A working life: The freelance photographer
What it’s like to be a freelance photographer in London? “For me everything emphasizes design and photography”.
-Monday 12th November 2012
Val Masferrer Oliveira tells stories of moods around the world through her photography.
Val is a Brazilian freelance photographer based in London since 2009. She is a fine art photographer and her field of special interest is landscape photography from different corners of the world.
From being called paparazzi to the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, her work is certainly a constant conceptual challenge – “I don’t just like to shoot things, I like to have a concept behind it and to really put myself into it… anyone can click”.
Val went to university in Maryland where she studied Social Communication and took her first photography course. She then moved back to Rio de Janeiro and continued studying, she took an extra year of consumer psychology in order to truly understand how the mind works, “…it’s so funny how we buy things,” she adds. After doing an MBA in Marketing she successfully worked in the Advertising industry for sixteen years. “Photography has always been my hobby since 1982 when I took the first course. It’s something that has been with me my whole life but I never thought I’d do it professionally because it meant that I would need to follow a lot of rules that I didn’t like.”
When Val first moved to Europe in 2003 it was only going to be for two years, and considering her hectic lifestyle she considered doing something completely different. That was when she decided to get a Bachelor of Technology Degree at the Inchbald Institute of Design in London, “I started studying design as a hobby but it turned to be my passion. As soon as I finished I had a couple of jobs, but my husband had to move on again with work, this time to Madrid!” Although admittedly this was a positive experience for her, it was hard to drop everything all over again and have to start from scratch once more. “I felt like a phoenix always having to resurrect from my ashes and reinvent myself.” In Madrid she studied design at the Istituto Europeu di Design, but two years later she moved back to London. Having finally found something adaptable to her lifestyle she settled with photography –“it was an opportunity for me to start something I could continue.”
The turning point of her photography career was in 2010 when she was invited by Dubaigne Fine Art New York to exhibit and sell her work. She thought to herself “why not? This is flexible and I could do this for living. For me the most important thing is to be able to create, even when I am cooking in my kitchen. If I couldn’t create… I think I would die.” That was when she decided to explore photography artistically and professionally.
Val’s work routine consist of shooting at least one day each week, usually two, and she always goes running in Hyde Park before to set her mind into focus – “I work daily but I depend very much on the weather when it comes to shooting, as I am mainly interested in the outdoors and nature.” She leaves the house and just wanders to return with something valuable that really describes her day. Without putting any pressure on herself is how she obtains the best results, it’s not about leaving and coming back with something good, its about exploring. “The best photos are when I really let myself go, and the photo just happens. And it happens to be exactly what I want. I cannot think about anything in my life and I just have to follow my intuition. It hasn’t always been like this… when I was younger I couldn’t see or respect this.” Living in London has given her the artistic freedom to do exactly what she wants—“I love London; it’s such an individualist city! Nobody cares what you do!”
In 2010, inspired by several trips, Val created a blog called Moods around the World. This photographical project sets out to capture the atmosphere and culture of a place; “I always try to reach the soul with anything in my life, if I’m buying a sofa or taking a photo…that’s what my work translates.” Photography is her companion, and her art is everything for her –“It allows to me to be in a different world that is not so much the here and now. It basically keeps me sane.”
Her last exhibition took place in Shoreditch last September, shared with 15 other artists. It was a peak of personal exploration as she exhibited some very intimate frames of a recurring motif in her life: the butterfly.
Currently she is working on two projects: Through the Present, where the present tells the past, and this Poetry in Motion which constitutes a growing project in which she uses a low shutter-speed and portrays the landscape of water and sky - “It’s about the elements but its very abstract and I’m really enjoying that. I think I could start selling the photos soon.”
Nature is the main motif in her work –“I really don’t like shooting portraits, I have a problem to direct people, its quite hard for me.” Water has been the protagonist of her photography as a repeated subject: “Any place with water you can get amazing reflection, amazing movement and water is related to emotion.”
Despite her success as a photographer, selling her work at the Saatchi online gallery and freelance to other clients, her photography is a constant – “Basically what I have been learning throughout in my life is to see in a creative way and through this I aspire to grow.”
Best part of the job:
“I like to start things from the beginning, when I have nothing in my mind, and then the process just flows.”
Worst part of the job:
“Sitting indoors for hours editing, using software like Photoshop. What I really like is to go out and shoot. Sometimes I leave the house without direction… having to sit there at a desk in front of a computer is not my thing.”
India, Japan, China, French Polynesia, Russia, Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Chile, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Tanzania, Kenya…
Actions for Brazil’s Children (ABC).