Please tell us a little of your background, and how you came to photography.
I am Brazilian, 31 years old and I live in São Paulo.
I decided to work with photography in 2013. Before that I had a formal job in an office, but it was never what I wanted to do, so I began to reflect on the hobbies that I liked the most to start as a profession, and from that came photography. I dipped myself into my past and found out that my mother loved to photograph. She is the person who has made most of the images of the family since her youth. I think the love came from there, from seeing my mom up and down with a camera in her hands, always ready to take pictures of meetings, parties, family reunions and trips.
Photographing the streets is even more recent. Three of the last four years I was doing newborn essays, photographing families and women, and it was only in 2016 that I began to develop my personal work. It took me a long time to realize how much I blocked myself, because of all harassment that we women suffer in public spaces. It took a lot of support and debate about our oppressed condition to get rid of some fears and insecurities. Today, the streets are my favorite photo exercise. It’s where I can be myself, explore lights, meet characters and especially develop my view.
You are member of the Mamana Foto Coletivo, please tell us about that, and how and why it was founded.
Mamana Foto Coletivo is a Brazilian female photo collective. It arose in 2016, precisely in the year that I began to explore more street photography. I met a friend, Renata, and we started discussing how much we, as women, are too little encouraged to be photojournalists or street photographers. From this debate came the need to get organized, to meet more women and find these photographers, so we can get together and take this space that has historically been denied us.
From the first moment we got out on the streets, we suffered from harassment. As if society said “Go back home, this is not your place!” That’s part of the sexist culture in which we’ve been raised. Woman has always been kept in private space, and man has always been given the privilege of being on streets. With photography this is no different, so much so that women do not even think about being photojournalists, covering wars, protests, or walking on the streets with a camera around their necks, photographing strangers.
This is the context that Mamana promotes. We look for, encourage, and publish the work of women photographing on the streets. We want to connect them, so that they become empowered and occupy these spaces.
Today we are seven photographers — in São Paulo: Renata Armelin, Bruna Custódio, Gabriela Biló, and myself; in Brasília: Janine Moraes and Jacqueline Lisboa; in Rio de Janeiro: Tita Barros — and more than twenty collaborators spread throughout Brazil.
Our goal is to be able to have presence in even more Brazilian states, and even to make connections with female photographers all around the world.
Mel Coelho | Website | Instagram | Mamana Foto Coletivo |