have read, the journeys I have made and the encounters I have had with people ... a condensation of chapters of a story in progress each day. To those who have attentive eyes, I communicate many messages through my images. Many write to me from various parts of the world saying that they perceive something special looking at my work, even that it makes them feel good. A real photographer should be scrupulous because when he takes a photograph, he is telling his/her story and also transmitting the story of his subject, a responsibility that cannot be taken lightly.
Regarding my favourite project, I think a mother would find it hard to say which is her favourite son, but if I have to choose, I choose the artistic work that has projected me towards my expressive art freedom: Life Above All (from The Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters).
How do you see the current situation in your country of origin?
South America in general is always a bit unstable. Living in Brazil is a daily challenge. The current presidency scares me a lot because I know what it means to live in terror. Until 1985 there was a dictatorship regime in Brazil and I was living there and heard terrible stories. The corruption and politics chosen awkwardly are leading the country towards states of mind that are unusual for Brazilian people, who are usually cheerful and attached to life. People's desperation, however, leads to making extreme choices, forgetting that freedom of thought and culture are not achieved through weapons in hand and violence against who is different.
What prompted you to leave Brazil for Europe, Italy and Milan?
I came to Europe to learn a new language. I wanted to return to Brazil speaking perfect English to find a stable job for my future and so I arrived in London, where I lived for a couple of years. I had not planned to stay in Europe, but after a visit to a friend in Italy, precisely in Naples, I felt like I was in my country: cheerful people, breathtaking landscapes, wonderful food with loans of culture and lots of art.
Milan and Saõ Paolo: two great metropolis.
Milan is a cosmopolitan city and full of activities that won me over, so much so that I have elected it to my own city, somehow it also reminds me of Saõ Paulo a lot. The economic capital of Brazil, with over 40 million inhabitants, is a city that never sleeps; dentists, gyms, restaurants, bookstores, supermarkets always open, a reality that is happening more and more often also in Milan. It must be said that in the last ten years the Ambrosian city has had a remarkable leap in the quality of life compared to Saõ Paulo, although two very similar cities in many ways, Milan offers more solutions to live well, for example, the size of the city, the cultural activities, the community, the services. Undoubtedly, compared to Saõ Paolo, it is much more suited to citizens despite being cosmopolitan.
How much did the Ambrosian social and cultural environment contribute to your formation and affirmation?
Milan is full of events and cultural meetings that allow anyone to grow by making themselves known by visiting the right environments. Both Saõ Paulo and Milan are cities, which allow a photographer to launch himself internationally and to be recognised more effectively than other cities in Italy or in Brazil. I owe to Milan the fact that I have become the professional I am today in photography. When I decided to be a photographer by profession, I made a portfolio of portraits and left Bologna, where I lived then, to knock on the doors of the great Ambrosian publishing houses. I immediately started working with a large group like RCS, especially with magazines and the daily news Corriere della Sera. I learned to interact with people from various parts of the world, to have a high-level lifestyle and to live free and respected.
To give a meaningful image of Milan, what kind of photographs would you take?
Milan has now been photographed in every sauce but, if I really had to take a photo of it in my own way, I would photograph it at dusk when the city is bathed in multicoloured lights. That time of the day makes you almost forget that you are in the chaotic Milan, it appears a gentle city. A city that can be as welcoming as the person who chooses to grow together with it.