24 September, 2021       LISBON - MAX. Intervals of clouds and sunshineº, MIN. 04º

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Folders  |  Camilla Watson
Camilla Watson
Anna Almeida
Camilla Watson
Camilla Watson is a British photographer and a relative newcomer to Lisbon. I discovered her latest work on the walls of the Beco das Farinhas via an impressive video shown on the Nós por Cá programme. I decided that I wanted to learn more, and contacted her directly. Camilla welcomed me in here workshop with open arms, flattered by the interest shown for her work. We seem to know each other like old friends. She insists on using only Portuguese for both written and spoken contact. 
Shortly after I arrive, a neighbour and one of her photo subjects called Violeta enters the workshop, kisses the team as if we were part of her family and tells us the latest gossip. It seems that some young people passed through the street, stopped to look at her portrait, making some comments on her classical beauty, “… and I’m 75 years old!”, she adds proudly, “Yet I’m a star in the neighbourhood”. Laughter all round, and the neighbour leaves and we continue the interview:

LIL : Is it hard convincing older people to let you take their photo?
CW : It all happened quite naturally. I first got permission from Sr Carlos, then the others followed one after the other. A neighbour who is always at her window, called to me after a few days of thinking about the idea, saying:  “I’ve changed my mind, I want my photo on the house’s frontage!”  In the end, it was more a case of avoiding making the others jealous.
The portraits are developed onto the wall as if by magic, without paper. Camilla explains the process: the preparation, the technique she has designed, a lifesize dark room, the specially-adapted projector and how this passionate artist applies her art. She shows me a collection of azulejo-portraits prepared using the same technique. A passer-by enters the workshop which is always open, admires the pieces on display with a hint of amusement, then leaves again.
LIL : Are the azulejos for sale? Is this also a shop?
CW : People have already asked. The door is always open, people come in, children come and see what’s going on. Maybe I could make a fortune selling them, she says laughing. But I don’t want to sell things, I would rather just try new experiments.
We then discuss her story, to try and understand how she came to be in Lisbon.
CW : For many years I worked for NGOs in Africa, Brazil, and more recently I was a teacher. On the way to São Tomé e Principe, I stopped in Lisbon to take some Portuguese lessons, as the language here is slightly different from the Brazilian I already know. After a few weeks I didn’t want to leave.
She shows us a black and white portrait of a child, taken with her very old fashioned camera with three lenses and the viewfinder on top. Then photos of the paved streets, and another piece of work made using a pinhole camera.
LIL : Wonderful: the results are so different. Do you often work in black and white?
CW : To earn a living I also need to use digital images and colour, which I have done for many years.  But then I got bored working on the computer, so for the moment I’m in a more “organic” phase, getting my hands dirty, as it were. 
We then talk about her future projects. The Egeac and local council (Câmara) have shown a lot of interest in her work. And as she loves interviewing the oldies, or “velhotes”, she is preparing a book that could even become part of the “arquivo fotografico”, for there are very few accounts of life and people in the bairro. Camilla also tells us about her involvement in projects linked to the Mouraria neighbourhood: a place full of ethnic and cultural diversity… portraits, highlighting cultural heritage, a new photo exhibition, and so on.
 I’m already a fan, but rather embarrassed: “Can I take your photo, in front of your workshop?”. Of course I can, even with Dom Quixote? (her very affectionate, sleeping dog). I don’t bother asking if she intends leaving Lisbon. I guess the answer is no… or at least I hope so !
For more information…
Workshop: Largo dos Trigueiros (Rossio)
Photo exhibition: Beco das Farinhas, next door to the 'atelier'
Website: www.camillawatsonphotography.net

Temporary exhibition: “Gentes de Almada”, Museu da Cidade, Almada
It is on until October at the Museu da Cidade in the Praca Joao Raimundo.
www.museu.cidade@cma.m-almada.pt  It is open tuesday till saturday from 10-6.
The photos are of 16 different families living in Almada and highlights the diversity of the people living in Almada and informs on the movement of immigration over the last century.

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