The Porsche Vision Gran Turismo virtual concept car is undoubtedly something unique. Designed for the virtual world – incorporating distinctive design DNA, by Porsche designers – in order to be driven within the new Gran Turismo 7 game for the Sony PlayStation. A place where the digital environment and the real world meet. This blurring of the lines between virtual and real is familiar to photographer Teresa Freitas, making her the perfect match to help tie these two realms together to tell a story.
The Lisbon-based artist uses a conceptual and highly colourful approach to her photography. Inspired by painters like Van Gogh, Magritte and Helen Frankenthaler and photographer Luigi Ghirri, she studied painting at Fine Arts college but graduated in Multimedia Art, before her brand of brightly-coloured, pastel-toned photography began to gain her a big following on Instagram. We asked Teresa to explain her inspiration behind her colourful photographic art, about reality and surrealism, and the concepts underlying her work for the Porsche Vision Gran Turismo virtual concept car project.
Colour, especially pastel tones, are a major part of your photographic art. You’re from near Lisbon, which is such a colourful city. Has that been a big source of inspiration? Where else is it from?
“It’s something I’ve been developing for a number of years. I always took an interest in colour studies, especially in painting and design, so there was a natural adaptation when I followed a path into photography. A trip to San Francisco in 2018 was a huge turning point in my colour treatment. I was really inspired by the city’s built environment, and I wanted to portray that through colour. San Francisco is actually quite similar to Lisbon in a number of ways, so I can be confident in saying that the place I was born and grew up in definitely took part and influenced my taste for bright, pastel tones – I just didn’t realise it as it was happening. Cinema and cinematography played a very important role, too.”
It seems impossible not to feel warm and happy when looking at your work. We’ve spent so much time at home lately, do you think your colourful photographic art transports people to places?
“Thank you! That’s something I hear a lot. There’s a sense of positivity that permeates my work through the colours I use. It’s a way of building colour associations that provide that specific mood – using certain tones that can be associated with lightness, softness and happiness that one might feel looking at colour. Since most of my work takes place around the world, my images can also provide that travel-at-home quality.”
The colours you major in are very calming – for the Porsche Vision GT project, that will be quite a contrast with this fast-moving virtual sports car. Is this deliberate? How would you like people to ‘feel’ when looking at it?
“It’s definitely a deliberate decision. As colour is such a key part of my work, it made no sense to set it aside for this project. I think that it’s actually one of the reasons why I was picked, since the contrast can be kind of surprising and unexpected. And that’s exactly what I’m hoping people feel – being confronted with something unusual that can be visually pleasing, nonetheless. It was particularly fun making these two contrasting elements work together, playing with colour balance and discordance in the same image throughout the different sets [we built].”
It’s a car that is born in a video game and is meant to exist in a virtual world, so we had the freedom to create the environments we wanted, without having to stick to reality
How did you approach the Porsche Vision Gran Turismo virtual concept car project? What did you want to achieve with the 1:1 real life model you photographed?
“It was a challenge. I’m used to photographing small objects outside using natural light. In this case, especially at the beginning, the car design was still a secret – but we knew that it was going to be a true-to-life-sized concept car, and we needed to photograph it indoors. But here’s what we also knew – it’s a car that is born in a video game and is meant to exist in a virtual world, so we had the freedom to create the environments we wanted, without having to stick to reality. For me, it was somewhat of a cinematic approach, where the sets were purposely built to tell a sculpted story and set the tone of an imaginative world. In this world, we tell the story of the gamer (who is also the driver), and a set of simulated environments – the racetrack and the driver’s (or gamer’s!) home.”
Your photography is very conceptual – in the past, that would be seen as niche. Has Instagram, in particular, made people more accepting of challenging works of photographic art?
“I agree. Instagram not only democratised photography but, by broadening to an audience that can be reached around the world, something that could be thought of as a niche has a much wider and normalised acceptance. There’s now a place for different approaches to the image culture of photography, and Instagram feels like an inclusive gallery where there’s something for each taste. It’s a fertile ground for discovery.”
Your colourful photographic art feels real and yet hyperreal at the same time. How much time do you spend, on average, on getting each image to the point you’re happy with it?
“There’s a lot of back and forth and each set has a long process in defining the colour and tone for the final story. There is a need for consistency, but also to bring out what attracts me to each image or set individually. As I always bring down the contrast of light and shadow, making their values closer together, it gives that cinematic idea of a situation that doesn’t exist in reality. It appears flat – like 2D. As manipulations of the object/subject rarely or sparsely exist in the image, reality and surrealism are present in it at the same time.”
What are you looking for in your subjects besides colour – eg, form, light, etc? Or does that all come into play with your work?
“Light is the mother of colour, so it’s always very important that it fits with what I’m looking for in terms of my aesthetic. I look for sunlight conditions in my work, especially because it makes colours pop and provides an interesting interplay of light and shadow. You won’t catch me out shooting on a grey, cloudy day. In this case, because we were in an indoor setting, we also wanted to bring that warm, bright light into the set, to keep it consistent with the rest of my body of work. In terms of form, I’m very attracted to geometric shapes, architecture and composition techniques that might evidence a fantasised view, playing with juxtaposition, sub-framing (an element framed by another element), symmetry/asymmetry and leading lines.”
Are you always on the lookout for inspiration? Where does it come from?
“I believe everyone who works in a visual medium keeps a trained eye and mind to constantly receive and gather inspiration from a number of different sources, on a daily basis. Although I can say I’ve been influenced by painting and cinematography, inspiration comes in many forms – colour combinations, picture books, loose images on social media, art exhibitions, architectural styles, and so on. It’s everywhere.”