Q & A with Nuno Moreira, Photographer
29 January 2014 § Leave a comment
Nuno Moreira is a talented Portuguese photographer who has recently published ‘State of Mind’ – a photobook reviewed recently in akickupthearts here. We asked him a few questions about his work, influences and Japan, where he is currently based.
Q. I note that you are currently in Tokyo promoting “State Of Mind” and have worked there in the past. Do you have a specific attachment to Japan?
I’m based in Tokyo and happily living here with my Japanese wife. I intend on staying for a little longer and develop more work both with photography and art direction. Since I came here I’ve been trying to gather a circle of fellow artist friends and possibly delve into partnerships that can be enriching for everyone.
Tokyo is a great city to live and work, I made the entire editing of “State of Mind” here during last year. Everything is very functional, stable and tidy. Sometimes it gets way too much but I still have a lot to discover and the traditional aspects of Japanese society and the ancient daily rituals are really the motif that brought me here in the first place.
Q. On the Japanese theme, your work has formal similarities with the great Daido Moriyama’s work – that is high contrast, black & white images, often from unusual viewpoints. Did he influence you in any way?
I should probably say thank you for the compliment, but Moriyama is really not an influence in my work. I appreciate his style, most of the times I find it over repetitive even though I acknowledge his importance in contemporary photography. The formal aspects are similar, we both shoot in black and white and many street scenes but in terms of mood it’s quite different. If I had to characterize my style – which seems like an awful thing to do – I would say it draws more influences from classic cinema, perhaps similar with the Nouvelle Vague movement where everything is more loose and unconventional but still leading somewhere.
Q. Are there other photographers – or artists – who have been particularly influential?
I like the work of Charles Harbutt quite a lot. And the funny thing is that I discovered Harbutt’s work the first time I came to Japan while browsing through an antique shop. I found his 1973 book, “Travelog” totally by accident and thought we had many things in common. Especially the way of overlooking the city and people in a cinematic way. Funny enough, I couldn’t really predict that one year later I would be moving to Japan, editing my own photo book, and that I would have a recommendation from Harbutt himself on the book.
Q. Travelling seems to be an important, or even vital, part of your life. How does this manifest itself in your work?
That’s correct, I’ve come to realize that traveling plays a vital role in my life. I need the sense of dislocation to actually feel more in control of my body and regain consciousness on where I am going and what I intend to do next. I think being stuck in one place doing the same thing is something that really doesn’t work for me and most artists I know. Being in a place for the first time, even if for a short period, opens this gigantic window of possibilities where perception works in a different way. I like these shifts in reality and the challenges that follow change. I also feel there’s many insights and more mental activity deriving from the different inputs in new places therefore I take a lot more pictures and my mind is usually much clearer and faster when traveling. Life is all about movement, don’t you think?
Q. This is a book that was many years in the making. At what point did you realise that there was a photo book that would emerge from these images? Did you have a conscious plan for it from the beginning?
I didn’t have a plan to make this book until I actually started to gather all the photos and seeing them in perspective. In that sense I could say “State of Mind” works as a kind of monograph of what I’ve been shooting and seeing for the last 5 years.
Q. Another Japanese photographic artist who has been prominent recently is Rinko Kawauchi. She is famed as a master of editing, bringing together a series of widely varied images, to create something new and meaningful – a particularly skill relevant to the art form that is the photo book. How important is editing to you? / How did you approach the editing of your own work?
I’m familiar with Rinko Kawauchi’s work and her editing and image sequencing is indeed interesting and sometimes surprising. Unfortunately there’s many other astonishing Japanese photographers who are not so well known and deserve credit, being my personal favorite probably Issei Suda.
The editing of “State of Mind” was perhaps the most difficult part and what took me the most time to accomplish. The process of editing basically consisted of putting images side by side and choosing the best rhythm and flow between them. This was something I had to do physically, with printed images. It’s utterly impossible to work only in digital terms, at least for me. I wanted the book to follow a specific narrative even though there’s different images and some jumps here and there. Sometimes images in a spread form a dialogue, sometimes they need to be isolated and stand alone against a white facing page. To find the right flow or visual path for a photo book is not an easy thing, so I think it really makes sense if the photographer can work with a proper designer and someone who is not so emotionally close with the images. If I would do the book today it would probably look different but I suppose that’s part of the learning curve.
Q. “State of Mind” features many single people isolated in urban environments – looking, thinking, passing by. There is often an evident sadness and loneliness, but also hope. What are the feelings that you want the reader to see in this collection of work?
I’ve been listening to what people think of this book and the series and it’s very interesting because it really works as a mirror to whatever you’re feeling at the moment you see them. It’s the projective power of images. I guess I like lonely people in general and that’ what attracts me to shoot them in the first place, the reason might be because my parents only had me and I was raised in an environment where I would play all by myself. Having said this, the images in the book have a lot of me in it even though that’s not clearly obvious.
There’s really no specific message to the reader. I just want the viewer to be engaged in the scenes and get into the poetic quality of the people they’re looking at. If I can capture the attention and make you imagine situations like frames from a movie, if that’s sufficient to trigger the imagination, I’m very satisfied.
Q. This is a book ideally suited to the atmosphere generated by BW imagery. Do you also work in colour?
Very rarely do I shoot with color film. Sometimes when I want to try something different I do it, but I find better results almost always by shooting black and white. I believe the reason being that it’s easier for me to see the world and what would work better in black and white. It’s more neutral and the different shades of grey also interest me. Besides, I believe when we’re looking at a black and white image our eye is less distracted and we can enjoy better to look at the lines, composition, structure, light, shadows, textures and overall atmosphere.
Q. An obvious question. Whats next?
Next is promoting this book and doing exhibitions and distribution. I’ve put a lot of myself into this project and being a self-published book means I have to do all the work and communication by myself. It’s not a bad thing, but it demands a lot of time I could be shooting or thinking of more work.
If all goes according with plan, I estimate to have a new book ready in one or two years. It will continue from where this one started but something perhaps more conceptual and hopefully a step further.
State of Mind by Nuno Moreira
- 287 x 200mm
- 112 pages with 79 photographs
- Limited to 500 copies
- ISBN 978-989-20-4151-3
- 35 Euro
Copies may be purchased directly from the artist at www.nmphotos.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org