Mona was born and raised in Brazil. Twenty years ago she moved to the US. The Summers are spent at her house in France where the Bordeaux Series was created.
Dennis: How did you love of photography begin?
Mona: I began taking photographs at age 12 when my parents gave me a small Kodak camera for my birthday. The first images were of my friends during that day. In a way, little has changed. I like to photograph people I have known for a while or good friends of friends of mine. I find people thru word of mouth, someone’s boyfriend, sister, cousin. It feels more intimate, a bit like an extended family.
Who and what inspire you?
I am influenced by everything, movies, photography, billboards, books, paintings, graffiti. I am looking and absorbing all I can see with my eyes. In regards to photography, early on my strongest influences were Mario Cravo Neto, a Brazilian photographer working mostly with dark figures and nudes. His work is sensational and early on influenced mine very much. Then when I moved to the US, I was marveled by the work of the twin brothers Starn. It had little direct influence on my personal work, but it opened my mind for taking photography as a serious form of expression. I also love the lifetime works of Nan Goldin, Leon Levinstein and the photography in Julian Schnabel’s movies.
Talk us through your creative process.
I start my creative process by imagining colors. I don’t know why, but coloration comes to me first. From there I tie in emotion, then location and last the people. I might be working 6 months into a project before I find the right person to photograph. This preliminary phase gives me time to submerge, to really feel and bring out what I am trying to say, what I am trying to express. By the time I start photographing people, I already know what I want, the visual vocabulary is matured, so photographing people feels natural and in line with the overall emotion I am trying to convey.
As I started Bordeaux Series, I knew from the start, it to be a reductive approach: simple traditional portraits are done in one single room, along with landscapes of the region. As I imagined the colors early on, I was sure it had to be reduced as well to a basic yet very classic palette: black, white and red.
What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
My advice is for them to follow their inner voice, to trust themselves and lastly to show up on time!