With a look that transcends the conventional and a passion that beats in each snapshot, we enter the artistic world of Estefanía Brussa. Born in the heart of Villa María, Córdoba, Argentina, in 1984, and raised in a more distant and small town full of nature and trees, the root of her inspiration, Estefanía has woven her photographic career in the fabric of experimentation and introspection. Her works are more than just images; they are windows into moods, emotional connections, and inner landscapes, all captured through the lens of her camera. In this interview, we explore the ins and outs of her artistic approach and her unique take on photography.
In the selection of images for the interview, we present the latest series where Estefanía experimented with the transparencies of Polaroid film. The title of the series, ‘Portraits of a Fleeting Thought,’ “Retratos de un pensamiento fugaz”, reflects the essence of her artistic project. In a nutshell, it’s about the journey of a fleeting moment altered by a double image. This overlay of emulsions represents the alteration of thought and shapes a collection of portraits of fleeting thoughts.
Instant Photographers: How would you describe your artistic approach and what elements do you consider essential in your experimental photographic work?
Estefanía Brussa: My artistic focus evolves with my life experiences. Recently, I’ve been dedicated to exploring fresh avenues of visual expression. This journey involves revisiting some traditional references and techniques while seeking connections with contemporary art. My exploration is deeply intertwined with literature, particularly poets and poetry. I’m driven by the challenge of translating these literary influences into my own visual language.
Within my experimental works, I hold materiality as a crucial element. Embracing risk-taking, undergoing processes, and being open to mistakes are integral to my approach. These steps enable reinterpretation and the expansion of pure photography into uncharted territories. This expansion paves the way for new realms of artistic expression.
IP: You have mentioned the importance of mood and physicality in your photographs. Could you explain how you incorporate these emotions and your own body in your works?
EB: The physicality of polaroid film grants me the opportunity to engage with and contemplate the immediate image born from a vital moment in a specific time and place. The captured scene materializes, transforming into an experience that resonates within me. This merging of the tangible snapshot and my personal presence becomes a unique encounter. How I infuse emotions into this process varies with each instance. Building an intimate connection with the surroundings, especially nature, is pivotal. Thus, what I undergo internally inevitably finds its reflection in my Polaroids.
My photographs do not seek to represent reality but seek to express an experience, emotions or thoughts that emerge from that experience.
Following the words of Llorenç Raich Muñoz in his book “Photography as Poetry” -poetry responds to an impulse, a claim, a natural inclination. I can say that the same thing happens to me but with the photographic act. Then, I like to think of the gesture (the decision to intervene) as a poetic act.
IP: Could you tell us about your creative process? How do you generate new ideas and how do you transform them into photographic images?
EB: Photography serves as a tool to delve into the intricacies of one’s thoughts and emotions, a journey that shapes the foundation of each creative process. Ideas germinate from compelling experiences that demand embodiment. This emergence initiates an investigative and contemplative process, essential for translating abstract notions – like thoughts – into a visual medium – such as photography. This metamorphic expedition entails the conversion of concepts into imagery, fostered through exploration and experimentation.
At times, it’s the surge of emotion that takes the lead, compelling the act of photography. Addressing this primal and seemingly inexplicable urge becomes a wellspring of creative energy. Subsequently, contemplation and research follow, charting a path that contrasts the prior course.
Occasionally, it’s within our unconscious mind that true authenticity blossoms; therein lies the space for the uncharted and the unforeseen. This creative realm thrives on embracing the unfamiliar while maintaining an awareness that experimentation is underpinned by thoughtful inquiry.
IP: In your professional career, you have participated in exhibitions and festivals both in Argentina and in other countries. Could you share any outstanding experience and how it has influenced your development as a photographer?
EB: Each of these experiences has functioned as a connecting thread, leading me to subsequent chapters in my journey. However, this thread doesn’t always follow a linear trajectory; rather, it resembles a constellation of interconnected points. Amid this intricate network, one particular festival stands out for its profound impact on both my professional and personal growth: the International Photography Festival of Barcelona EXP.
EXP isn’t solely a platform for individual advancement; it’s a realm that also embraces the essence of community. Engaging and collaborating within this festival equates to an exploration of diverse perspectives, ways of observation, and manners of existence. It’s an avenue to discover and appreciate alternate thought processes while fortifying our own convictions through encounters with kindred spirits. In this context, I’d like to acknowledge the enduring correspondence I’ve maintained with Llorenç Raich Muñoz. His vision and sagacity have provided a nurturing influence, directing me towards the realms of profound introspection that clear the path for coherent contemplation and ongoing inquiry.
IP: Currently, you focus on experimental photography using the support of Polaroid snapshots. What draws you to this technique and how do you use it to express your artistic vision?
EB: Polaroid film, by its very essence, beckons you to embark on a journey of exploration, experimentation, investigation, and daring. Throughout the development process, the emulsion remains sensitive to fluctuations in temperature, opening the door to an infinite realm of aesthetic and thematic possibilities. The endeavour of contemporary manufacturers to attain precise colours in Polaroid films often results in elusive and shifting hues. Remarkably, these deviations align harmoniously with my artistic approach, allowing me to distance myself from a strict representation of reality and instead embrace the chance to delve into abstraction and ambiguity.
Confronted with an apparent impossibility, an avenue for fresh creative potential invariably unfolds. The Polaroid film itself is a treasure trove of enigma and unforeseen revelations, constantly encouraging an adventurous spirit of experimentation.
IP: In your photographs, you seek to break down limits and destroy pre-established scenarios. Could you elaborate on how you approach this challenge and how you manage to convey a sense of movement in your still images?
EB: This challenge implies a certain degree of self-focus on my part. Primarily, I photograph for myself, stemming from an intrinsic need. Subsequently, I contemplate how to share the resulting creations. I firmly believe in the significance of discovering one’s personal perspective. To attain this, mastering the established norms becomes fundamental, paving the way for deliberate deviation in pursuit of this unique viewpoint.
Polaroid film’s inherent sensitivity (ISO) is relatively modest, often necessitating the use of flash to yield heightened contrast and sharper images. However, in my endeavours, I seldom resort to flash. I find it can disrupt the moments of connection with nature and the environment that are crucial in my work. Instead, I prefer the surge of emotion itself to guide those instances of creative introspection, even evoking a sense of movement.
IP: What do you think is the connection between experimental photography and individual experience? How do you think your work invites the viewer to reflect on his own experience and emotions?
EB: I hold the conviction that the potential for connections is as diverse as the number of individuals themselves. In relation to my learning journey, I believe that the realm of experimental photography and personal experience intertwines in the sense that the former grant us the liberty to delve deeply into our own existence. This exploration encourages us to adopt novel perspectives and modes of expression, ultimately yielding a visual language that resonates aptly with our individual experiences.
In terms of how my work extends an invitation for viewers to contemplate their own experiences and emotions, I perceive this as a challenging endeavour. The task lies in transforming something that originates in an intimate context into a force that can resonate on universal wavelengths, forging a bridge of connection with each observer.
My photographs do not seek to communicate or describe something precise, but rather to evoke an emotion or a set of them. Through visual experimentation, the combination of photographs and sometimes even words, I try to create emotional atmospheres and environments in my images, wishing to open a space for the viewer to explore their own experience and reflect on their very existence of them. However, I believe that the most accurate response will be that of those people who immerse themselves in the experience that one of my works proposes.
IP: Are there artistic references or photographers who have influenced your work? Could you name a few and how they have left their mark on your creative approach?
EB: There are several references and not only artistic ones that have influenced my work. I will mention four of them that represent this diversity.
First of all, I want to mention Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, who has been a constant source of inspiration and who else has been present in the process of transforming and creating many of my photographs. She was 16 years old when she wrote this work with which she revolutionized literature, emerging with it a new literary genre. Her courage to dream, think and create a monster, which was not beautiful, nor perfect, but which was hers has encouraged me to explore new ideas and concepts in my work.
Henry Fox Talbot never discarded anything, adding pencil annotations to his chemical blots, cropping, regrouping, and reusing images. In his experiments there is a connection that is halfway between drawing and photography; he also explored the blurry images of himself and presented them as an aesthetic possibility. His experiments influenced me to take risks and to value and reinterpret my own “indecipherable images”, as he called them. Sometimes uncertainty becomes a source of inspiration.
Julia Margaret Cameron discovered – they say by chance, I think she was “playing” non-stop – a combination of technical elements that allowed her to achieve a not-very-sharp image. Thus, she created the flow effect. She defied the norms of her time since sharpness was synonymous with perfection. Ella Julia shared her mistakes with friends and sent letters with the results obtained, she had an unorthodox way of working. Her enthusiastic and even cheeky spirit is something I always want to keep in mind.
Jonas Mekas’ film diary has also deeply influenced me. I was captivated by the ways in which he managed to capture his life and his environment in such a particular way. His ability to convey emotions through moving images has led me to experiment with new forms of visual narrative. Her Flashes of beauty are hard to forget.
IP: What projects or goals do you have for the future? Is there a particular theme or technique that you would like to explore in your next works?
EB: Looking towards the future, my ongoing aspiration involves the continued evolution of my Postal Polaroid Project. This initiative is dedicated to establishing connections and intersections among artists and visual thinkers dispersed across the globe. These connections are fostered through the medium of photographic language and experimentation.
In my upcoming endeavours, I’m keen on exploring this exchange and interaction via traditional postal mail and the Polaroid format, facilitating a unique form of engagement. The essence of my proposal lies in dispatching two photographs along with a concise text or poem to each participant. Their task is to select one of the photographs and imbue it with their creative intervention before returning it. This transformation can employ any resource they find fitting.
Central to my objective is the creation of a mosaic featuring all the returned images, collectively forming a vibrant and diverse universe. I find immense enthusiasm in this project, which encompasses not only the realm of art but also the journey of these letters—embodying the processes of sending and receiving—while also embracing the potential for intervention within each photograph.
Through this proposal, I seek to encourage collaborative work, reconsider the forms of artistic exchange, as well as resume ways of communication such as postal mail in an increasingly digitized world. This project invites us to reflect on the importance of time and the transformation that occurs at each stage of the process.
IP: Finally, what message or feeling do you hope to convey through your experimental photography? What is the impact you want to achieve on who interacts with your works?
EB: My pursuit in experimental photography is driven by a desire to communicate my distinct perspective and perception – to transform fragments of reality into poetic compositions. Each of my photographs forms a sort of Frankenstein, an amalgamation of elements crafted and assembled from one project to the next. A quest for flawlessness isn’t my aim. Instead, I relish this imperfection, as it keeps me in a state of continual exploration and education.
While I can’t definitively claim that my photographs achieve visual poetry, I’m resolute in acknowledging an intrinsic inclination within me to immerse in the realms of both photography and poetry. These creative avenues offer me the means to articulate my unique voice and viewpoint.
My aspiration lies in leaving a lasting impact on those who engage with my images, allowing them to be swept away by the narratives, even if these dialogues remain enigmatic. I yearn for my work to serve as a gateway to creativity, inspiring and guiding fellow artistic souls toward their own inquiries. Throughout this endeavour, I remain steadfast in advocating the significance of embracing risks and deriving joy from the journey. It’s about confronting apprehensions and finding the audacity to anticipate the unforeseen.
I extend an invitation to embrace the act of creation, to cultivate an affinity for our own ‘monsters.’ This entails examining them and delving into their intricacies. These creations, born from within us, need not be flawless. Instead, they can reveal their treasures through their imperfections. This process ultimately leads us to recognize and appreciate the depths of our artistic endeavours, where the unanticipated often hide the greatest riches.