"A small but strong warrior."

Tell us about yourself.

I’m 29, I was born and “grew up” in Bogotá, the capital city of Colombia. When someone asks about what I do for a living, I’d like to answer pointing to what makes me live or the things I can't live without: Reading, watching movies, drinking coffee, obviously taking photographs, but also thinking about photography, writing about photography and dreaming about photography.

MonicaVila

Nikon F4S - Ilford HP5 400

When and how did the film journey begin for you?

Over a year ago... it had been a long time since I last took a photo or even had the desire to do it, caused by a trip where all my photos resulted as a lot of boring postcards of a wonderful place. I love photography so much that I knew I needed to do something, change something, so I tried changing my way of working. I came from digital photography and I guessed that something inside me could be changed; I know it can sound a little bit naive, but in that moment I understood that it wasn’t just about a change of device, but a change of mentality and rhythm.

There was a moment when I felt really overwhelmed by the amount of images that could be shot in digital, and little good results that one could get because of the image accumulation, the distraction of the camera screen, etc. I guess I needed more calm, concentration and silence; I wanted to be there, in that place, at the moment and totally connected with the situation, the subject or the object. And well, of course forcing myself to be more careful with the shot: that every element would correspond with what I had in mind.

A lot of people (many of them professional photographers) can see this as a hobby or a senseless trend, but I believe that it depends more on what photography means for each person: if it’s seen as a funny game it can turn into an obstacle for getting an instant reward. If another person sees it like a necessity or a search, it can mean a path, not the best, not a new one, just simply a path that can bring something to their work.

MonicaVila

Nikon F4S - Kodak Ektar 100

What type of film do you usually shoot and what made you choose it?

Nowadays I’m just using 35mm film, I’ve used 120 film in a Holga, but at this moment I don’t have a good medium format camera; I’m planning to buy one soon, because I need it for a special project I’m working on. In 35mm I’m still testing the different types of film rolls that exist (I’m really slow with this, like a snail or a slug) but for now I’m really satisfied in BW with Kodak’s T-max, and Tri-X. In color with Kodak’s Portra and Ektar, also with Agfa and even with one of the cheapest, Fujifilm’s Proplus.

In general I use films that don't overly modify what the eye can see, that just gives a certain atmosphere according to the content of the image; my work is maybe simple, I don’t like forced aesthetics or too contrived, for that reason I usually don’t work with expired, lomography film or those that changes what the eye (not the mind) perceives. Maybe this could change, it depends on the type of project.

MonicaVila

Nikon F4S - Ilford HP5 400

What camera makes you click?

I mentioned that I’m working, for now, only in 35mm. The camera with which I’m actually working is a Nikon F4S, my war tank; I bought it a year ago, when I began working with film photography. I guess yes, it’s a camera a little bit pretentious for a starter, but I really didn’t started from zero in photography; I already had been working for some years in digital and although a lot of things change, there are concepts that are the same. At the beginning I was a little scared by that camera, so big and I’m so small, it is so strong and sometimes I’m so weak and vulnerable… I believe I chose it because it was related with the strong sensation that lead me too take the decision to abandon digital photography and more important, because I think it was in accordance with what I wanted and needed to be in photography and in general in life: something like a small but strong warrior.

MonicaVila

Nikon F4S - Kodak Tmax 400

Between black and white and colour film which would you choose?

Both, I think that each one is designed for different purposes and should be used carefully, specially BW; although it has been used since the beginning of photography. One day a good friend of mine told me that he didn’t understand why we should justify the use of BW, I answered saying that we humans don't see that way and that I believed that for that reason it was more than justified, it should connect with our work.
We should ask ourselves what we want to transmit with that, why we want that kind of atmosphere and try to see for a moment in BW, otherwise the only thing that we will be doing is make looking at a bad picture, not so bad for being in BW.

MonicaVila

Nikon F4S - Kodak Proimage 100

What lenses do you use?

I use a 50mm lens very often, it adapts well with my way of working, it is bright and works well with portraits and objects without deforming things. I like it a lot, and I guess that’s because of something said in a class by a wonderful photographer, Viviana Peretti, getting close is better when taking a photo, having a fixed lens forces you to get closer and therefore to be involved with something or someone.

Sometimes I use a tele, most of the times for spying neighbors or cats, but the day that I took my camera, turned around the block and asked my favorite spied neighbor, if I could take a portrait of him, something change deeply.

MonicaVila

Nikon F4S - Kodak Portra 160

Do you perform any experiments on film? If you do, please share info on your little wonders.

Actually most of the things began as experiments, and then we start to act in a more conscious and secure way, but I guess you are referring to things less usual, technically speaking and the answer is not much, as I said I’m more of a simple person at a technical level; if I do some kind of experiments it would be because the project I’m making is asking for it.

MonicaVila

Nikon F4S - Kodak Proimage 100

Tell us about your most important projects

One of the most important projects I worked on, since I began photographing, was my graduation work from the university. Roughly, it is a series of self-portraits seeking to reflect our relationship, at the most intimate level with our bodies and how that relationship could get affected by diseases or a certain conception of the body.

Nowadays I’m working on some projects, one on which I have been working for many years, about everyday wounds, yes, those that you make yourself by being distracted or simply clumsy.

Another project is about the relationship between landscape – nature and human being: how the nature for different reasons related to it’s normal development, or by the hand of humans, starts to modify and in a certain way and defend itself as humans beings do too.

Last but not least, actually the most important project I’m working on at this moment, is about the relationship that we keep with objects, furthermore than an utility relationship, it is possible to symbolically approach them. This leads our unconscious to gather memories and dreams, definitely a world that we can’t see always as tangibly.

I have already talked too much bullshit but finally I’d like to say that, in general, what I like has to do with the unsuspected ways in which we relate with our everyday life and with our habits; photography for me is a medium to reflect and find questions and maybe answers about our unconscious, our past and about the secrets of our present.

MonicaVila

Nikon F4S - Kodak Proimage 100

MonicaVila

Nikon F4S - Fujifilm Proplus II Iso 200

You can find Monica Vilá 's work here:
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