*This interview was originally published at Lola Who, where the original photographs can be viewed in their full glory!
The work of Mexican-born, New York-based photographer Francesca Beltran fuses tenderness with a taste of nostalgia. Both raw and ethereal, her images explore the subtle translucence that often exists between reality and dreamscapes. She creates visual narratives that offer glimpses into the “unbearable lightness of being,” which is fitting as she cites Milan Kundera as one of her creative influences.
Beltran’s passions mix photography and writing, travel, and music. Her work ranges from interviewing indie bands, photographing festivals, as well as reviewing art exhibitions and live shows. Beltran’s photography has been featured in i-D, Harper’s Bazaar, Vice, and Nylon, among others.
Francesca Beltran gave us some insight into her life obsessions, her creative inspirations, and the different meanings of home.
Emily Paskevics (EP): Tell us a little bit about yourself?
Francesca: Mexican, Gemini, honest, passionate and complex. I’m obsessed with music, traveling, The Smiths and outer space. I want to become a song.
EP: You’re from Mexico, have lived in Italy, and currently reside in New York. Where is home?
Francesca: Home is a state of mind. I am home in my room in New York City, I am home at Sway on Sundays, I am home at my grandma’s place in Mexico, I am home in nature and I am home whenever I’m on the road. Wherever I feel fulfilled, I am home.
EP: Did you go to school to study photography?
Francesca: No. I once took a darkroom class in school, but everything I’ve learned has been through pressing buttons, reading manuals, asking questions and just trial and error. I shoot analog, so I’m always experimenting and hoping for the best.
EP: What is the photographic process like for you? Do you have particular rituals or schedules?
Francesca: Not at all. Photography is my form of expression, so I just try to bring a camera with me everywhere I go. My passion for writing and photography was born from my desire to remember places, faces, moments, feelings and ideas. To me, there’s nothing scarier in life than to forget any of it.
EP: What types of cameras do you shoot with and what is your favourite editing accessory?
Francesca: I don’t like to play favorites, but my Nikon FM2 is the one I use the most. Her name is Morgan. She’s quite old, and her light leaks are both a blessing and a curse. I also have a Polaroid Land that I adore, and a couple of point-and-shoot cameras that I like to play with from time to time. I don’t do much editing, but when I do I use Photoshop.
EP: There is often a dreamlike quality to your work. How would you describe your photographic style?
Francesca: I once read that “Nostalgia is the longing for something that never was.” I think that describes what I am trying to achieve through my work. That’s what I love the most about photography; it’s a moment that is frozen in time, and that will forever mean different things to different people.
EP: Who are some photographers, or other artists, who have guided your creative vision?
Francesca: Guy Bourdin, Tim Walker, Neil Krug, Francesca Woodman, Ryan McGinley. I don’t think my work is a reflection of theirs, but they inspire the feeling I strive to evoke. Also, Camus, Salinger, Milan Kundera and The Smiths are a huge influence in the way I perceive life. No idea where I’d be without them.
EP: You’re a writer as well as a photographer, and there are often many possible narratives for each of your photographs: each frame is like a short story. What is the interrelationship between text and images for you?
Francesca: I feel my photos often reflect what I can’t express with words, particularly when I travel. Every time I try to write about what it’s like to be on the road I fail miserably, but sometimes, with a bit of luck, a photograph can speak for itself. My photography reflects the world around me, and my writing reveals the world within.
EP: What do you want your viewers to take away from your work?
Francesca: I want people to feel something. I want them to imagine worlds and characters that don’t necessarily exist. I want them to want to be in all these places and most importantly, I want to inspire them to go out and try to find them.
EP: What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?
Francesca: That it would become a very expensive addiction. Also, I think the most important thing you can learn as a photographer is that you shouldn’t try to make your work resemble others’. It took me a long time to understand that my work looks a certain way because it is—and always will be—a mirror of who I am. Some will like it, others will hate it, but the only thing that matters is that I am proud of it.
EP: Can you tell us about some of your upcoming projects?
Francesca: I recently bought an 8mm camera, and I’m in the process of shooting a short video. I don’t really know what category it falls under… I only know how I want it to look like, and I’m very excited to just do it.