The perception we have of our bodies and our surroundings. The way we choose to curate the spectre of images that we allow the world to see. The fragile shallowness that we’re learning to get used to. Thankfully, not everyone is truly getting used to it. Taking a brutally honest and questioning approach, 20-year-old photographer Igor Pjörrt’s incredibly mature aesthetic in Betelgeuse and Melancholie contra-poses what our Instagram-addicted era generally takes for granted. In this interview, Igor discusses plasticized life, the exposure of intimacy, creative composition, and growing up on an island.
Lola Who: You wrote on your Tumblr that love is the main subject of your artistic work. How do you view the Millennial generation’s expectations about relationships and human interactions?
Igor: It’s the ‘chill’ and reticent generation but I think the direction is shifting to the active pursuit of candidness. We are impatient.
Lola Who: You are of a generation so naturally used to exposing and dealing with intimacy. Do you think that it’s a way of masking what are believed to be the ‘ugly truths’? Maybe the right way of exposing intimacy is to expose the imperfect?
Igor: The ugly truths are more powerful because exposing them takes nerve and vulnerability, which is what intimacy is all about. Beautiful teenagers doing random shit means nothing. If people’s reactions of my photos are ‘goals,’ then I know I must be doing something wrong—and I’m sure that somewhere I am—but what I’m trying to show is that in a place of love and friendship you can all still feel miserable and this can either be masked or reinforced with an atmosphere of fun and ingenuousness. If anything, I want these people not to feel like they have had any less of a youth just because they’re not having the time of their lives or their routine doesn’t subscribe to someone else’s curated Instagram feed. Why wish to be someone else when you could be working on the limitations of your own self? Growing up is to one-up ourselves, to come forth and own it. If the ugly truth is humanness then everyone is ugly. And that’s a reality anyone can sympathize with.
Lola Who: Do you believe that creating or already having a trusting relationship with your subject results in more honest portraits? Or do you think strangers can also deliver equally interesting emotions?
Igor: I’m sure that depending on what kind of person you are it’s possible to get a strong reaction from either exchange. In my case I have a hard time approaching strangers.
Lola Who: Your work seems to be based on spontaneity, but do you also research and produce the scenes?
Igor: Almost never.
Lola Who: Still on your creative process, for you is it about composition first and story telling second or the other way around?
Igor: Composition. Everyone will always see a different story anyway.
Lola Who: Can you tell us more about your taste in music and literature?
Igor: I like to think that what I do is very much the results from the music I listen to and this just might actually be a good standard to hold creatively. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of techno, hardcore, Brazilian funk and even some reggaeton. These are completely absent from what I do but they really strike a chord with me personally. I’m constantly questioning and re-evaluating what I appreciate, to the point where I will doubt my current stance on certain things—and although this probably comes from a place of insecurity, it ultimately forces me to be meticulous regarding what I do and publish.
Lola Who: You grew up in Madeira, a Portuguese island. As life there happens in a limited territory though surrounded by such an infinite space, do you believe that islanders tend to develop a different way of looking at both the environment and society?
Igor: Definitely. For example, if I were to elaborate on these societal differences between islanders and people from the mainland, my words would be seen by islanders as carrying an accusatory tone—unless I were to completely sugarcoat my experience. This comes from a regionalism with no preoccupation for progress and no place for people like me. To an extent I know the same is true throughout Portugal in general. A considerable number of young people, including aspiring artists, end up emigrating and further contributing to the demographic and economic destabilisation of the country.
Lola Who: You once described in an interview “the process of escaping a physical and emotional place only to later revisit an old sense of comfort associated with the elements that make up a home.” Do you think that to achieve this familiar feeling toward home it is necessary first to escape it?
Igor: Well, as it often happens, “you don’t know what you have till it’s gone.” Admittedly, though, I’ve always been preoccupied with temporality. Now more than ever.