Marcela Ferri: “Registering memories, telling stories and stealing souls”

Art, Interviews, Outside London, Photography

I had a chat with Marcela Ferri, up-and-coming photographer and self-confessed voyeur who likes nothing more than taking a sneaky snap on the tube.

Marcela likes to keep her identity obscured, lest people start avoiding her on the Northern Line…

Hi Marcela. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

I was born at 3:30am on March 3rd 1981 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. As a kid, all I wanted was to be a witch, and everyone always laughed at me because I’m not ugly and don’t have a big nose. I was raised by my dogs, because my parents were too busy doing other things: I learnt about the most basic feelings from them.

My mother gave me my first camera as a Christmas gift. I always loved taking pictures; for me it is about registering memories, telling stories and stealing souls. However, it took me a while to realise that I wanted to be a photographer. In Brazil you are expected to know what your profession is going to be by the time you’re 17, which is crazy in my opinion. It was only in 2007, when I was living in Los Angeles, that I decided photography was what I wanted to do. Since then, I have never ever stopped – I even moved to London so I could improve my skills.

Unfortunately photography isn’t my day job, but it is my main project. I studied film and worked in advertising for 10 years, and now I work for a creative music company called Coletiva.

We all have things that make us go on moving through life, and I can tell that photography is what makes me keep going.

What inspires your work?

Telling stories through portraits is my motivation. I’m really into psychology and human behaviour, and it fascinates me to observe people. I really believe that through watching other people you can find out more about yourself. There’s a John Frusciante lyric that always comes to mind: “I wouldn’t know my face if you all were me.”

Part of the “Le Voyeur” series

The “Le Voyeur” project is interesting – how does that work? Do you just whip your phone out on the tube? Have you ever been caught in the act by one of your subjects?

I have never asked anyone to take their picture, but I haven’t been caught yet! The attraction is that I like to observe people. How do they behave? What are they wearing? I even take notice of the position of their feet and hands. I see a part of myself in each of them; it’s like looking into a mirror.

Have you ever noticed that people posing is always weird? This is something that I’m always saying to my friends and boyfriend. Posing makes people lose their spontaneity, and that’s why i dont like people to do it in my photos. I think that when you pose you suddenly stop being yourself – you’re trying to be something that you want to look like or want to make people think you are.

Although you have photographed bands such as CSS in concert, you prefer to shoot audiences at festivals rather than the acts themselves. Why is this? 

For the same reason I took the photos in “Le Voyeur.” At a festival there are a huge amount of strange people that no one is looking at or paying attention to. By ignoring these people, you are missing out on a completely different experience.

The pictures on my website were taken at a festival called SWU in Brazil in 2010.

From the “Fragments of the Silence” series

The “Fragments of the Silence” series that you shot in Abney Park cemetery in Stoke Newington is really moving. Is there a story behind those photos?

It started one day when I was watching a film and someone was reading that Mary Elisabeth Frye poem, “Do not stand at my grave and weep.” I lost a few people in my life, and I never forgot those words.

I remember going to a Helmut Newton exhibition in Berlin in 2010; I was there seeing his stunning work and looking at his wife’s work as well, and then I went to a corner where all the letters she received when he died were on display. There was one – I think it was from the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue – which read: “I cant underestimate the size of your pain, but the only thing I can say is that, when we lose someone, it doesn’t mean that the person stops existing, but that they have started to exist in a different way inside of us.” At that moment I started to cry and couldnt stop.

I think that we spend our lives being way too busy, trying to get rich, trying to become someone or something, but we forget to demonstrate the most basic feeling; love. By the time we realise, it’s too late to say those things we wanted to say but never had the courage or time. When someone dies, we feel that we should have said certain things and spent more time with that person, but it is way too late for that. When you go to a cemetery, you see all these beautiful demonstrations of love – it’s such an emotional place. As Daniel Johnston once sang: “true love will find you in the end” – but unfortunately, sometimes this is literally the very end.

From “The Day I Met Asisyai” – a shoot with Slava Polunin, one of the world’s most famous clowns

On a lighter (and quite a lot nerdier) note, what camera do you use? 

I use a few cameras. My big ones are a Nikon D700 and a really old Hasselblad. I’m addicted to film cameras; I have a Russian Fed 2, an LC-A, a Mini-instax, an Olympus Trip and a Diana F. I have recently been given two cameras which used to belong to my friend’s father;  one is a Yashica and the other is a Konika.

And my phone, obviously.

You have shot in both London and Brazil – do you think that your heritage has influenced your work?

That’s something I’ve never really thought about. I suppose Brazilian people are passionate by nature – I think maybe this passion helps
me to not give up. And then there’s the music… right now im listening to the new Adriano Cintra project called Madrid and also a few other things he did [Cintra was a founding member and producer of Brazilian alternative dance outfit CSS]. A few weeks ago I photographed the making of Madrid’s first video, “Sad Song.”

A still from the Madrid video shoot

Sounds great. Any other projects on the go? 

I’m working on a few new projects now, one is with a friend of mine who lives in Paris called Laurindo Feliciano, and two others that I’m doing by
myself which will involve interviews and maybe videos…watch this space!

Marcela is currently showing some work as part of a collective exhibition at the f.28 gallery in Brazil. If you’re around those ends, and speak Portugese (or have a working knowledge of Google translate), check out the website here.

It’s links galore. Marcela’s official website is here, and has many more great photos than I’ve been able to feature on this feeble blog, so I definitely recommend you swing by. Finally, she updates a tumblr account every day with voyeuristic snaps; if you’re a Londoner, it’s worth checking whether you’re featured. 

If you are a photographer, artist or designer and would like to be interviewed for this blog, I’d love to hear from you. Email me at 


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