Shawna Ferreira’s seven nights with friends and strangers

Inspired by Tarkovsky and designer Gabe Gordon’s grief-laced work, this series of pictures was shot in the wild as night starts to fall.

by Douglas Greenwood
24 August 2020, 1:00pm

Shawna Ferreira got her first camera when she was 10 years old. “It has always been like a diary for me,” the filmmaker, photographer and artist says of her experience of documenting life through a lens. “It is where I live.”

As a child, she would watch films and aspire to make something similar, a cinematic patchwork quilt of her own inspirations. Now based in New York, where she studied Fine Art, Shawna has carved a position for herself as a key figure in the city’s filmmaking scene and is currently working on a feature length project.

When she’s not doing that, she takes pictures; which is “what I will continue to do almost every day.” This series — featuring eight different people in garments by her friend, designer Gabe Gordon — was shot at dusk and into the night over the course of a week.

model in grass by shawna ferreiras

“For me, it begins with a flashback,” she says of its inspiration. “I was watching the childhood dream scene in The Mirror by Andrei Tarkovsky, and soon afterwards I spoke to Gabe. He was finishing a knitwear collection at the time, not long after his father died. His objective was to find a connection between motifs of the naturalistic world -- ‘the flickering light in our kitchen, the stains found on dad’s clothes, radial rainbows, moth holes…’ -- and his own constructed, abstract world. He spoke about decay and wanting to ingrain his memories into fabric -- the attempts to articulate a beauty amidst feelings of isolation. I knew the grief he was talking about.”

The shoot was done remotely with no crew, and exudes a primal energy, as its subjects wade into water and contort their bodies like bare branches on trees. “A large part of the work was the relationship between me and the person at that very moment,” she says. “There had to be a level of communication and trust to open themselves up for me so they could really get into the mood, get into this character. I hope that is revealed in the photographs.”

model in the woods by shawna ferreiras
model on beach by shawna ferreiras
models in sea by shawna ferreiras
model on pebble beach by shawna ferreiras
model in woods
model in sea
model in grass

Photography by Shawna Ferreira