Eric’s Note: Nuno Moreira is a visual artist living and working in Tokyo, originally from Lisbon, Portugal. He has recently published his new book: “State of Mind”, which explores different themes such as identity, memory, psychological states or what he refers simply as the “thinking moments”. Get a little more inside his mind and his images in the interview below.
Great to have you Nuno, and congratulations on the publication of your new book: “State of Mind.” To start off, can you share how you got started in photography, and some of your early influences?
Hello Eric, thanks for having me on your website.
I’ve always been a visual person. I memorize things by associating them with images. This is probably because I’m an only child and developed an interest in things I can do by myself. My favorite moments growing up include reading, watching movies and listening to music.This allowed me to teach myself many different things on my own, including photography.
I can’t recall the exact moment I started taking photos, but it must have been related with other activities such as writing, drawing or documenting my private life. Photography came as a consequence of my own moments of introspection or daydreaming. I guess that’s still very obvious considering the work I still pursue these days.
Influences are always hard to pinpoint because I try to perceive as much things as possible so everything is constantly changing. I know it seems a bit far-off– but music, literature and painting are perhaps my biggest references. For instances, I’ve been reading Yukio Mishima lately and appreciate his degree of sensitivity. I love that aspect of literature, the possibility of imagining different scenarios by yourself.
In the painting department I never get tired of the brilliant works from Hammershøi, Hopper, Vermeer.
Musically I tend to always go back to Nick Cave, Tindersticks, again music which is filled with words and images. I just discovered recently Madrugada and Spain, both bands were completely unknown to me and I’ve been listening to basically every album they have. That’s the type of stuff that keeps me influenced to work on more photos and dig deeper into the themes I’m interested in exploring through photography.
Can you tell us more about your book: “State of Mind?” What inspired you to put together a book, and can you share the process? How did you decide which images to include– and which not to include? I am also particularly interested in how you decided to pair and sequence your images– as well as the formatting of the images.
Editing “State of Mind” to a book was an enormous challenge because I made the poor mistake of accumulating images for too many years for this project. I knew I had a fairly good body of work ready to be released but other projects – and my own life – kept getting in the way. In 2012 many things changed in my life and I came to live in Japan. That was the moment I had proper time and motivation to go back to circa 5 years of images from lots of travels around the world.
Quickly I found I had a visual narrative, a theme that kept appearing in different photos and different cities; that theme was the people I saw and more specifically, the way I portrayed those encounters. You see, it’s curious because my vision is somehow trained to perceive and frame people when they are in their own inner worlds. I started calling these spontaneous happenings the “thinking moments”, and I had just thousands of pictures like this.
The sequencing and editing of the book took me literally one year to accomplish; I had to be sure these were images I would want to continue looking at. The initial selection started with 150 pictures and from there I just kept on cutting and laying different versions of the book until finally it came down to the 79 pictures which are now on the book.
It was a long process and I had the privilege of discussing it with other photographers at portfolio reviews or just over a glass of wine with other fellow artists. Most of all I understood the importance of doing this process with real printed pictures so I could physically flip through them and experience the layout of the actual book in my hands.
The photos in this book are from 2009 to 2013, from Spain, Portugal, Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, Ukraine, South Korea, Romania, Russia, and Hungary. These are obviously very different countries– what connection did you see in your work through photographing in all these different countries?
I guess the connection between the different places can only come out of my own way of looking at the world. A person who did a review of the book told me the pictures really work well together even though they are from such different places, I think the only thing that can explain this fact is having a sort of visual code that is being repeated.
I cannot say this is a conscious mechanism when I’m taking photos, I’m not thinking about following a specific path or sticking to certain rules, it just happens this way.
When you were traveling and photographing, what different “states of mind” did you go through?
When I’m away from home and comfort I immediately tend to enter this “survival mode” where I enjoy testing my basic instincts. This goes for simple things such as eating, sleeping or walking and then it extends to the people I meet and the contexts in which I end up. What’s interesting about my process of traveling – which by the way is mostly done alone, and I like it this way – is that I realized I can only shoot a certain limited range of emotions. Not because I can’t find better images but because those are the things that compel me and move me in particular ways.
The topics I end up taking photos are mostly about feelings of enclosure, identity, silence, loneliness, memory or hesitation. These also sometimes include quiet moments. Other times, I try to capture when my subject matter is in a deep crisis or transformation.
Either way, I’ve come to notice that sadness is a very poetic human quality. It’s a beautiful thing, and I strongly embrace that through photography. This melancholic nature that sometimes springs in my images is certainly something I will continue to explore.
Can you share what kind of impact that traveling had in your photography?
Traveling enables people to be humble and experience different aspects of society and culture. That’s a priceless experience and something that one can carry to any other places, relationships or situations. Traveling confirms that the world is a wonderful but also pretty fucked up place. It confirms that TV and the media are just a big facade serving political interests. It also shows that private corporatism is killing the traditional means of production. On the brighter side, people are way more beautiful when they use their heads and think by themselves.
In terms of only photography I would say that traveling helped me understand people in a more cutaneous level, as in understanding things by reacting out of sheer instinct. You know, people are not that different. We speak different languages, dress or eat differently but we still pretty much have the same needs. I think photography should reveal these things – what is ugly or beautiful, or painful or just hidden and abstract, but still very much human to the core.
What do you ultimately want your viewers to get out of “State of Mind”?
Hopefully I want people to get a physical copy of the book and be able to appreciate looking at these pictures in their private moments, whenever they feel like making a pause to think about their own lives. I don’t want to force anything unto the viewer but merely stimulate the imagination or make you guess what’s going on with the people and different scenarios depicted on this series.
It’s more about the atmosphere that this work invokes and the space between actions and less about having a concrete objective message. What I do know for sure is that these pictures get better the more you look at them.
What are some other projects you are currently working on?
I’m glad you asked this question – I’ve been sketching ideas like a maniac for the next series. So far I know it will continue to explore the language I started with “State of Mind”, but will certainly go deeper into the human psyche. I’m interested in producing more controlled images of what lies inside.
Perhaps it will be more dark and symbolic. How can I put this, I’m interested in contracting spaces and exploring more simple things. Maybe something more similar with paintings and surreal cinema. If all goes well, I’ll start shooting towards the end of summer.
For those people out there who are interested in putting together a book of their work, what advice would you give them?
I would seriously advice them to get a proper designer and someone that they can trust to sit with them and have a more distant view upon their work. I think it’s crucial to know exactly what you want but at the same time have someone who can help you make choices and stand from a more detached position.
Being too much emotionally connected with your images might turn into a very confusing process.
Aside from that, as a mere viewer I think it’s important to have something to say. The images should express something meaningful– an experience, a personal event, something that can relate with the viewer to generate an emphatic reaction.
Who are some other photographers you recommend we check out?
Any last words you would like to mention?
I want to thank you, Eric for this interview and I would like to invite your readers to take a closer look at the “State of Mind” series and possibly order a book through my website since that will contribute to sponsor my next projects.
Book flip through
Purchase “State of Mind”
Support Nuno and his future projects by picking up a copy of “State of Mind” on his website here.