Theresa Pewal: Momente vom Freisein

Today we are thrilled to take you guys on a tour to Villach, hometown of one of our beloved clients, Theresa Pewal. “Why would we do so?” you may ask yourself. We’ve been following her work from the very beginning and have to admit that her artist and self-portraits, as well as wedding photography, has amazed us ever since.

For all of you who wondered what Theresa’s personal work is about, we’ve got the answer: Momente vom Freisein. A project passionately lived for several years and brought to our eyes with much love and dedication this summer, on July 2 at Dinzlschloss venue. Even if the vernissage was in Austria, we are in Spain and you – all over the world, Theresa gave us the opportunity to visit her exhibition virtually, what we are incredibly happy about. Truly special and intimate photographs showing very personal moments of freedom, a fugitive feeling masterfully captured on her Hasselblad and carefully scanned at Carmencita.

We asked Theresa to tell us more about her vision, creative process and what’s actually behind her project, so happy exhibition tour, folks!

Why have you started to explore this particular subject? 

It happened by chance. I was taking portraits of a close friend at one of our favourite places: outside the city near the river. Motivated and inspired she then asked me why wouldn’t we create some nude portraits. This wasn’t our plan originally, but the new experience turned out to be very close to where I wanted to get with photography. She was living the moment of such an expression that she suddenly turned into a tree, then she was a stone near the river, and then she stopped posing and that was her: her true self, extremely satisfied with her body and who she was. My creativity went free and I took a lot of pictures (on my digital camera back then). When looking back I can say that this honesty really touched me and that feeling’s where it all started: I wanted to achieve that state of mind for the one I’m photographing.


Why is it important?

After the two shoots (friend’s and boudoir for a client), I didn’t plan any other projects of that nature. These were wonderful photographs but I absolutely didn’t want to show them on the internet. After talking with friends and thinking a lot about my possibilities I came to the conclusion: they had to be exhibited. So I talked with the cultural advisor of my hometown Villach, who, at first, was irritated by the subject of my project. He hesitated until I showed him some examples, telling him about my approach and motivation. In the end I was given space in one of the most beautiful places and galleries in, I would say, Carinthia. However, the exhibition was scheduled to happen in 3.5 years, what obviously seemed like a long waiting line. I wasn’t sure if after that time I would still be into it, but somehow it all started to grow. I realized that we all are longing for our true selves, for those moments when we feel at ease with who we truly are: being in a particular place and mood when nothing occupies our mind, and all the worries are gone – that fugitive “now” I call freedom. It is so different for each of us and so changing as well. This is what made me willing to dig into the subject more and more. To find out what women need to feel free or at least to smell their freedom. It’s a constant expedition, an eternally striving.


Which shapes does your freedom take?

Oh, it’s all changing actually, but when I am thinking about it there is always something that stays no matter what: to be seen. I mean, when the very core of me is truly seen. To be loved without being judged. To love without being judged. This is when I feel free.


How does photographing help you to translate them?

Since I’ve always found my way of expressing emotions in music and photography, photographing moments like “Momente vom Freisein” was a natural move. A photograph is only a tiny detail, the proof or evidence of what happened in real life: freedom can be found anywhere, in nature, a feeling, a person and that’s been the purpose of my project. Each photograph comes with a story. The one with sea crushing on the shore speaks about different facets of my personality: the calm and deep one, and the rebel, passionate one. The stone symbolizing borders of society, while the wave tries to smoothen its roughness. The one with a lonely house surrounded by trees was taken in Iceland. There was no sign of outer world around it but overwhelming, bittersweet freedom and I started realizing its multifaceted nature.

Was it difficult to show a whole personality of each woman in one single photograph?

I didn’t want to, and it wasn’t my purpose. Not the entire story has to be told. It is merely an attempt to bring the inside out. An attempt to show the genuineness of these moments, colorful, honest and intense! There couldn’t be enough of them.

When the women and I started to select their exhibited photograph, we ended up having the same one or two frames in mind. It fulfilled me to see how confident they felt about their choice, confident about who they are.


Do you use your Hasselblad for all the personal work? Why?

Yes, this camera is an “extension” of my heart (laughs). All photographs, except the two which mark the beginning of my project, are shot on medium format film.


Are there any conclusions or any other output after the whole work you’d like to share?

I am completely overwhelmed and feel this is just the very start.


Does shooting film mean a certain experience for you?

Definitely. It makes me slow down and focus on the moment I am in, focus on life, on the person I am with, on the essence of the conversation. It makes the moment more intense. I love looking into the eyes and not into the camera, I love connecting.

Has it changed your way of thinking at some point?

Yes, it has. I don’t like the word “photo session” or “shoot”, rather than using a camera and taking a picture it’s all about the connection and letting the personality speak. And this is only one approach!

A musician expresses the way he feels with music and his instrument is just a channel to make these sensations audible. Therefore, I believe there is no such thing as “my” instrument, in the end it is not about the medium but all about the music in your soul and about letting it speak. It is about making the unseen seen.

When I sent my first rolls to the lab, I realized I showed my very personal work to a lot of people I didn’t know at all. When receiving the first feedback on my scans I couldn’t hold back my tears, there was someone at the other end of the line who had never seen me but a part of my heart and, what truly touched me, knew this as well. He did not believe those were my first film portraits. From the very beginning all these people at Carmencita Lab believed in me and this is part of my freedom: being seen.