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the country

For one month, I travelled through Portugal, my home country, searching for images. I was starting out in photography and was strongly influenced by the work of Walker Evans and Robert Frank, in particular American Photographs and The Americans, two photobooks I had discovered during my studies at the International Centre for Photography in New York and immediately revered, their cool detachment and subtle statements appealing deeply to me. Inspired by, or should I say indocrinated in..?, the street photography genre, I emulated Frank and worked with a 35mm rangefinder camera (a Voigtlander) but instead of black and white, I used cheap Kodak colour film, that I bought along the way, in decaying shops across my quaint, fading country - or so I saw it then.

Every day for a month I hit the streets (and roads..), camera unconfortably held in hand, ready to "shoot", riddled with burning questions: what are the signifiers for what I am trying to say, and how do they signify? How does the camera transform them into signs? The images in the final selection, edited out of hundreds, show what for me is "Portugal" and "Portuguese": the villages and their cafes, the buildings and streets in small towns, the window shops and signs from previous decades, the religious and its manifestations, the look of people, their clothes and gestures, the contrasts between urban and rural, between shopping malls and street markets, the ubiquitousness of the car and its takeover of the public space, the nostalgic relation to the sea - in one word perhaps, the vernacular and its manifestations, the opposite of the spectacular and monumental. In this, my influence came rather from Evans.

It was tiring, at times depressing, to wander alone and work in this way; "street photography" put into practice seemed then rather bleak. Or was it because I am a woman, and felt more exposed and vulnerable? My own feelings of nostalgia, estrangement and inedequacy enter thus also the frame, and infuse every image, not unlike Frank's, or Evans's.

100+ photographs, dimensions variable. Film photography, inkjet prints

Developed during the Gulbenkian Creativity and Artistic Creation Photography programme (PGCCA) in 2008.

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