Art, // May 6, 2024

Sandra Cattaneo Adorno — ARTIST


Arts Illustrated Interview with Sandra Cattaneo Adorno April 24, 2024 —


1. Please introduce yourself. Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Sandra Cattaneo Adorno and I was born in Brazil into a family of British, French and Portuguese descent. This international environment has shaped the way I see and relate to the world since I was a child. In the past, I have mostly worked in my family business, but I am now very proud and happy to call myself a photographer.



2. Why photography?
I discovered photography by chance, as my daughter, Gwen, invited me to join her in a workshop with Alex and Rebecca Webb as a present for my 60th birthday in 2013. I didn’t know what to expect, but something really gripped me, as I discovered that I could express myself with such immediacy and spontaneity. I am thankful to photography for teaching me how to really look at the world and at people.



3. What is your earliest memory of wanting to be a photographer?
After the workshop with Alex and Rebecca Webb, I decided to continue studying photography mostly for the pleasure it gave me, without being too sure about where it could take me. It was only after one of my photographs was selected for the Sony Awards and exhibited in London in 2016 that I realized that what I was doing had value and that I wanted to engage with the medium in a deeper, more professional way.



4. What are your favorite subject(s) and media(s)?
Mostly, I am drawn to people: having a camera is for me a great justification to approach people from different walks of life and take part in their experiences, if only for a moment. I am happiest wherever there is good light and I particularly enjoy photographing in Rio de Janeiro, where I was born, and in California. I love taking pictures of people near the sea: there is something I find very compelling about the behaviour of people when they are close to the water. It is as if they became less self-conscious, more oblivious to everyone and everything around them. I think that, in these moments, something more intimate about them is revealed.


Experimenting with different media and ways of displaying my images is becoming increasingly important in my photographic practice. In my show, Ten Years, which celebrates my decade of photography and is currently at Palazzo Bembo in Venice, I used innovative metallic golden ink for the prints I hanged on the walls, but I also created a video projection and printed an image of Ipanema Beach on the curtains overlooking the Grand Canal.


5. How do you work and approach your subject?
Photographing for me is always an exploration, always an adventure. I never set out to photograph something in particular or a story. I let my eyes guide me. Where they take me is unknown to me: I love photography because it allows me to be open to the world and the people around me in ways that always surprise me.


Visually, I am drawn to strong light and bold colours: I love the way in which strong light and harsh contrast transform a scene and layer it with mystery, as much as I appreciate the strength of bold colours and the immediacy with which they can communicate emotions.

I also enjoy playing with what is visible and what is hidden, as it can open possibilities for narratives or stories to be unfolded within a single image. For this reason, I often experiment with reflections and try to photograph through surfaces to increase the enigmatic quality of my photographs. As far as composition goes, I love beauty and I love order and I always try to use these elements when framing my pictures.

Having said all that, I sometimes look at some of my pictures and wonder what there was in them that compelled me to take them. Often, I don’t have an answer. I think this is one of the most beautiful things about photography: to work in ways that are unconscious and unpredictable, and maybe a bit magical. Eventually for me a photograph is good not because of what is in the frame, but because of where it takes you.


6. What are your favorite photograph(s), photographer(s)?
I have been exposed to art of all kinds and I think I have internalised elements of composition and beauty that might reappear in my photos without my being aware of it. Photographically, I appreciate the way in which Alex Webb can compose an image: it puzzles me to see how he can construct images that create such a beautiful order out of the chaos of everyday life. As far as the meaning of my work go, I am inspired by Brassaï when he said that photography must suggest, not insist or explain, so I am reluctant to force onto the viewers a way of interpreting my images, and I prefer it for them to be taken by the photographs to the places they feel are right.


"Sandra Cattaneo: Ten Years" - Pub Date: April 16, 2024


7. What are the best responses you have had to your work?
I have had many wonderful responses to my work and I am blessed to have found a very joyful and supportive community, including my publisher, Radius Books and Robert Mann Gallery, who represents me. Recently, when I was showing friends and family my exhibition Ten Years, a little girl approached me to tell me how much she loved the show. I was very touched – maybe one day she will become a photographer, too.



8. What do you like about your work?
I feel that with photography I am always learning: it always surprises me and, most of all, it is a lot of fun. Photography has offered me experiences I never thought would be possible: I exhibited my pictures around the world, including two shows in conjunction with the Biennale, and I have published four books. It makes me happy to think that my photographs resonate with other people, too and echo for them in mysterious and unexpected ways.



9. What advice would you give to other photographers?
My advice would be to follow the light and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I think that very often people put too much pressure on themselves when they are photographing and almost forget that being on the streets looking for that special moment is first of all an immense joy. I know it can be tiring and frustrating at times, but witnessing to the beauty and poetry of the world, framing it with your own personal vision and sharing it with other people are all precious gifts that we should never take for granted.



10. Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
I like to think of my future as full of opportunities to explore more with my photographs. As I mentioned earlier, I am enjoying investigating different possibilities of presenting my work, including innovative techniques of printing as well as moving images. I am not sure where my photography will take me next, but I am sure it will still give me lots of joy.




“Sandra Cattaneo Adorno: Ten Years” – Credit Lines

“Sandra Cattaneo Adorno: Ten Years”- Photo Credit Line:
© Sandra Cattaneo Adorno, from Sandra Cattaneo Adorno: Ten Years (European Cultural Center/Radius Books)

Artist Portrait Credit Line :
Courtesy of Sandra Cattaneo Adorno

Exhibition Credit Line:
Sandra Cattaneo Adorno debuts her solo exhibition Ten Years at the 7th edition of Personal Structures, which runs parallel with the 60th Venice Biennale, April 20–November 24, 2024, at Palazzo Bembo, Riva del Carbon, 4793, Venezia

Book Credit Line:
Sandra Cattaneo Adorno: Ten Years (European Cultural Center/Radius Books, 2024)
European Cultural Center | Radius Books Pub Date: April 16, 2024 HC accordion-fold with booklet, 10 x 13.25”, 176 pages, 93 images ISBN: 9798890180780

Sandra Cattaneo Adorno