PHOTOGRAPHERS TO KNOW: BRIANA MOREIRA
NYC-based photographer of Afro-Guatemalan descent capturing the culture and spontaneity of diverse communities through film photography.
SHEER: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
BRIANA MOREIRA: I was born and raised in New York and I grew up in the Bronx up until I was 12 years old. Eventually my mom decided she wanted us to have a better life, so she made a decision to move and I’ve been residing on the Island of Shaolin (Staten Island) ever since. My family is originally from Livingston, Guatemala. I always say that’s where all the black people live in my country, but I don’t think anyone outside of Central America know we exist. My people which are called Garifuna’s is near extinction and I’m currently in the process of learning why. But I do identify as African American or Afro-Guatemalan.
SHEER: When did you start taking pictures and what made you want to pursue photography professionally?
BM: As a kid I always enjoyed doing anything relating to art, whether it would be drawing, painting, building etc. If I was able to create something with my hands it would keep me entertained for hours and photography was just an extension of that. I didn’t take photography seriously until my first year of college. I needed an elective to get my schedule approved by my guidance counselor and photography was one of many electives that caught my eye. By the end of the semester I found myself more interested in my photography courses than my actual classes. Once my professor introduced me to film photography I was intrigued by the process. I looked forward to developing my photos every Thursday in my 4-hour class just to see what I created. That’s what I love most about film photography- you don’t know what type of pictures you took until you go into the darkroom and develop them. I felt like Nia Long in Love Jones. Overall the surge of creativity I got from doing photography was an energy I wanted to explore a little more.
SHEER: How would you describe your style of photography?
BM: My style of photography is definitely documentary. I prefer capturing people and events in the moment rather than forcing my subjects to model. There’s a certain type of spontaneity you get when you shoot documentary style.
SHEER: How do you choose the themes and subjects in your work and how do you approach representing people of color?
BM: Anytime I go out and shoot for a project I always make a list of things I would like to get shots of. That’s usually the plan but I always end up going off course and getting better shots than I originally imagined. I also have a list of ideas I want to execute and projects I want to get on film. Usually the theme of these projects are topics that are very important to me and my experience of being black in America.
As for representation, that is something that is paramount to me. When I’m shooting on scene, I take pictures of what I see which is usually raw, uncut, the good and the bad. I want to approach representing people of color from all angles because there’s not just one way to be black or Latin, etc. We need a variety of narratives being shown and I believe I am in the midst of creating that.
SHEER: Where are some of your favorite places to shoot and why?
BM: I truly enjoy shooting in urban areas that are rich in history, specifically where minorities live, because that’s where the culture is. For example, while I was shooting in Harlem last summer, I would randomly walk into a block party that the residents where throwing and it was such a beautiful sight. Black and Latin people nurturing what’s left of their gentrified neighborhoods with food, books, and music. I prefer being in that environment.
I also love shooting in the homes of the people I take pictures of. Since it’s their home, they’re definitely more comfortable and the pictures are more natural.
SHEER: Are there any photographers you look up to who also inspire your work?
BM: Geez this is hard since I have so many, but I’m obsessed with the works of Jamel Shabazz, Joseph Rodriguez, Bruce Davidson, B+, Gordon Parks, Chi Modu, Lisa Leone, Renell Medrano and Janette Beckman. Most of these photographers shoot documentary style and it’s truly mesmerizing. Their photos tell a story without words which is how I want my work to be remembered.
SHEER: What does it mean to you to be a woman of color in a male-dominated industry like photography? In what ways is this an advantage to your artistic perspective?
BM: It means that I get to create a lane of my own which provides an opportunity for me to tell stories through photography that haven’t been shown before. I’ve had experiences that are unique to me as a black woman and feel as though I’m able to produce more authentic and relatable work.
SHEER: How would you like your work to evolve over time?
BM: I would love to try cinematography which to me is basically a moving photo. I think I’m great at creative directing so I wouldn’t mind using my skills as a photographer to explore another side of my artistry.
SHEER: What do you hope people take away from interacting with your work?
BM: I would hope they see what I see and feel what I felt when I originally created the art. If they don’t that’s cool too. I believe great artists produce work that make people feel a range of emotions. What I would genuinely hope is that those thoughts and emotions spark an interest in topics that people are not educated on. If I’m able to do that I feel as though my work has been successful.
Check out some more of Briana’s work below.