Victoria E. Paternó is a photographer from Caracas, Venezuela but presently residing in Paris. She’s been shooting through both digital and film medium but it’s her film photography that draws attention of the viewer. She’s mostly shot natural scenes while on her trips to European countries. Her images are simple and free from distractions. Looking at her images feels like returning to a bygone era when life was calm and quiet, nature was more splendid and everything else was more or less perfect with the world. Our interview with Victoria sheds light into her vision and creativity:
I was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. I majored in Liberal Arts back there and then came to Paris to do a Master in Communications and I’m still here! I like traveling, nature, lavender, picnics, the reflection of the sun in the sea, driving, a house full of music, plants and tea; enjoying what I do, doing what I love, a weekend in the countryside, meals with friends, apéros, friends visiting, red wine, oh, and white and pink!
I don’t remember at what age exactly I started being interested in it, but I do remember asking for a camera (a cool point and shoot back then) for my 20th birthday, I perfectly remember going to a huge Sony store in NYC and buying it. Since then I loved to carry it to trips I made and take pictures of sunsets from every window in my apartment. I decided to by a DSLR over 4 years ago and that’s when it all started.
For now it’s a hobby that I love and that is part of my everyday life, I can’t help seeing things through a viewfinder everywhere I go, friends make fun of me because I always try to capture small things, little moments that people don’t even notice, I look like a tourist even when I’m buying my groceries. I’ve been doing little shoots here and there, mostly for hotels in Paris (for my daytime job) which has got me very into interior photography (that I never even considered before, funny how life is); and I’m also a freelance writer on the weekends, taking pictures and writing about Paris. My goal is to take more and more freelance work on the side till I can do it on a full-time basis.
My equipment is pretty basic and nothing fancy (not only because I can’t afford more right now but because there’s only so much you need to take a good photo, for the use I give them of course). I have an old (dog years in technology) 550D with its kit lens, and a 50mm 1.8. I’ve been wanting to invest in a wide-angle and a 35mm for some time, hope to do it this year. And for film I use a Pentax KM and a little Hanimex 35se, with any film I find, I like to try them all. When shooting landscapes with a lot of light I use 100 ISO, for everything else I mostly use 400, and sometimes 800 (pushing it to 400 in the camera). I like Kodak tones, but I also shoot with Fuji, Ilford and Lomo, and expired films when I find them. Basically just what I find and what it’s cheaper, unless I have something specific in mind.
I like editing as long as it’s used to alter the picture so that it looks more to real life, the moment I shot it. I know very little about editing, I just change settings like exposure, brightness, clarity, blacks and light. I try to make tiny adjustments, I don’t like at all the over-edited look, I hate it when pictures look fake, that hyper saturated and HDR look, like those preset desktop backgrounds. But editing is a great tool to enhance, to use the potential the shot has, mostly if you were in a rush and didn’t put the right settings in the camera. I enjoy this process more and more, I also love editing sometimes photos taken with film, when they have something off, when they´re blurry or over-exposed, I like to alter small settings to give them a “dreamy” look, but just because they kind of already do, just to give them a little push.
The day I discovered film that was it for me! It’s the day I really fell in love with photography and my approach to it changed completely. I had my dad’s old Pentax sitting around my room, just because I loved how it looked but I never even thought it could work because of how old it was, so I kept it on the back on my mind: one day I’ll take this to a shop and get it fixed; but I never did until my first trip home while living in Paris, I saw it there in my room and just put it in my bag and got it cleaned and checked back here in Paris; bought my first roll of film, saw some Youtube tutorials and I haven’t stop shooting ever since.
I like the look and the process, it’s simple, organic, just how life should be. There’s something to it, something about it not being tidy, saturated and perfect, it translates emotions, it was a human side. Of course digital is way more practical and also has its own thing, it has a different purpose I think. It has a more objective goal, you already know why you’re taking that picture, what will be the use of it; but I really enjoy it as well. But nothing beats that “rawness” of a film.
Well thank you! I certainly don’t see it that way, you´re always you´re worst critic, you always think you can do better, but I do also get that moment where I really like the outcome, I become pretty attached to them afterwards. I use photography mostly to remind myself of the beautiful things I see, I have the worst memory ever; but also because I just like a beautiful image, beautiful not only in aesthetics but in what they tell or suggest. A photo can tell you something that´s happening but can also suggest something that will, or that could happen; I like its subjectivity and how the moment someone sees it, it no longer belongs to the photographer but to the observer. A photo should take you somewhere when you see, that situation when a few minutes later you realize you’ve been staring at a fix point with your mind elsewhere, and you shake your hear and “wake! yourself up.
They are way too different, each one with its own unique traits. If we compare the cities, Caracas and Paris, they are black and white, they cannot be more different, while Paris is an urban jewel, a movie set where every little street, bakery, market, bridge is picture-perfect, a city drenched in history; Caracas has one thing that compensates its lack of history and urban structure, which is the Ávila, a mountain surrounding the city, a background that makes waking up a pleasure and a movie out of the sunset; Caracas is very green and nature is everywhere, it´s tropical and I love that. If we compare countries they are both very unique and with wonderful landscapes, towns and people to shoot.
I think on a big scale you can find similarities in what you look for photography-wise, and on a small scale they are almost incomparable, I feel like I was born in both at the same time, they are equally home to me. I started to really get into photography, on a more serious level, while living here in Paris; so I can’t say I’ve really seen Venezuela through a viewfinder. The situation is pretty messy there right now, but I´d love to go back and travel the country with my cameras in hand, I´m sure beautiful things will come out those rolls of film.
My goal is to dedicate a huge part of my everyday life to photography, do it on a professional level, have work that challenges and inspires me. I also want to learn a lot of things but time is your worst enemy. I´d love to lead a simple life, have a little home studio where I can work in my projects and do a lot of pottery (that I’ve never done but I dream of doing, I have a little sketch book where I draw ideas that come to mind, of things I could do with ceramics and clay).
I get very inspired traveling, there´s nothing like changing scenery, breathing another air, eating another food, seeing other people, other architecture, other nature. I also admit I´m internet-addicted, more than I´d like to. Blogs are a drug, I can´t stop once I´m reading one, it´s a vicious circle, you click on the link about someone mentioned in the article, then in that link you click another article that takes you to another blog, it never ends. The thing is that there are so many creative and talented people out there, and the internet is the best tool to see what´s happening, to read what they think about life, about work, it sounds cheesy but it sort of connects you to the rest of the world. It´s very inspiring.
Shoot, shoot, shoot; like with everything, it takes more doing and less thinking. Don´t compare yourself to others (this can be pretty tough), but do see the work of others, to get inspired. It´s all about doing what defines you, make it your thing, give it your touch.