We recently had the pleasure of interviewing Sara Sousa about her series Beach Boys, an aesthetic exploration of bodies and sand.
First, let’s start with a couple biographical questions to introduce you to our readers – where are you from? Do you practice photography as a hobby or a profession? When or why did your interest in photography begin? What or who inspires you as an artist?
I’m from Lisbon, Portugal. Photography is a hobby, but luckily I also get to do it in my job sometimes. I don’t remember how or why I became interested in photography, but I do remember asking my mother for a DSLR camera when I was 18. It didn’t really take off then, however. It was only about a year ago, when I got my first analog camera, that I really got into photography. The film aesthetic and the slower process appealed so much to me – I felt like I’d really found my medium for self-expression.
You introduce Beach Boys as a “visual exploration of bodies, faces, movement and shapes – human and otherwise”. When I look at this series, I’m certainly captivated by the movement and shapes, but I also see these images as telling a story – perhaps one about humans reconnecting with the natural world. Am I wrong to envision certain symbolic components to this series, was it purely intended to be an aesthetic exploration?
The idea for this series originated from one single image that suddenly entered my mind one day: a man, with blue sky and sand behind him, holding a mirror in a way that covered his head. It really stuck with me. I immediately thought about the two models whom I ended up working with on this, Angelino and Luka. A big chunk of the motivation behind these photos was aesthetic – I really wanted to explore the juxtaposition of them, their faces, their bodies, with the mirror, the sand, the sky. But behind that, yes, there was also this idea of portraying a kind of escape into nature. There were also other scattered ideas, not fully formed. It’s curious how, after you look at your own photos, you can sometimes see in them meaning that was only on the periphery of your mind when you took them. A kind of addendum to your original intention.
When I look at some of the shots in your series, I can’t help but imagine what went on behind the scenes in order to capture them. The 12th image, for instance, of the man leaping through the air – were these images planned before the shoot, or was there a spontaneous element to them? And what kinds of physical obstacles, if any, did you encounter?
Some images were planned, others were made possible by Angelino and Luka’s amazing instincts as models. They’re also excellent dancers, and I think that shows especially in that picture you mention. I think it was one of them who had the idea to jump through the air – it was definitely spontaneous, but it fit well with the idea of being in nature, interacting with it. The only obstacle I can remember is the sand – for some of the photos, I had the models throw sand at each other, and I was so glad with how those turned out, but I doubt it was pleasant for them!
The models in the series did a fantastic job – are they professional models, or friends / acquaintances of yours?
They did! They’re friends of friends, and I’ve known them for a while. Luka works as a dancer and model, and Angelino mostly does fashion styling.
Beach Boys could be described as a minimalist style of photography, especially in the way that you use space and color to accentuate particular details to the eye – is this an approach you take with your other works as well?
I was always drawn to details and colors. But this photoshoot was a bit of a turning point for me since I used to photograph mostly street scenes and nature. Now, I have a number of ideas I want to explore, and those elements, the minimalism, play into most of them. It feels like my style is slowly solidifying, but I have a lot to discover and learn.
If our readers would like to have a look at some of your other work, where can they find it?
They can always check out my Instagram.