5 Questions WITH photographer Marjorie Salvaterra
Marjorie Salvaterra is an award-winning photographer, based in LA, who joined Ralph Pucci in 2017. Her work shows balanced tension— a pull between honesty and emotion. She recently sat down with us to talk about the currents that affect us in life and art. In terms of artistic process Marjorie’s approach feels personal and intimate, as if her lens is focused on the relatable and relevant.
Looking at your striking photography- there’s something very cinematic in your touch. Have any filmmakers ever inspired you?
You know I did grow up loving the theatre, and loving movies. I’m a terrible sleeper- I got it from my mother. It’s funny, we used to stay up and just watch movies, it was this thing we always did together. Thinking back on it though, I do think I take more inspiration from the theatre. I’m a storyteller at heart, so that inspiration really comes from the love of stories and the drama of stage.
Often in your work, you capture a host of emotions. Where does this type of inspiration come from? Is there a personal gaze in the work you feel echoes your own life?
When I started this project— when I found my voice in photography— I was trying to be so many things to so many people. As a woman you’re expected to show up, look good, and shower! Pick everybody up, and be on time... I was in a whole thing as a new mom, and felt everyone was fancier than I was. I felt I just didn’t fit into that new world. I remember thinking, “One drop of water,” —you know I’m holding it together, holding it together— “one more drop of water would absolutely sink me at this moment.”
And all of a sudden I had this image flash into mind, of this weight of water on women, and thought of them lined up in the waves. I leaned over to a friend and said, “I have this idea for a picture!” I didn’t know how I was going to do it, I just got on Ebay, and started going around collecting gowns. I called all my friends to see who’d show up and, from that picture I realized so many people said, “OMG that’s my life!” People just got it, and I couldn’t believe it.
On the many wonderful expressive people in front of your lens, it’s amazing how you capture such a great crowd. Who are the women behind your castings?
I just love shooting us ordinary women. Sometimes I feel guilty taking up people’s time, but funny enough, my friends are willing. I had this idea for the picture and really needed one last person. So I begged around, you know, “Oh I need somebody so badly!” It’s hilarious, one of my close friends who’s so proper said, “No, no, absolutely not.” But I was super persistent, I really tried to cushion it; “Please, please,— I promise no one will be recognizable!” she said, “Ok, fine but if you ever tell anybody that it’s me I’ll absolutely kill you.” I just laughed and said, “I promise I will never tell anyone!”
So we shot it, (she’s in the photo of people lying in the field with tushies up) and I see her at the opening exhibit standing underneath the photo and pointing at it to everyone— And here was someone I had to beg to even say yes! But it’s this thing, with being honest and raw for the sake of art. Another girl whose recently posed naked a few times, she tells everybody, “I had to do it the second time, I end up feeling so good about myself afterwards.” And in a way, that’s really what capturing these women is all about.
I’m interested in your use of Black & White. Is there a reason why you gravitate towards this medium? Do you see any future series where color is used?
Well I can’t say for the future, but I do love black and white. I always did. And even though I didn’t come to photography till my 30’s, it was still before people were shooting digital. I learned on film, my teacher used a black and white 35 mm. So that was always the photography I responded to the most.
But also, artistically, black and white adds a little bit of anonymity to people; it takes away unnecessary specifics as a character.
You’re based in the thick of pop culture’s heartland. Do you ever feel especially influenced by LA culture?
I think because I grew up in Missouri, I’m definitely influenced by the craziness of LA. There’s a feeling like I don’t quite fit in, because of really how surreal and extreme it is here. Sometimes I just have to laugh. Like, I’m in the car one time and I saw Spongebob crossing the street followed by Jesus, and just thought “oh, It’s L.A.”
In the end, I always think about how everything is small, and to not let yourself absorb other people’s craziness! It’s the same as what I tell my kids, “If you’re in other people’s business, you’re in the wrong business.” And in art, and life, I think that’s really true.
Interview, Christy Rappold.