Interview of Photographer Monica Uszerowicz from Miami

Monica Uszerowicz is a photographer based at Miami, Florida, USA. Her photography is documentation of her life with places and people she comes across in Miami – a city famous for its South Beach, colorful art deco buildings, white sand, surfside hotels and trendsetting nightclubs. Her work is very nostalgic, alluring – yet realistic, sensuous at times, and with a photojournalistic flair. She shoots using film cameras and keeps one in her bag all the times. Two of her photo projects educated me about some occult practices prevalent in some communities or groups of people over there. I like her work a lot and a short conversation with her is below with a fine selection of images:

2 Monica Uszerowicz NanaWhat do you want to express from your images and how do you view your evolution as a photographer?

I am less sure about what I want the images to express and more certain of what I feel when I click the shutter. Usually I am documenting—or creating—a moment that feels very significant to me, enough that I am willing to step out of the moment and become an observer and find a way to treasure it for a long time. I have always taken photographs this way.

3 Monica Uszerowicz KubyPlease tell me how any of your photo project or series is born… from having an idea to its development:

Often the photographs happen naturally. When I set them up—whether because they were commissioned or because I had an idea I wanted to turn into a reality—it is usually based on an image that came to me somewhere from my subconscious, when I was daydreaming or looking at the creations of other people. Sometimes a person can feel a specific way to me and I might want to capture that accordingly.

4 Monica Uszerowicz MonicaHow much of your work is carefully planned vs. instantaneous?

Most of it is instantaneous, but occasionally I get into a kind of movement where I want to plan shoots and will spend a period of time trying to make them happen. Usually, though, I’m capturing something happening in front of me. I keep a camera on my person all the time. Life is too strange to not have access to a means of documenting its weird flow.

5 Monica Uszerowicz Sleeper and MondayDo you believe you’ve found your style or signature? What elements of a person or a place or an environment influence you most?

I think I’m finding my style or signature all the time, and admittedly that can be troublesome—getting stuck in a particular style. But this might not be a problem. The elements of a person or environment that influence me the most are rather emotive; again, I am drawn most to the way a person or their expression makes me feel, or to how the light hitting the window reminds me of something, or maybe just that day’s color is worth remembering. Sometimes something funny happens and I need to capture it because it’s poignant or ridiculous.

6 Monica Uszerowicz Stephanie's black eyeMiami is visible as one of the subjects in your images. Photographically speaking, what is there in this city that attracts you a lot? Where does the spirit if Miami lies?

The spirit of Miami is in its literal, figurative, and mythological warmth. It’s hot and sticky and everyone hugs each other. I think I am attracted to it simply because it’s home; no matter where I am, South Florida in general will always represent that for me. It is also this extremely fragile place—the strength of its infrastructure is debatable, sea level rise is a visible threat, the media projects tons of imagery about it that isn’t always accurate—but the real bedrock of the city is its magic. The mix of religions here means it is, in some way, built on a lot of wonderful myths and stories. On a less romanticized level, it also feels sometimes lawless, kind of unhinged. I love it all the same.

7 Monica Uszerowicz Lonnie Holley whistlingTell us about the equipment you mostly use and why:

I use a Yashica T4 most of the time. It was gifted to me and it is a good camera, easy to trust. A point-and-shoot is nice for spontaneous pictures. I also like my Pentax 645, which is a medium-format, and my Canon FTB and Canon F-1.

Do you have a favorite photo or a significant memory related to photography?

Every photograph I take of my niece, Maya (see below), is very special to me.

14 Monica Uszerowicz Maya swimmingWhat do you think about contemporary photography?

I don’t think about contemporary photography in a very in-depth way, which could be the result of some kind of ignorance. I just love a lot of contemporary photographers and I love that certain aesthetics have become popular enough for the use of film to be normalized again. Social media can feel draining but it’s here for now and it’s okay. Most of my concerns about social media don’t involve photography—everyone can snap photos and I’m pretty happy about that—but more existential crises, like what remnants of my being aliens will find or how the singularity is going to happen.

8 Monica Uszerowicz AndrewTell us about your achievements, awards, clients, publications, and various photobooks and zines that you’ve (self)published. How much does the monetization of your work matter to you?

With the help of my friend Edwin Beauchamp, I’ve published one zine of prose and photographs. I also made a photo zine in collaboration with my good friend, Dana Lauren Goldstein, called Hey Mickey. I’ve had a few clients and been featured in a few publications I’m really happy with. The monetization of my work matters to the extent that I think work needs to be paid for, in a very general sense, as applied to everyone. But that joyful spirit of collaboration is the most exciting thing.

9 Monica Uszerowicz Grandma EvaWhat are your future plans/projects, ambitions, aspirations etc.?

I’m stoked for future collaborations—I have a show in the spring with my friend, Pia Love Toribio, that’ll feature our photos and other works. I am working on something tentative (and digital) with my friend Patricia Hernandez, and also hope to put out another project with Dana. I plan to go to L.A. early next year for tarot-related work, which is a funny sentence to type, but that’s part of my practice. I’m going with the flow for now.

10 Monica Uszerowicz Pia and GabiTell me about your influences/favorite stuff: photographers, quotes, films books, music etc.:

I ingest so much media on the daily that I think I will just pick some current favorites of everything:

Dayanita Singh, The Earthsea Cycle books by Ursula Le Guin, A Haunted House by Virginia Woolf, Hilma af Klint, Harry Smith, The Uninvited, Ganja and Hess, El espíritu de la colmena, Of The Wand and The Moon, Nordic mythology, the Greek myth of Persephone, Ancient Aliens, Deana Lawson, Agnès Varda, Italo Calvino, Gordon Parks, Eliza Swann and the Golden Dome School, Juliet of the Spirits, Malá Morská Víla (a Czech Little Mermaid), Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and the last line in the movie Stand By Me.

Something to say to our readers or aspiring photographers (or say something completely random):

11 Monica Uszerowicz Roslyn in bed 12 Monica Uszerowicz Danielle 13 Monica Uszerowicz Amanda 15 Monica Uszerowicz Richard and Mary 16 Monica Uszerowicz Peach seed 17 Monica Uszerowicz Dana on her car 18 Monica Uszerowicz Guédé candle 19 Monica Uszerowicz Tara and SamAll photos © Monica Uszerowicz : Website

About Nishant Mishra

Nishant studied art history and literature at the university during 1990s. He works as a translator in New Delhi, India and likes to read about arts, photography, films, life-lessons and Zen.

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