Last year, photographer Sandra Rocha visited Japan for the first time. Certainly for most of us, nothing can outdo the thrill of travelling to new places and feeling out cultures first-hand, but I always also find it a treat to experience such moments through the unique eye of an artist or photographer.
Rocha, who has been photographing full-time and professionally for over a decade, was born in the Portuguese archipelago of Azores and now lives in Lisbon. I spoke to her recently, between her work travels, about her Tokyo project, which she called Big Sushi.
You seem to have shot a lot of photos of young women in Tokyo. What about them drew you in?
In Tokyo, girls are visually interesting, perhaps more than in other cities. But I would actually also do the same kind of research in a different place because young women make up part of my photographic universe. ‘Portrait of a Lady,’ and other projects I’ve done before for example also focus around young woman.
Many of the photos of the women are close-up profile shots but also candid. Do you shoot from afar and re-format later?
I don’t crop the pictures to make them look like close-ups. I do close-up. I always shoot with a 50 mm and that makes me be very near my subject.
I get very near the girls, but I don’t do portraits. I try to make them understand that I’m there with a camera and I never shoot if they don’t want me to. The expressions they have are because they go on with their natural movements and I always stay long enough for them to forget I’m there.
When they forget, I shoot.
What are your current and upcoming projects?
I’ve for a long time been working on my new project called ‘Family Portrait,’ about my mother’s family.
I’m also preparing a book and a show about a project I did last year for the Gulbenkian Foundation. It involved a trip to Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan with Pauliana Valente Pimentel, another photographer from my collective group based in Lisbon, Kameraphoto. And I also work in Lisbon one week a month, for Jornal I, a national daily newspaper.