A Conversation with Catia Simões
Catia! How do you feel when you are alone in a room?
Alone in an empty room, I feel extremely anxious, but when I am in a room with furniture, pictures, papers, I like to observe everything. I wonder what’s inside the furniture, what I’ll find if I dare open that drawer or that closed door. I always have the feeling that I will come across something very revealing or very funny haha I don’t go around opening random doors and drawers out there, it’s just a feeling. Also, I don’t think I’d actually find anything revealing, but maybe funny. A photograph that would make me laugh?! I don’t know.
This feeling of melancholy, does that come from your attachments to the past and its memories?
This question caught me by surprise. Maybe because I was afraid to answer it. I confess that as soon as I read I felt my heart racing. Much of this feeling of melancholy is related to my past. To be more honest, about my childhood. I had a very confused childhood and carry with me until this day many questions that were not answered. The pain does not come only from the questions that have not been answered or from the things I have gone through that I do not understand why, after all, we all carry questions without answers or that have not been answered completely. However, that changes when the only person you would redirect those questions is no longer here. And it’s not about any person, it’s someone who’s very important to you and who died with all those answers. I will not lie, there are days that living with so many questions about my childhood is not easy. But what scares me the most is knowing that I will die without having these answers. (Despite the tears in my eyes I do not want to sound dramatic, but that question really touched with me).
I am sure it gets almost exhausting - even where there’s a pool of emotion to swim in, it can become a drowning experience. Don’t you think?
I agree and I know this feeling. I’ve lost count. But I’m not afraid of this experience anymore. When an explosion of feelings happen I usually take pictures and it is in these moments of suffocation that I create the photographs that I fall mostly in love with. I fall in love with the honesty and transparency of these photos and it is through the photography that I calm down and I get back to the shallow waters.
Now, I see that there’s a longing to love and be loved - and you have expressed that beautifully through your work. I understand that in the beginning longing is a tension - and a freedom in the end. Can you tell us about where you are on this journey?
I believe I’m at the beginning of this journey. I still have a lot to learn about loving and being loved even though I feel loved by people close to me and the people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing through photography who share the same feelings as I do. Even so, when that feeling is initiated by me it’s still pretty confusing because no matter how much I want or try I cannot express myself. This is all a reflection of my childhood. I do not know how to handle losses. I love, but the fear of losing special people sometimes becomes greater than love itself. I often prefer to avoid deepening ties. It’s not easy for anyone to lose someone special. Maybe I’m still stuck in the feeling of longing. That means I have a lot to evolve yet.
With that, can you talk to us about your process of making your self-portraits? Is there an idea or a feeling you begin with?
Self-portraits began from a feeling, my anxiety. I always dealt with anxiety, but when it became unbearable it was photography that helped me through it. I had never stopped to think about the power photography has over me. It’s something really strong. I always say that it is therapeutic. Photography soothes and distracts me. It is almost inexplicable. I learned a lot about myself by doing self-portraits. I can say that self-portrait involves a lot of feeling and it was through the self-portraits that I found all this melancholy inside me and made it part of my life. I cannot express myself in any other way and with each photo, I learn more about myself and about photography.
..and how important is it for you to make sure that these photographs remain and reflect your journey honestly?
As I noted, I cannot express myself in any other way, it is through photography that I express my feelings. Even feelings that I have never talked about or plan to talk about. Therefore, each picture has a very big meaning for me. It’s personal, other people may never experience these feelings. They are pure and honest, so I think it really is important that these photographs remain and reflect my journey in the most honest way possible.
Does music play an important role in creating that mood for you?
Oh yeah, sure. I like to listen to Sigur Rós, an Icelandic band that inspires me a lot and brings me to this pool of emotions. I went to their show here in Brazil last month and it was amazing. I still have no words to explain how I felt, I trembled from head to toe, haha. This band has a very big meaning for me, especially the Hoppípolla song.
One thing that you make the most use of is the hand gestures. Can you tell us about how the hands are more expressive to you?
Hands are quite expressive. Our gestures can tell a lot about us. But the feeling that accompanies my gestures is freedom. I like to reach out and imagine that something will happen next, something like touching the rain, the wind or even something surreal like touching the clouds. But it does not always involve a touch. I could be dancing. Dancing in the rain, that’s how I feel.
With that, can you tell us about your favorite poem?
I usually read more books than poems. I took the liberty of citing a passage about time from a book I like very much called the Joker Day by Jostein Gaarder, which says, “At the beach, a child builds a sand castle. For a moment he admires his work, then destroys everything and builds another castle. In the same manner, time also allows the Earth to perform its experiments. Here in this square was written the history of the world, here the events were recorded in the memory of the people, and then again erased. On Earth, life pulses in a disorderly way, until one fine day we are modeled … with the same fragile material of our ancestors. The breath of time permeates us, carries us and joins us. Then it detaches itself from us and lets us go. We are taken as if by magic and then abandoned again. There is always something fermenting, waiting to take our place. That’s because we do not have a firm ground under our feet. We do not even have sand under our feet. We are sand.”
Lastly, what would you suggest or share with other photographers?
I would suggest taking pictures of yourself. To unravel through photography feelings that are still confused and thus learn to deal with them. It’s amazing the way you see yourself evolving from your fears and insecurities. It is really beautiful and unique. Well worth it.
Interview with Catia