Through celebratory photographs, Silvana Trevale captures the economic, social and political crisis in Venezuela
The Caracas-born and London-based photographer turns a lens onto the lives of the youth in Venezuela.
- Ayla Angelos
- 15 December 2021
For any photographer, there tends to be a certain place or two that they will return to for inspiration. For Silvana Trevale, who’s Caracas-born and currently based in London, it’s the sea. “It’s the place where I feel most at peace and fertile in a creative sense,” she tells It’s Nice That. “I feel that my energetic field expands when I am close to the water and it inspires me in beautiful ways.”
In conjunction with the remedial waves of the ocean, Silvana also finds inspiration in her heritage. Born in Venezuela – “a place I love deeply and miss every day” – she emigrated to the USA for two years after graduating from school to learn English. Then, she packed her bags to Huddersfield in the north of England to study photography, the prelude and definitive moment for her practice. Within her early photographic studies, and right up until this very day, Silvana decided to use her practice to explore the complexities of her home country. “Each year I went back, I was drawn to the people I shared a path with,” she adds, which eventually resulted in her first two (and main) documentary projects Nosotras and Venezuelan Youth. When 2018 arrived, she packed up once again and moved to London, which is where she currently resides.
Flitting between documentary and fashion, Silvana now actively seeks to merge both the commercial and celebratory sides of her practice, the latter forming a joyous and critical depiction of fellow Latin American immigrants living in the city. She’s wholeheartedly inspired by her heritage, meaning that she strives to represent her subjects in the most honest and revealing way possible. “When I am in Venezuela I am inspired by the strength of my people while they face what they face daily in a country that is immersed in a crisis,” she explains. “And while I am in London, I am inspired by the courage and hard work of the Latin American communities. A community that is immune but is hardly spoken about even though it is facing the unfair market and hub closures, in a way having their homes taken away. Injustices such as this inspire me to document and share the reality of many.”
Besides the duality of place, Silvana’s practice has a consistent and intuitive methodology behind it. In Venezuela, for instance, she’ll head to the location she wants to explore and, the next day, she’ll rise early before sunset, pack her camera and walk the area as the sun begins to illuminate her surroundings. As the morning begins to unfold, it’s often the perfect opportunity to encounter someone new “who becomes my eyes through the town”, she notes. Oftentimes they are teenagers and she then becomes part of their day; “meeting people which I probably would have never met without them, hearing their life stories and making photographs.” She’ll continue to traipse around with various rolls of film at her side, before heading back to the UK to print the negatives. “The photographs revive those moments again, making me feel as if I never left home.”
In Venezuelan Youth, Silvana has turned her camera towards the economic, social and political crisis in the country. Perceived through the eyes and lives of the youth in Venezuela – a country with the highest economical inflation in the world – she aims to depict the complex transition from adolescence into maturity, where futures almost seem impossible. When asked to pick a favourite picture of hers, Silvana points out a specific image from this series – a recent photograph taken this year of a couple kissing against a white wall, shot in a beach town in Venezuela. “I remember seeing them walking and showing affection with each other and they sparked so much joy,” she recalls. “I remember always thinking I was weird because I stare at people around me. But I am fascinated by people and their affection towards each other, therefore I am not ashamed of that like when I was younger. This photograph made me learn that.”
In another image, Silvana photographed a boy with his bike as he was shielding from the rain, accompanied by his friends Hector and Luis. It was in Toda Sala that the picture was taken, a beach town near Caracas, and Silvana remembers it as a “surreal” day as they both began helping with the prep for a party his friends were throwing – hosted in a Churuata, a Venezuelan native hut. “During those hours I saw this boy portrayed in the photograph riding towards the party, he seemed free and excited,” she tells us. “I felt that it embodied the core of the project perfectly. This young boy riding under heavy rain carrying himself with innocence and happiness, it is one of the reasons why I made the project.”
Swept in uncertainty about the future of the youth in the country, Silvana’s pictures are a harsh yet beautiful reminder of the lives of her subjects – soft, sweet and tonal, the work is celebratory despite having a reality-kicking undercurrent. “It’s similar to my work in the UK with Latin American immigrants, honouring their hard work and celebrating each one of them, which is what photography opens up for me.”
Silvana Trevale: Venezuelan Youth (Copyright © Silvana Trevale, 2021)
About the Author
Ayla is currently covering Jenny as It’s Nice That’s online editor. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.