Profile: Luana Fischer

Luana Fischer once had to photograph a military helicopter that crashed in the middle of the tropical jungle in São Paulo, Brazil. After hiking more than 15km through rainforest and mosquitoes, Fischer realized she’d left her film in the car, and had to trek back to get it.

“Since it was late afternoon already, I knew that I was going to lose the photo, but I was lucky,” said Fischer.  “I met a colleague who was a little late, lost, alone and didn’t have insect repellent.  I traded my knowledge of how to get to the helicopter, my repellent, and my water for a couple of rolls of film.”

This is just one example of Fischer’s determination to get the perfect shot.  Whether it’s traveling to exotic places, spending hours in cramped quarters, or shadowing a subject for days, she has done it all.

Being resourceful and going to great lengths to capture an image has paid off for Fischer.  She is a renowned photographer and photojournalist, and a professor at SLU Madrid.  She has earned multiple awards, photographed many famous people and events, including Cristiano Ronaldo and the recent Libyan protests in Madrid. She will soon add motherhood to her impressive resume.

Fischer, who is originally from São Paulo, is not your typical photographer. She bought her first camera at the age of 16, after learning about and borrowing her friend’s camera in the U.S.  With her new Pentax K1000, a common camera for starting photographers, Fischer began to practice and explore photography.

She enrolled at the Catholic University of São Paulo in Brazil to study Photojournalism, and then completed her masters in Spain.

Fischer has since travelled to many countries and exotics places, and photographed all kinds of people and events, including recent Libyan protests in Madrid.  Currently she shoots editorial portraits for Esquire Spain magazine. During a typical year Fischer travels abroad twice and makes 5-6 trips in Europe.

Fischer’s work has been recognized through multiple awards and exhibits.  But her most important award, the Marc Ferrez Award for Photography 2010 in São Paulo, Brazil recognized her project documenting a highway called Costa e Silva entitled “Quintal” or the “Yard”.  All traffic is blocked on Sundays and the street becomes a park for the citizens of São Paulo.  These residents have very little money and live in small apartments with little to no space, and this Costa e Silva essentially becomes their yard.

Fischer captured these moments of leisure, and offered a glimpse into the lives of thousands of Brazilian people.  She knows how important a photograph can be and how one picture can tell more than an entire news article.

“Telling a story is definitely the best part of my job.” said Fischer, which is why she studied Journalism, and continues to study Photography History.

For Fischer, the hardest part of her work is also the most rewarding for her.  She moves furniture and adjusts lighting to set the scene envisioned in her head.

“The production or preparation of the photo session is always a challenge for me.” said Fischer.  “I have to change everything…the place is never the way I expected! I have very little time, so I have to think and work fast. And this is something I like, mostly because of the challenge.”

When asked which story she has most enjoyed telling, Fischer paused and thought about it.

“I have favorites on different days,” she said. “My favorite, favorite is Brazilian singer Lenna. She sang beautifully but had a worn out life.  She was super-fat and mother like.  She was about to leave Europe after living here for 13 years.  She was my friend and I always found her interesting as a person and her story became interesting to me too so I made a photo documentary of her.”

Fischer chose to photograph Lenna in her home singing, applying makeup in her bathroom mirror, riding the metro, and doing other daily activities.  Normally insignificant acts such as smoking a cigarette in her living room became memorable because it would be the last time Lenna did so in Madrid.

Fischer has channeled her love of story telling and photography into a new love: teaching.  In 2005 she was given the opportunity to teach a photography/ photojournalism class at SLU.  Teaching wasn’t something Fischer had previously considered.

“It’s not only knowing about photography,” she explains. “But knowing how to transmit it.”

Despite her reservations, she decided to try it anyways.  Now five years later, Fischer clearly had nothing to worry about.

“Seeing Lua’s own work is inspiring and in a way it legitimizes her ability to teach,“ said Erika Morton, one of Fischer’s students, who loves Fischer’s portraits of her husband. “She not only knows the theory and concepts behind the art of photography, but she is also a professional photographer and has first-hand experience on how to apply these concepts.”

Not only does Fischer use her knowledge to teach her students, she also spends time one on one analyzing their work.

“Lua is a fun-loving professor with a passion for photography that she brings to the classroom and shares with her students,” said Justine DeCoste, Morton’s classmate.  “She always gives positive criticism and has great advice on how to improve.”

Fischer now five months pregnant faces the transition from photographer and teacher to Mother.  Fischer has been able to balance her career as a photographer and her new career as a professor, but realizes that parenting cannot be another side job.

“I am slowing down already,” said Fischer. “Being a photographer you need to use your body all the time, stay in strange positions, move around a lot, and do it all for long hours.  I can’t do what I used to do, but it’s like a transitional period for me.  My work is my passion; I can never stop doing it.”

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