Melania Brescia is an introvert, but that hasn't stopped her from creating a bold and dark body of work that places herself both behind and in front of the camera. Inspired by bouts of sadness and depression, her self-portraiture started as a constructive way to deal with emotions she couldn't convey in any other way. Her images served as a photographic journal of her experiences.
Learning to deal with her extreme introversion, Melania feels most comfortable creating entirely alone, preferring to manage each part of the process from modeling, to shooting, to editing. Her work touches on a side of life most of us can relate to and there is a bravery in being able to turn those dark periods into beautiful pieces of art. We applaud Melania for her willingness to share her human experience, including the hardest parts.
We are grateful for the opportunity to catch up with Melania for a Behind The Lens look into her self-portraiture.
Can you tell us a bit about your journey into photography?
I have always been very artistic, ever since I was in kindergarten, or that's what my mum tells me! But it all started when I was 16 or 17. It was a big change since I was always into drawings and illustrations, but photography felt right since the beginning. I started doing self-portraits a little later, mainly because I have always been extra-introverted and never knew how to show my feelings correctly. In general, relationships with people were always awkward and ended up badly, so I subconsciously used photography as therapy. It helped with my depression a lot. It helped my self-esteem, created a future and, even though I am still very introverted and socially awkward, it helped me meet other people, and open my eyes and mind through social media and portals like Flickr, where I first started.
What are some of your interests?
I used to be very interested in fashion, but it didn't fit quite right. It's just not my thing. Nothing but photography really quite fit me. I have decided to dedicate my career to other things, like editing, which I love, or working on films as a photography director, or anything artistic, which I think is incredible. Photography is just the love of my life and I don't want to ruin it by putting pressure on myself with some job. I just don't work well under pressure, and if I end up sick of photography I wouldn't have anything left.
Where do you call home?
Spain, always. I love living here in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. My husband is here and this is where I want to be. But, I am not sure I can ever call this home. Home is Mlaga, with our food, my loud family and my few friends. America and Europe are so different! Anywhere in Europe could feel like home!
You incorporate such unique ideas and powerful emotion into your photos, what keeps you inspired?
Lately it's been very difficult because of personal things that have been going on in my life. Stress does not inspire! So I haven't been taking many shots, just keeping notes of ideas. What inspires me the most, to be completely honest, is to be sad. I had depression when I was a teenager. Even when you get better, these things can always come back. You have moments where it feels just like that time, and you can fall back very easy. But it is an incredible emotion. When I feel down, I vent by taking pictures; it's very easy, it just come out of you. Just say what you feel. Reading, listening to music, or going out into nature give me a lot of ideas. I have stopped checking other peoples' work as much as I used to when I started. Since then, I have gotten way more original ideas, and people see and appreciate that a lot more.
How much planning goes into a shoot?
The planning usually happens in my mind. Sometimes I dream something and try to make it real, or I see something that inspires me and I imagine something great and try to achieve it. Sometimes I do sketches, but I mostly keep notes in my phone, where I write my ideas, the props I need, etc. I keep it simple and real, focusing more on what I am going to say than lights, or lenses, or things like that.
When is your favorite time to shoot?
Mornings are great when I shoot inside, the light is perfect and I can get some soft sun if I am looking for that. And of course late afternoons, the sun is always great inside, and outside has perfect light. But I usually prefer cloudy days when I shoot outside.
What message do you want your photographs to convey?
My photographs are like a journal, that I actually have on my website. I could put any of my pictures chronologically and tell you why I did it, how I was feeling and what happened for that idea to come out. My intention is never to do something that I know anyone can relate to. First, I want to feel good with myself and vent about things I can't with talking or crying. But those simple, boring things that I might try to tell is what everyone goes through at some point in their lives, and it always feels good to know that someone else understands, even if it's a tiny issue no one cares about.
What's a must have in your gear bag?
I always take my 24-70. I can get great portraits with it, and also go a little wider if I want to.
How much post processing goes into a completed photo?
Depends on the idea of the picture. I love editing and going a little crazy and pushing myself to do better things. Some have like 10 minutes of processing and some others have 8 hours.
Do you have any advice for aspiring photographers?
Just do what you want! You don't have to work by the book. Don't pretend to like what you don't just because it's on a wall and cost $10,000. Just do what feels right to you and only you, and you'll see how people appreciate honesty in this time of pretending! And if they don't, it's not really a big deal anyway. There's no definition for art, no one can tell you what you're doing is wrong if it feels right to you!
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