Ones to Watch 2021: Silvana Trevale

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Each year, British Journal of Photography presents its Ones To Watch – a selection of 20 emerging image-makers, chosen from a list of over 450 nominations. This artist is also one of five talents selected for Futures, a Europe-based platform bringing together the global photography community to support and nurture the professional development of emerging artists across the world.

The Venezuelan photographer seeks to highlight the nuanced beauty of her culture with images that connect

For 27-year-old Silvana Trevale, the formula for an affecting portrait comprises two key aspects: a sense of ambiguity, and a shared energy or experience between photographer and sitter. “Light and colour play a part in making a photograph strong, but there needs to be a purpose, or a real connection behind it, for it to become powerful,” she says.

Currently based in London, Trevale grew up in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, a city she describes as, “hectic, with beautiful light, beautiful people and warm air”. Her journey into photography was an organic one, and from a young age she used a camera to explore her social and physical surroundings.

“I consider my work to be a fusion between documentary and fashion, and I seek to celebrate the intrinsic beauty of the human body, my Latin American roots, youth, womanhood and the realities of people around me,” says Trevale, who has already had notable success in the commercial sphere, with commissions from Adidas, Dior and Vogue. “With photography I feel like I carry the power and responsibility to represent my culture and I see such beauty in our history. I am in love with where I come from, my family, my country, and now my experience as an immigrant too.” 

From the series Venezuelan Youth © Silvana Trevale.
From the series Venezuelan Youth © Silvana Trevale.

“Trevale perfectly exemplifies how the hybridisation of genre can create something new. Her seamless merging of documentary and fashion is a conscious photography, debunking the belief that ethics and aesthetics are not compatible”.

Chiara Bardelli Nonino, Photo editor of Vogue Italia.

Out of these feelings grew her ongoing project, Venezuelan Youth – a series of sun-soaked and poignant portraits exploring how the economic, social and political crisis in her home country is impacting young people. “The anger I felt towards the situation propelled me to make this work,” she explains. “In the early stages of the project, students were being shot and killed at protests around the country, and I remember thinking that they are fighting for a Venezuela they’ve never had – a safer Venezuela, one not seen since our parents were growing up. I’m drawn to the clash between their innocence and the harsh realities they face.” Trevale began shooting the project in 2017, and takes more photos each time she returns. She wants to create an awareness of what’s happening in Venezuela, but “from a perspective of hope, and a celebration of strength”.

From the series Venezuelan Youth © Silvana Trevale.

The second chapter of Venezuelan Youth – a series titled Warm Rain – explores the same themes, but concentrates on three families from different financial backgrounds. “One of the aims was to showcase that even the families in Venezuela who have economic means still struggle to get by,” she explains. The images in Warm Rain are contemplative and softly lit, following the children of the families as they hang out together, spend time at the beach and go to school. 

© Silvana Trevale.

“Trevale perfectly exemplifies how the hybridisation of genre can create something new,” explains Chiara Bardelli Nonino, photo editor of Vogue Italia. She nominated Trevale, describing her “seamless merging of documentary and fashion” as “a conscious photography, debunking the belief that ethics and aesthetics are not compatible”.

Trevale is also creating work that explores the roots she is establishing in the UK. “I have found another home here, and with that I have created strong bonds with people, some of whom are Latin American immigrants too,” she says. Comadres, a collaboration with Venezuelan stylist Daniela Benaim, is on her agenda. “We’ve been exploring together, and we’re hoping to expand on that as we continue to grow our communities,” she says. 

Joanna Cresswell

Joanna L. Cresswell is a writer and editor based in Brighton. She has written on photography and culture for over 40 international magazines and journals, and held positions as editor for organisations including The Photographers' Gallery, Unseen Amsterdam and Self Publish, Be Happy. She recently completed an MA in comparative literature and criticism at Goldsmiths College, University of London