Raina Lampkins-Fielder / There are obvious comparisons that can be made between the Perishables series & the Maria series— starting with your use of meat & animal parts, the female subjects set against a monochromatic background, & the direct gaze or frontal positioning of the sitters. There is also a stark contrast between these two series— the colour of the women’s skin & the background— Caucasian women in white in Perishables & dark-skinned women with a black background in Maria. Was it a deliberate decision to visualise this sort of contrast? Were you thinking about the two series simultaneously or did the earlier Perishables series influence the later series?

Pinar Yolaçan / / I was thinking about Perishables first & that was a project that took three years to complete. There were so many different processes involved from how to make the garments, to how to find the subjects, to the challenges of working with food, to how to execute the photographs. Maria came after but I wanted to work with a vocabulary. In Maria I wanted everything to be dark & I wanted the flash to give shape to things when it went off. I shaped things too since I made the garments. However, during the entire process, I was considering how all the different materials & textures would read the light.
I remember reading about how Van Gogh made his painting, ‘Starry Night’. That he painted the background black & then kept painting the dark colours until he eventually painted the stars & the ‘light’.
In Maria, I worked with a similar idea; I wanted everything to come out of darkness with only the flash lighting everything. From the fabrics to the meat to the women’s own skin. There are so many different skin textures & colours among black skin & that was something that obviously inspired me. that’s why there are all kinds of layers of black in so many of the portraits. It’s quite formal actually. I think it makes sense because when I am photographing different skin tones & skin colours, I wanted to come up with a new language that is specific to the subject I am photographing.
In Perishables, it is all about whiteness, formally & conceptually, & I used day light on the subjects which I find flattered Caucasian skin more.
I didn’t think about the two series together but I think that Maria was an organic progression after Perishables.


RL-F / I understand that for Perishables the women answered an ad, but for Maria, & your other photos, how did you find the women? What qualities about them resounded with you?

PY / In Maria, I went to the villages in the island where I was staying, sometimes on foot, sometimes by a motorbike. I had two local people helping me, taking me around & helping me talk to the people. There is no preparation time spent with the women. I see them in their village once & if they agree to be photographed, I see them at my studio next. So everything happens there. I just think I was drawn to women I felt I had an intuitive connection with, just people I felt I could work with.
Sometimes when we go to villages or meet people in castings I will think, oh this person won’t like my work & will say no, & sometimes it’s the opposite & they are the sweetest people. It’s extremely personal asking people to model for you. I remember once a cab driver that I was working with brought the wrong woman from a village & I just had to shoot her because otherwise she would be upset. So you have to be sensitive towards people & the communities in which you are working.
I have grown very close to some of my models. Two in Turkey, Zehra & Fatma, I stayed with. I went to do a fitting in their village & it was winter & there were no more buses back to the city, so they hosted me & I ate amazing chick peas & yogurt that they had made.
In Brazil, I met a lady called Celina who was working as a construction worker to supp ort her nine kids. I adored her. Some of my models have passed away. Two ladies that I shot in Brazil passed away— one in a car accident & the other died because of health conditions. There was an exhibition catalogue published &, obviously I didn’t know that she was going to pass away, we had by chance already chosen her for the cover. When I went back to Brazil after her death, I brought the book to her son & he absolutely loved having his mother on the cover of a book. I still call people I worked with in Brazil & they fill me in.

/ Excerpt from A CONVERSATION between RAINA LAMPKINS-FIELDER & Pinar Yolaçan.