The Spanish-born, Los Angeles–based artist Silvia Grav tells us through her sublime photographs what it is to be human. Aged only 23, she is already a mature and recognized photographer who makes a living from her passion. She describes herself as the most impatient and anxious person she knows; but sometimes, for some reason, Silvia is able to direct and focus all her energy onto something – and that’s when miracles occur. First, it was drawing. Now, she draws with light.
What led you into photography? Was it something you have always been interested in, or did you stumble into it?
The idea of freezing moments with a plastic machine always freaked me out, but being a kid it felt more like a miracle than a tool. It was that weird thing I could never get to understand. However, my obsession with understanding every single thing “killed” my childhood really soon, and along with it all those beautiful, irrational thoughts you can only have as a kid. The perception I’ve had since then is the least magical possible: photography is just an excuse, a tool, a servant. I guess growing up I found magic more and more in the feelings I could create, and less in how or with what I created them. But it wasn’t until I was sixteen that I discovered Photoshop and realised that photography was the perfect mix I’d been looking for for years: very practical, much faster than drawing, and creative without limits. Ever since then I’ve been hooked.
How would you describe your work? What drives you to do what you do?
That is a question I always struggle to answer, as it has too many answers. I like to see it as the only physical thing I have that I can put all my chaos in. It orders my brain. I work in a very intuitive way and most of my work is about trying to represent all the indescribable feelings and sensations I’ve had for as long as I can remember. Memory also plays an important role. I’m really scared of forgetting, and my work has a lot to do with keeping other versions of myself alive. Like when you write a diary and you read it after many years and you realise that you are not that person anymore, but at the same time you understand that this other person would be dead if you weren’t remembering them. Finally, my work has connected me with so many different people, and I don’t feel so alone anymore. Perhaps this is the strongest and deepest driver that keeps me doing what I do.
This connection seems to be very important to you.
It is the closest thing I know to happiness.
Is that the reason why you mostly do portraits? To what extent is empathy important in portrait photography.
It’s very important. At first, I refused to photograph other people because they normally feel uncomfortable being in front of the camera; but feelings are what interest me the most. This makes it really hard to get what you want from them. Some years ago, things changed – and I actually find that really interesting. That’s why I’m photographing other people more often now: that interaction and connection or disconnection that the camera generates between me and the model is an amazing moment to learn from.
© photo credit Silvia Grav