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Colour Theory and Sunny Days: Teresa Freitas

Colour Theory and Sunny Days: Teresa Freitas

Teresa Freitas is an artist we have admired, from a distance, for a long long time. We were delighted when we started working together, and especially since we began collaborating on commissions, first during lockdown and now with the Kind Commissions 😍  Her work is beautiful, but also intriguing. It looks simple, but in reality, like most simple things, is incredibly complex.

I hope you enjoy this interview, conducted between London and Lisbon in the late summer of 2020...

A colourful image of Chinatown in San Francisco, by Teresa Freitas- Chinatown Type, Teresa Freitas

Kitty: As you know, our clients love your work! One of the aspects of it they often remark upon is your unique aesthetic. How did that develop? Did you have a moment where it just "clicked" for you or was it a slow process over time? 

Teresa: I'd say it was both – a slow process over time that eventually clicked when I found what I unknowingly was looking for. Photography, for me, didn't start out as work or artistic practice, it was an informal and creative escape through mobile shots of daily details. It then expanded into something more experimental and eventually allowed me to travel more, taking pictures in new contexts and places. When I got my first digital camera, I discovered a new enthusiasm and enjoyment in editing and working with colour. I went through what you'd might call different phases (cooler - pale and muted - and eventually pastel and vibrant), but it was really an ongoing development of the intended colour-work, in order to achieve a sudden transformation of reality into fiction.

An image by Teresa Freitas, hanging next to a vase of flowers.

Kitty: You and I have spoken before about the feeling of calm and happiness that is a big part of your work. Is it an extension of how you yourself feel when you are photographing? 

Teresa: Definitely. I have to be in a given mood to photograph properly. This is also one of the reasons I only photograph on sunny days if I have that option to choose. I know that sunlight produces the best colours for my work, but it's also because I feel happier on sunny days. Grey and gloomy days make me... gloomy. And I don't feel any urge or will to go out and shoot. I photograph the most when I'm travelling, so that definitely lifts up my mood and energy – even on grey days – but I usually only plan for travels to happen in periods where I'll probably get more sunlight. In Saint Petersburg, for example, the city only enjoys an average of 62 sunny days per year, and I could say I was lucky to be there in a week where we saw the sun every day, but I'm sure the people who planned it had that in mind when closing travel dates and chose a period with the best chances. 

Sometimes, things do get a little bit hectic and there's a bit of anxiety before I start pressing the shutter, but once I start and I'm in a place where I feel good and confident about, any bad feelings quickly go away. I don't think I'd be a good photojournalist for example, as some truths and more extreme situations are hard to swallow, document and distance yourself from. I don't have the profile or personality for it. But photographing peacefully and informally on a sunny day, whether I'm wandering around new places or creating something from scratch – that's when my work is the most consistent and speaks for itself. When it comes easy, it usually produces the best work, in my case.

Image of St Petersburg, by Teresa Freitas. - St. Petersburg, Teresa Freitas

Kitty: When I'm talking about your work, I always draw people's attention to the colour paradox of pastel and bright colours in the same image. Can you tell us a bit more about the theory behind this? 

Teresa: Sure! Colour theory basically says that pastels are used for a soothing sensation and bright colours for standing out and playfulness. There are consonant palettes and contrasting palettes, but rarely (if ever) do you see colours used in both their soft tints and most vibrant expressions in the same image or design/colour palette. This is because pastels are mostly viewed and perceived as very soft, muted and pale tones, and don't usually exist in a traditional painter’s wheel, as they are tints (colours mixed with a quantity of white), rather than primary, secondary, or tertiary colours. But pastels aren't just colours tinted with white, they have their singular variations and multitudes of vibrancy. So this appears like a paradox: how can something that is viewed as soft can also be vibrant? But we've seen that it can, and for that reason, I believe they can also be complemented – working well – with brighter and bolder tones. 

When I was first confronted by this when editing, I immediately liked the effect it produced. It was almost an unconscious action, as it wasn't planned and it definitely wasn't something I was used to seeing. My mind and eyes were immediately attracted to that; I thought it looked very alluring. So I started looking for that colour paradox in each image I edited. I mostly work with a vibrant-pastel combination to make an element of the image stand out, like a road-sign or the coloured hat of someone walking in the distance. This usually occurs naturally when editing, as road signs and some clothes have colours that tend not to exist so frequently in an outdoor space. They are made to stand out from everything else. One of my favourite places to do this is in beach scenes. People usually bring a lot of colour with them when going to the beach. So I tend to make the environment soft – the sand and the sea – and human/man-made elements pop.

Beautiful beach scene by artist Teresa Freitas- Powdered Playground, Teresa Freitas

Kitty: Your work is deceptively simple - because the images are often quite minimalist. But the process of creating them is actually very complex. Can you talk us through it please? 

Teresa: That's something I believe a lot of artists struggle with, which is others realising how even the simplest things took a long time to achieve. Namely because our background, money and the time we've invested in developing what is now our work also count, a lot. It took me two years, for example, to develop this signature editing style. And it's still the most complex part of the creation – I edit each picture from scratch, which means that I don't apply presets or copy+paste actions when editing something new. Sometimes it comes out in a single-flow edit, but other times I'm not quite happy with the first result, so I re-edit as much as necessary until I understand and find what the image is asking for. 

Teresa Freitas photographing in a street in Istanbul- Teresa Freitas walking through Istanbul. Photo: Shuko Kawase
When travelling, I leave very early in the morning to shoot and only come back in the evening, to edit the pictures at night. Although I do like to wander aimlessly and discover the unexpected, I also plan ahead and spend some days virtually-travelling through Google Street View to find potential locations and streets to visit. I like having time for both, the planned and unplanned. For personal creations, it involves some inner-brainstorming, writing up ideas, sketching some of those ideas, figuring out what props or elements I might want to use, and waiting for the right day/light to shoot.

Kitty: And finally, we know you love to travel! Where are your next three destinations? 

Teresa: Malta, Japan and India, if the pandemic situation and conditions allow for it. Fingers crossed!

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