Portugal-based photographer, Teresa Freitas, has found inspiration in the small moments. Armed with a keen eye and impeccable editing skills, she creates colourful, dreamlike images that make nostalgic motifs “less tangible and more cinematic”.
When looking at Teresa Freitas’ work, you can’t overcome the sense that it’s alive – a film inside a frame. They hint at a moment unfinished, one that seems eerily familiar, like a picnic blanket buried in half-eaten plates or washing swaying gently in the warm breeze. That feeling is no surprise when considering Freitas initially became interested in photography by taking photos of her family: “I had a big connection with the house I grew up in, which was also my grandparents'. As I also wanted to have a human presence in this project, and since the house was inhabited after my grandparents passed away, I photographed my youngest cousin around this old and imposing building”.
Freitas began by capturing small but significant moments from her own life, using the people and places she felt connected to as inspiration. To start with she used her phone camera, capturing “random ideas and thoughts, while doing creative editing with the apps I had available. These were quite surreal experiments, juxtaposing objects and elements in the same image.” By building on what she knew, Freitas developed her own style – bold colours transfused with soft pastel tones that give her work a “something’s off feel”, resembling the feeling of the evanescence when trying to recall a dream. But here there’s no need to put it into words – her art does it for you.
She is widely recognised for her distinct style, her website featuring commissioned work for world-renowned brands such as Sonos, Chloé, and most recently, Porsche. She has even infiltrated the film industry, her collaboration with Netflix to promote season two of The OA being her most memorable collaboration. “It felt like magic”, she said – a familiar feeling to viewers of her own work. Her first solo exhibition, Springtime Delight, was recently shown in Seoul, Korea, and she is currently giving an online course called Photography with Colour in collaboration with Domestika, a popular online learning platform. Freitas’ success only seems to be growing as she continues to adhere to the advice she claimed she would give her younger self: “There is no such thing as ‘waiting for inspiration’”. By focusing on the obscure nostalgia of the everyday she has developed a unique style that resonates with a myriad of people around the world.
How did you first get into fine art photography and content creation? Is this something you always wanted to do?
It wasn't something I'd considered before, so it wasn't planned at all. I took Multimedia Art and mastered in Design & New Media in Fine Art College. I was set out to be a multimedia designer. But thanks to Instagram, which I started using in my first year of college, I started growing an audience for my photographic work and getting noticed by brands that wanted to collaborate. I've been able to be a full-time photographer and content creator for about two years now. It has always been a passion of mine and something I didn't stop doing in college classes' projects, but I just didn't think it was a feasible career afterwards. Turns out it was, thankfully.
Your work combines soft pastel hues with imaginative compositions. How did you first start experimenting with photography?
We had a photography class that mainly taught us ways to think about photography, but also how to use and develop film – by choosing a subject to photograph and shooting it extensively during the year. I had a big connection with the house I grew up in, which was also my grandparents'. As I also wanted to have a human presence in this project, and since the house was inhabited after my grandparents passed away, I photographed my youngest cousin around this old and imposing building. There was a contrast to it that I really enjoyed. The house had beautiful light and very special corners, and my cousin had a very cinematic face, so the black and white portraits turned out to be quite interesting, with a Sally Mann vibe to it. This project was my first contact with photography, but at the same time, I was using my mobile phone to capture random ideas and thoughts, while doing creative editing with the apps I had available. These were quite surreal experiments, juxtaposing objects and elements in the same image. Eventually, I started toning down a bit, while getting more and more interested in editing and how colour could change the viewer's perception of a place. I moved further away from black and white and portraiture, and focused more on colour work to give that slight "something's off" feel to my images, while also trying out different styles and techniques in creating creative content for brands (namely stop-motion and set design).
Please talk us through your creative process when you create your content for Instagram. Does this differ when working with creative agencies?
It's different, although it can also share some similarities. All sides of my work play with familiar motifs, that are then subverted in something less tangible and more cinematic. This is true for travel (street) photography, personal editorials, and content creation. Regarding the work I'm able to gather from my travels, the process is fairly direct: get out early in the morning, wander and discover (while passing through some pinned locations that were previously found on Google Street View), and get back by dinner time. Then get a quick glance at them while editing at night (I do a more focused analysis and editing when I get back home).
For brands and personal editorials, I like to sit down a bit, run my head through some ideas, write them down on a digital notebook and then sketch a few on my tablet. Then, it's a matter of finding or making the right props to shoot, styling them or creating a specific set design, and shooting at home or in my parent's garden. I always prefer natural night, so I tend to shoot more in the garden.
What has been your most memorable collaboration so far?
I believe my second collaboration with Netflix will always be the one I remember. The challenge was to create content and promote the second season of The OA. We got to visit a studio in Los Angeles and see the whole crew in action, while witnessing the creation of a couple of scenes within an episode. Seeing the studio dimensions, the set construction, backgrounds, props... it felt like magic.
Where has been your favourite/most memorable place that you have photographed and why?
That's a hard one. There's always something special I take with me to each new place I visit. But, last year, I went to Muralla Roja in Calpe, Spain, for a couple of days. It was one of the best decisions ever. I was alone, no internet, just soaking up the sun in what is one of the most incredible buildings I've ever seen. Having the opportunity to experience and shoot it 24/7 was kind of unbelievable. I found myself in a creative bubble, constantly inspired, and only wished I had booked my stay for a few more days. It's a very special place.
Where has been your favourite/most memorable place that you have travelled and why?
I loved travelling to the United States. I only got to visit Los Angeles, Palm Springs and San Francisco, but it was everything and nothing I expected at the same time. I didn't realize I would have such a strong connection with these American cities and their surroundings. The mood in LA was very special, Palm Springs looks like it’s straight out of a movie, and San Francisco's architecture is right up my alley. I could walk in these places for days on end. The diversity and scale in California is amazing – maybe because I come from a considerable small country, it struck me.
If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
There is no such thing as "waiting for inspiration."
You can find out more at: