Ways of Seeing: Isabella Dias on her favorite photograph

In the first of a new series, we ask photographer Isabella Dias to take us behind-the-scenes of her favorite piece of work. Hailing from Brazil and now resident in New York, Isabella may be young—not yet out of her teenage years—but she has already developed a reputation for her dreamy, magic-infused portraits centering women of color.

The day I took this photo was very cloudy, and not long after I took this it started to rain. It was the beginning of last year, when I was just starting out in photography, and I had been struggling to create work that really touched people. I pressured myself a lot to take amazing photos and to develop as fast as possible, and on that day I was feeling especially anxious.

The person in this picture is my cousin Gabriel but, since we were raised together, he has always been more like a brother to me. I wanted to take this picture because I wanted to create art that has magic in it. Pictures overflowing with a powerful energy that you can feel just by looking at them—pictures that involve you. My and my cousins were always able to create magic, with everything. Everything that I have been creating lately is so different to what I did with them, and I’ve caught myself forgetting about the art we used to create together.

On this day, I felt stuck. I had no idea what to do. I had some blue fabrics with me, and my other cousin was playing with them. He accidentally stretched one of them in the direction of the sun and, when the light shone through, it turned my cousin’s back blue. We were all cheering and I felt so excited because it looked so beautiful and interesting. It taught me that it’s okay to not overthink every little detail—just let the moment surprise you.

The camera that I used to take this photo is the one that I still use now; a Canon T3 with 50mm 1.8 lens. I always add color to the photos, or something else: fabrics, flowers, plants, things I find on the street. I might pull something in a beautiful color in front of the lens, which creates a ghost-like effect on the models.

My cousin was my very first model, and the photos I created with him were what made me realize that I wanted to become a photographer. I’m from Brazil, and now that I live in the U.S. I live far away from my cousin. Even though now my style is much better, and I can create work that holds different kinds of energies and meanings, I miss the time that I created with him. All the photos I have taken of him feel like home. I have always loved this photo a lot, and felt that it was filled with magic. I’m reminded of the fun I had when making the picture. It is proof that magical things can happen anytime. But now that I’m far from my cousins, it has also become tinged with nostalgia.

Thanks, Isabella, for sharing your work and story with us.

If you’d like to see more of Isabella’s work, you can take a look at her Instagram here and her website here. You can see more from the FvF photography archive here.