Inês Ambrósio is a film photographer and printmaker, currently studying Photography at the University of Brighton. Originally from Lisbon, Inês’ professional background in free surfing constantly draws both herself and her photography back to the water. After spending several years working as a surf brand ambassador and surfing teacher, Inês left Portugal for Brighton in order to pursue her evolving photographic interest. When in the water, she describes herself as being in her element – an element that transcends into her varying shades of blue.
How would you describe your photographic process?
I stopped using a digital camera very early on and now only use film. I take my camera out on my surfboard with me and shoot in the water; film has taught me to wait and think creatively about my shots whilst I’m surrounded by water’s unpredictability. I often use cyanotype, a printing process that develops photographs in blue. I can feel the physicality of my work through the cyanotype process; not only must the photosensitive chemical on the paper’s surface develop in direct sunlight, but the photographic paper has to then be washed in water. Water becomes part of the process and outcome. Cyanotype gave my photography a new direction; my work now represents not only the blues of the ocean, but myself.
How has the cyanotype process informed your projects?
My use of cyanotype continued to develop in my Blue Africa series. The series explored my family’s Mozambique heritage by merging old family photographs with my own African travel photography, including the film from a recent trip to Morocco. I wanted to combine memories of old and new, across different times and spaces. The colour blue was the visual link I needed to unite these narratives; the element of water was what drew me to visiting the coastal country where my family were born, and cyanotype became the technique that visually connected our stories.
How else is an elemental physicality inherent to your work?
I liked the fact that my Photosynthesis series was put together as a Zine, as its physicality allowed my photographs to be both seen and touched. Photosynthesis was a project about missing the sun during a non-luminous time in my personal life. The project visualised my need to be in the sunlight and amongst nature at that time. Many of the photographs in this series depict sunlight on the skin and plants – physical altars of the sun.
Are you interested in exploring new photographic subjects?
I’ve started skateboarding due to Brighton’s lack of surf culture. Skateboarding of course has its roots in surfing, and skating is now starting to become part of my photography. Concrete is the next element I’d like to explore in my work; gliding on water parallels gliding on urban concrete. Water and concrete are material opposites, but I’ve found that they complement one another. I’m thankful for Brighton as a space that’s allowed me to have a break from surfing and push my creativity in other directions.
Do any particular artists inspire your work?
The photographers working directly around me inspire my work. Learning from one another is what influenced my use of paper and cyanotype. The photographer Wolfgang Tillmans uses colour in a way that really interests me. Tillmans puts together contradicting elements, but visually connects them through colour. His work made me realise that I look at colour in a divided way, which really comes through in my work. I’m of course inspired by many surf artists and water photographers as well, and my work has been paralleled to Emma Critchley’s underwater photography and films.
Do you foresee a future in photography or surfing?
Of course, but it’s not about one or the other. I’ll always be in between the worlds of surfing and exhibiting. My recent involvement in Surf at Lisbon Film Festival really paved that future pathway for me. Here I exhibited my Back to the Blues series, a project about my nostalgia for the water whilst living abroad. I was able to return to Portugal not only as a surfer, but as a professional artist. I want to leave the future open, but I know it will include both surfing and photography.
Words: Elizabeth Richardson
Instagram: @ines.ambrosio / @inesambrosio.art