Maria Louceiro Embraces Discomfort to Develop Her Creative Eye
WNW Member Maria Louceiro is finding ways to be creatively comfortable with the uncomfortable. For one thing, it's how she created her best work as a photographer. "I was working full-time as a designer, so I took the days off, but didn’t prepare beforehand and was totally lost in Gothenburg. I messed up a bit at the beginning with the scheduling and was struggling with poor luck the entire time... Everything that could possibly go wrong happened. Among the chaos and stress, I took (in my opinion) my best portrait so far, on a gray, rainy day." In our interview below, Maria discusses how she honed her creative style, how she balances different creative fields, and what she admires most about the creative scene in Berlin. "It’s pretty exciting for me since you can get access to both alternative, underground artists, and big iconic ones. They can stand side by side and communicate with each other which creates an interesting dynamic."
As for Maria taking the easy route, don't hold your breath. "I’m trying to work on photography projects that are very different, if not almost opposite of what I normally do, all while maintaining my usual ones. Extremes sometimes are the key."
Tell us a bit about your creative background. Who is Maria and how did she get here?
I was born in Porto, Portugal and so did the foundation of my work. I grew up with a romantic idea of artists but was soon taught that that would mean a lot of trouble and discomfort. Fortunately, discomfort had to stop becoming an issue - that’s exactly how I started to develop my work. Meanwhile, I studied Mining Engineering but ended up taking a second degree in Communication Design, which lead me to making a living doing photography, illustration, and design.
How would you describe your creative style? Do you recognize a signature style that links all your projects, or do you try to approach each project as its own entity?
I never aimed to have a particular style, I guess it just happened. I always had very strong abstract images “floating” in my mind and that’s why I wanted to be a painter. Fortunately or unfortunately I wasn’t very good at it, but I believe this signature you are asking me about came from studying painters which you can immediately identify by looking at their paintings, either from their use of light, shape, subject, etc.
I always try to meet some expectations in each project but while doing it my way.
What were some of the challenges in launching your creative career?
I’ve dealt with the usual freelancer struggle while I was in Portugal - not getting any payment from your clients or having any interesting work if work at all, and so on. Since I moved to Berlin things changed a lot - I don’t need to worry all the time if my clients are going to skip the payment. I can focus on discussing creative ideas and create new challenges.
What do you see as the turning point in your creative development and career?
As we become more focused on discussing ideas and dealing with (creative) challenges, work starts to rapidly grow. I believe the turning point will involve working on a bigger project that involves production - to be in charge of creating the environments from scratch instead of just photographing what’s put in front of me (which leads me to a painter's workflow again). This might change tomorrow though, but this is what I’m thinking today.
Which of your projects are you proudest of and why?
I’m proud of my first photo-essay at Way Out West for Pitchfork. It was the first time I worked on such an assignment - I was working full-time as a designer, so I took the days off, but didn’t prepare beforehand and was totally lost in Gothenburg. I messed up a bit at the beginning with the scheduling and was struggling with poor luck the entire time. But fortunately, I had the best possible photo editor helping me, Erik Sanchez. Everything that could possibly go wrong happened. Among the chaos and stress, I took (in my opinion) my best portrait so far, on a gray, rainy day - of Holly Herndon.
Besides this, I did a project with Cult of Luna, where I shot them live for their Years in a Day DVD.
Have you had ongoing relationships or collaborations with particular artists you’ve shot?
As far as I can remember, mostly Cult of Luna, Russian Circles, Oathbreaker and the lovely Marissa Nadler. I started working recently with Digitalism and I believe we both clicked with each other, so I’m hoping this will be an ongoing collaboration.
Do you feel like it helps if you’re a fan of the musician you’re shooting? What kind of research goes into your creative process beforehand?
It depends. Sometimes it's better to not know them beforehand so we can get a fresh, non-fan perspective. You are meeting this person for the first time, you don’t know how their work sounds, and you have no expectations towards this artist. This “relationship” becomes balanced since you both don’t know each other, and it can then be more genuine. When you don’t know what to expect, you are not biased. On the other hand, if you already know this artist, and by seeing her/his pictures, you know how they act on shoots and what their quirks are, and you can work from/on top of that.
What would be your dream project or job, or is it already on your resume?
Working on a worldwide music scene project would be amazing. Not exactly a dream but maybe trying something in fashion, which I've never done.
How would you define the Berlin creative scene?
It’s pretty exciting for me since you can get access to both alternative, underground artists, and big iconic ones. They can stand side by side and communicate with each other which creates an interesting dynamic.
If not here, where would you most like to live?
Is there a country which is the cross between Berlin, New York, and Iceland?
Who are your biggest creative influences?
What scares you most about making creativity your career?
Stop trying, not evolving. Settling is the scariest thing.
One book, one album, one movie, one show. Go.
The Sea Girl by Sophia de Mello Breyner, Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven by GY!BE, Kiki’s Delivery Service by Studio Ghibli, Slowdive at Primavera Sound 2014 (Porto).
What’s your most treasured possession?
A Russian lens that I bought a while ago in Porto, my hometown - it’s the cheapest one I have and I’m shooting with it 90% of the time.
What do you do when Not Working?
When am I not working, if working is not working?
What’s next for you? What are you working on now?
I’m trying to work on photography projects that are very different, if not almost opposite of what I normally do, all while maintaining my usual ones. Extremes sometimes are the key.