Silvana Trevale’s ethereal images frame the hopes of Venezuela’s youth

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As the first photographer selected for the Malala Fund‘s Against All Odds commission series in collaboration with 1854, the Caracas-born photographer will document 16-year-old Katty — who dreams of becoming a doctor amidst the backdrop of Venezuela’s fraught socio-political climate

Applications are now open for the third and final commission opportunity from Malala Fund x 1854. Apply now.

“We, as women, are so powerful,” says photographer Silvana Trevale, resolutely. “We are the door to the world.” 

Trevale is originally from Caracas, Venezuela. Based in London since 2017, her Latin American roots are a fervent source of inspiration, fuelling intimate portraits and alluring scenes of youth, fashion, womanhood and everyday life. Trevale is the first photographer to be selected by Malala Yousafzai and her Malala Fund team as part of the Against All Odds commission series in collaboration with 1854. The series will see a total of three women photographers create new work celebrating the strength and determination of girls around the world, with the search for the third and final photographer launching on 3 August 2021. 

© Silvana Trevale .

Co-founded by Malala Yousafzai in 2013, Malala Fund is a non-profit organisation which advocates for girls’ access to education. In Malala’s own words, the commission series “invites photographers to showcase girls as they are: strong, ambitious and full of agency.” Captivated by the intricacies of resistance and girlhood, Trevale is a fitting selectee for the first commission — which will see her create an intimate portrait of Katty, a 16-year-old girl from the Venezuelan beach town of Tacarigua de Mamporal.

Venezuela has the highest rate of inflation in the world. Alongside frequent food and medical shortages, the country’s ongoing economic crisis makes it a fraught place for young people, in particular, to live: often, they do not have the resources to access higher education, and their futures are mired by volatility and uncertainty. Katty – who Trevale has known for many years – dreams of being a doctor. But she comes from a big family, who have been “struggling financially for years.” They cannot afford to support her; still, Katty’s ambitions to attend the University of Caracas, and build a career based on helping people, have not waned.

© Silvana Trevale .
© Silvana Trevale .

Katty’s bright eyes, “full of hope and love,” are what drove Trevale to want to tell her story. “She has numerous reasons to be sad,” says the photographer, “but she chooses not to.” Extending the sentiment of Malala Fund’s Assembly – a digital publication and newsletter that amplifies the voices of young girls directly – Trevale’s proposed project is a chance to shine a light on Katty’s “ambition, hopes, and innocence, while [she is] immersed in a social, political, and economic crisis.” Crucially, Trevale will contribute a portion of the commission fee towards funding Katty’s education, while using the resulting work to raise awareness of her situation.

Trevale is no stranger to capturing the complexities of youth in Venezuela. “The transition from their innocence to the harsh forced maturity the young face in Venezuela intrigues me,” the artist muses, reflecting on her ongoing and most expansive body of work, Venezuelan Youth. In the series, delicate, earthy images of boys and girls are captured against backdrops of beaches, forests and jungle: their solemn gazes markers of dreams “diminished by their realities.” For Trevale, who knows first-hand what it’s like to grow up in such a climate, photography is an act of solidarity: fusing harsh truths with beauty, nostalgia, and purity, in a visual language that is uniquely her own.

© Silvana Trevale .
© Silvana Trevale .

Similar sentiments prevail in Trevale’s recent series, Aproximaciones, commissioned by Aperture Foundation and Fujifilm US. Inspired by Trevale’s own childhood memories – namely weekends spent visiting her grandma in the beachtown of Mamporal (the same place Katty lives) – the project explores notions of youth, relationships and intimacy against different bodies of water. Ethereal portraits of young Venezuelans are set against the stillness and tranquility of aqua scenes: groups of boys play games; a girl poses by the ocean; a young sibling sits upon the shoulders of a brother. “Water is hopeful,” Trevale explains. “It’s an opening. A relief.”

Trevale studied photography at the University of Huddersfield, before completing a masters at Central Saint Martins in fashion image-making in 2017. With a client list including Save the Children, British Vogue, the Guardian and the Telegraph, her wider practice employs “fashion as a versatile tool” while “[blending] it with documentary.” For Comrades x Vogue Italia, for example, she collaborated with stylist Daniela Benaim to capture the love stories of migrants’ displacement. ‘Comrades’ is a fitting word for Trevale’s practice: in Latin America, it refers to a furtive sisterhood or shared space of survival. “As a woman,” she says, “I continue to work hard to celebrate the strong women we are.”

© Silvana Trevale .

Ultimately, through Trevale’s loving gaze, Katty’s inspiring story promises to amplify the messages at the heart of Malala’s mission: every girl deserves access to education. Every girl deserves control over her own future. And every girl’s voice matters. “Like many of the girls Malala Fund works with, Katty faces barriers to education that put the big dreams she has for her future at risk,” says Ayesha Shakya, Digital Product Manager for Malala Fund. “Silvana wants to call attention to the challenges many young women in Venezuela face, but also capture their strength and joy. We’re excited to see the final photographs — and to hear from Katty about her life and the issues she cares about.”

© Silvana Trevale .

Do you want to be the next photographer commissioned by Malala Fund? The third and final call-for-entry in the Malala Fund x 1854 Against All Odds commission series, is now open.

You can also, view our full list of commission opportunities, and find out more about Malala Fund here.

Hatty Nestor

Hatty Nestor is author of Ethical Portraits: In Search of Representational Justice. She has been published in the White Review, the Times Literary Supplement, Tribune, Frieze and other publications.