July’s featured photographer is Paola Paredes
Born in Quito, Ecuador in 1986. Paola graduated in Graphic Design in Quito in 2010. She became intrigued by the art of taking pictures and signed up for a photography course.
Paola recently finished an MA in Photography at Middlesex University. Her latest photography project ‘Unveiled’ has been published on various online publications, such as, Feature Shoot, Fotografia Magazine, Cosmopolitan, and Huffington Post. She is currently undertaking a second MA in Documentary Photography and Photojournalism at LCC, London.
March 16, 2014
In a three-hour conversation, I told my parents “I’m gay.” Accompanied by my sisters, I documented the event in the experimental photography project “Unveiled.”
In the planning process, the reality of Unveiled both excited and unnerved me. At 28, the possibility of rejection by my conservative Catholic, Ecuadorian parents, was one of many potential risks. My parents needed to be comfortable. I wanted to document natural reactions.
I needed to desensitize them to cameras. Much preparation was in order.
So… I prepared.
I photographed them cooking, brushing their teeth, shaving, smoking, and watching soap operas. I photographed them walking, tying their shoes, waking up, working in the office. I photographed my mother doing her nails.
The preparation for the project, surprisingly, plays an integral role in the actual project: coming out to my family at a dinner table, with three cameras, each shooting every five seconds.
The finished product provides the viewer a series of images, each telling a different story of the family they portray, the way those members interact, and ultimately, a photographer Unveiled.
Interview with Paola Paredes
Foto Féminas: Tell us a little about the production process behind your series Unveiled? How much time did it take you to prepare the set?
Paola Paredes: I’d say it took me at least four months and then I went to Ecuador, which took another week. I first organised the set in London, planning it mentally and thinking about how, technically, to capture this particular moment. I made a mock-up set in a studio in London. I got a table and chairs and asked friends to stand in for the actual subjects: my dad, my mum and my sisters. From there I started to move around the table with my camera, studying the takes a little more, which led to the next step…
I watch a lot of films and I would say that a lot of my inspiration for projects comes from cinema. For this project I began to analyse scenes from films featuring people eating or talking around a table. I would watch a film, pause it and analyse the camera angle, which would then inspire my work in the studio. After three months of this process I had established where the cameras were going to be placed using precise measurements, for example, one camera would be a metre away from another camera. It was then a case of transporting all of this to Ecuador. When I arrived it took a week to prepare everything and I only assembled the set the day before the shoot with the help of two friends. I rented three cameras and I went to a carpenter and asked them to make the table. Everything was set up as it had been in London; it was simply a case of recreating things and adjusting to the room where I was going to work.
FF: At the back of the set there appears to be a black curtain…can you explain what this is?
PP: Yes, the black curtain was put there to conceal the rest of our living room. Initially I thought about making the project in a studio. I began practicing there and learning how to work with the lights. After further consideration I decided I didn’t want to work in an artificial environment because I planned to give the sitters some big news, therefore I didn’t want them to feel inhibited by an artificial set, which is why I did it at my house. As I mentioned before, I had been practicing in London but I hadn’t practiced in the actual space of my house. I realised that the camera was pointing towards a raised space at the back of the shot, which was a distraction, so on the day we put up a sheet to act like a wall and this is what you see in the background.
FF: Why did you decide to document the moment you revealed you were gay?
PP: I think it was due to the fact that being gay in Ecuador can be difficult. I never had a desire to ‘come out of the closet’. My parents had, on certain occasions, made homophobic comments when they were talking about friends or certain subjects. This frightened me so I decided not to come out, keeping this private and just getting on with my life. However, one day I felt challenged and inspired to make this project. I was influenced by the personal work of other photographers and the idea came to me, because, to not do it like this through taking photographs…and then I thought, “no this idea is absurd, it would be completely mad, how would this be possible?” But despite these doubts the idea never went away and better yet it felt like a fact that I couldn’t express coming out in any other way than through my art.
FF: How long have you been an artist? How long have you been a photographer?
PP: It began when I was little. I started to draw, and when I was a young girl I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up… My interest in art led me to study graphic design, which was the next step. I really liked it, however I didn’t feel I could dedicate myself entirely to it because of its commercial aspect. However, graphic design led me to take classes in photography. My best friend told me one day, “you know what, I think you have a good eye for photography and you should explore it more”. From there I began to take more photos; I later went to the United States, not for anything thing art related but as more of a three-year break. The truth is I didn’t do much over there so I told myself I would go to London to do a Masters degree in photography and during my studies I made Unveiled.
FF: Tell us what your vision is? Would you say the topic of homosexuality is rarely addressed in Latin American art?
PP: I would say that sadly, projects like mine and similar projects by other people that open up this dialogue have only begun to happen recently. I don’t think homosexuality is talked about a lot in Ecuador, in every sense. It seems to me that it continues to be a very taboo subject; therefore I believe that there is a lot of work to be done before we can begin to talk about these issues. Sadly, as I said, it’s only the beginning. I feel that in Ecuador there are only a few LGBT events available. I have a friend who puts on an LGBT festival at a cinema in November so there are small things happening that are helping people to talk about this subject. There are foundations, there is a Pride March, so these small things are helping people to open up and talk.
I lament the fact that the topic of homosexuality in Ecuador is rarely discussed, partly because people are uneducated and misinformed on the subject. When I came out to my parents, the conversation I had with them involved explaining what it means to be gay and why someone is gay. Up to that point they hadn’t known much about it. I think we should start to educate children about these issues in school and from there we can take further steps, but we know that this isn’t going to happen any time soon like it has in Colombia, Peru and Venezuela. They are never going to teach these facts in school, now, or in the future, but well….
FF: You made Unveiled, but later you also made Beyond the Veil II and III and even published a book. Could you explain why you decided to continue developing Unveiled through the latter two projects and a book and web page specifically for this work?
PP: I think the reason I decided to make a specific web page for Unveiled was because the project had so many chapters that I couldn’t just add them like a photographic series to my website because the process was so complex. There is a section on my web page that is about the ‘making of’ Unveiled. Just the mental and technical planning around this project alone was so extensive that I wanted to share it with the public as well as other photographers who might be working on a project similar to this. I wanted to share my process.
Beyond the Veil II & III, really came before Unveiled because of a particularly important conversation I had with my sisters about my idea; one of them said to me: “look Pao, I support you, I am here with you, but I would like you to make our parents feel as comfortable as possible and not just like subjects who are aware of cameras around them.”
This gave me the idea to photograph my parents from the moment they got up until the moment they went to bed so they got used to the cameras. Therefore if you read the story and the captions, I explain what I did to make my parents feel at ease…for three weeks I photographed them and used some of these pictures for one of my series, and the truth is that it worked because while we were sitting at the table, they didn’t notice the cameras, in fact no one did, because we were already so used to them.
FF: I actually wanted to ask you about that because it caught my attention that in the photographs your family look very unaware of the cameras.
PP: Yes, for this I am grateful to my sister because if she hadn’t given me this little thought then I wouldn’t have considered it, but because I prepared them so much regarding the camera, they didn’t even notice it. I had thousands of photographs to look through because I had three cameras shooting every 5 seconds for three hours. There was only one photo where my sister was looking at the camera but no one else did. That gives you an idea of how little we noticed the cameras’ presence. Another thing that I did was to ask my dad to put some music on. The music came from small speakers positioned next to each camera, which masked the sound of the cameras’ shutters.
Beyond the Veil II is comprised of self-portraits which felt like self-exploration because I am very conscious that I am usually behind the camera …therefore it felt like therapy through photography…there are a pair of images of me with my then partner that also seemed relevant to the series.
The book featured on the website isn’t yet published so at the moment it’s only a one-off example. As you know, nowadays it’s difficult to publish photo books.
FF: Have you exhibited this series in Ecuador and if so, how was it received?
PP: Sadly, as you know, I have only exhibited this exhibition in other countries and still not in Ecuador. There is a reason behind this concerning one of the conditions I agreed to when making this work. Ten months after finishing the project I showed the photographs to my parents. I obviously needed their permission to exhibit them. I showed them the photographs I had selected for exhibition, which they approved. The only thing they requested of me, relating to the unfortunate situation in Ecuador, is that while they are happy to know about this, my family on my dad’s side would not be happy due to their strong Christian beliefs and so my father said that they are not ready to know. Therefore he said I could show them in London and other countries, just not in Ecuador. The truth is we spoke about it so much that I said ok because it felt like a formal agreement. My dad said it would take some time to confront things before my work can be shown in Ecuador. This is the main reason why I haven’t shown it there. The second reason is that I’m not living there, which makes it practically difficult. Thirdly, I have had exhibitions in London, a couple of photographs shown in Washington and I won the opportunity to have a solo exhibition with Unveiled that will take place in November 2016.
FF: Is there anything else you would like to add?
PP: More than anything I want to take this exhibition to Ecuador, this is my wish. However I have a lot of work to do to translate it. One of the reasons I made this project was for other lesbians facing exactly the same things I did and therefore my in heart my goal is to take this project to Ecuador. That is basically it.
To see her Unveiled book, here.
To know more about her work, click below.
La fotógrafa del mes de Julio es Paola Paredes.
Nace en Quito, Ecuador (1986). Paola se gradúa en Diseño Gráfico en Quito en el año 2010, sin embargo, comienza a intrigarse por el arte de tomar fotos y así empieza un curso fotográfico.
Recientemente, Paola culminó un maestreado en fotografía de la universidad de Middlesex en Londres. Su más reciente proyecto, ‘Unveiled’ ha sido publicado en varias publicaciones digitales, como, Feature Shoot, Fotografia Magazine, Cosmopolitan, y Huffington Post.
Actualmente, Paola está cursando un segundo maestreado en fotografía documental y periodístico en London College of Communication en Londres.
16 de Marzo 2014.
En una conversación que duró tres horas, le confesé a mis padres, ‘soy gay’.
Acompañada de mis hermanas, documenté el evento en este proyecto experimental, Unveiled.
En el proceso de planificación, la realidad de Unveiled (develar) ambas me emocionaban y enervaban. A los 28 años, la posibilidad de rechazo por mis padres Católicos y conservadores – padres ecuatorianos – era uno de los tantos riesgos. Mis padres necesitaban estar cómodos. Yo también quería documentar reacciones naturales.
Yo necesitaba desensibilizarlos ante las cámaras. Así que mi preparación comenzó…
Los fotografié cocinando, cepillándose los dientes, afeitándose, fumando y viendo telenovelas. Asimismo, mientras caminaban, atándose las trenzas, despertándose, trabajando en la oficina. Fotografié a mi madre pintándose las uñas.
La preparación del proyecto juega un punto importante en el desarrollo del proyecto como tal: revelarme ante la mesa del comedor, con tres camaras disparando cada cinco segundos. El producto final, provee al espectador con una seria de imágenes cada una contando una historia de la familia que ha retratado, la forma en que estos miembros interactúan y finalmente, a una fotógrafa Unveiled.
Para ver el libro, Unveiled, aquí.
Para conocer más sobre su obra, pinche abajo.
Entrevista con Paola Paredes