Márilin Ferreira is a photographer who is using her art as a powerful instrument of social change. She developed different projects that aim to use the visual art to improve people’s lives – either it is teaching photography as a craft to young people or giving them a new way of seeing themselves.
She started Dupla Face (the Portuguese word for “Double Face”). She worked together with collectors of recyclable materials in Brazil and, using the materials collected, they built surreal scenarios for fine art photography. The goal of this project was to present the participant’s to a completely new reality – a fantastic world they helped to create. However, the project grew bigger than that; it also showed them a whole new life perspective.
The Circular talked to Márilin Ferreira about her social work and her goals with photography.
1 – What attracted you to documental photography?
Well, I always loved the art of writing with light. My first experience was at 16 years old, living away from home. I documented my daily life to spend my time and cope with my homesickness. Every shot has love and dedication and, for me, it is impossible not to deliver yourself the same way. Since the beginning, photography had an emotional impact in my life.
2 – How were your experiences using photography as a way to socially transform people’s lives?
In the beginning, it was hard. Just documenting it seemed so little, but with time I realized that little goes a long way. My first work with the collector of recyclable materials was challenging because they had never seemed themselves that way, so they had high hopes for the project.
3 – Your work is really focused on a feminine subject – when did you get the interest in portraying women?
I came from a family of five women and my father was the only man. He always raised me to be free and independent. Because we lived in a sexist-free house, I had a big shock when I realized the chaos we are living in. Me and my sister, who is a filmmaker, always wanted to do something to change that.
I was married for six months and over that course of time, I was assaulted twice. After my divorce, I started to really listen to the “women’s silence”.
We live in a very sexist society, where the woman is supposed to be always strong – the mom, the housewive, that one that has two jobs. Women are expected to deliver more and more, and that was too much.
That is not the life that I want – I can either fight now or it will be too late.
4 – How do you think photography can change the world?
I believe there is a lot society is not properly seeing. We live in a world with a lot of criticism but not a lot of people to help. People are missing humanity.
My work is always focused on those who are not listen to – older women, black women, poor women, single moms – because there is a lot of things being demanded of them. I want to show, through photography, that before anything else, these women are human and they have the right to fail, to give up and to ask for help just like anyone else does.
5 – Talking about your Dupla Face Project, what kind of influence do you think you brought to the participants? What was their feedback?
When I started the project, I was automatically seen as a “leader”. But I never liked that, I did not want to seem superior. Over the time, each one of them started to bound with me and we begin to work together. I portrayed six people and, in the end, everyone involved in collecting the recyclable materials was helping us to build the setting and make the costumes. I used to get to the place asking for a piece of styrofoam and everyone helped me. It was a project build on union and representativeness.
I was very worried about using their images and I wanted them to feel like the protagonists of this whole thing. So I had the idea of producing everything using only the recyclable materials they collected. It was an amazing experience because each of them saw the transformation from something that was considered trash into a work of art. They knew exactly how the image was produced and that would never have happened if I used Photoshop.
In the end, I got the opportunity to put the project in an art gallery and I rented a van so they could go with their families. Nothing is better than seeing those women looking at their own portraits. At that moment I had the feeling of fulfilment.
After the exhibition, I gave them the impressed pictures and they showed to everyone at work. They would explain that the snow that we used was made by the styrofoam they collected themselves – and that is priceless. I can say it was mission accomplished.