Camilla Watson arrived in Mouraria in 2007 and become famous thanks to an unusual photographic technique: images of older residents of the neighbourhood printed on the walls of buildings. Fan of traditional Portuguese food, she love sardines, beans with chorizo and snails with beer at the end of the day! With her is the not less popular D. Quixote, the faithful companion.
How did you arrive in Mouraria?
It all started in early 2007. I was on my way to São Tomé e Príncipe, to work with UNICEF, and I stopped in Lisbon because of the visa. On my way back I stayed one week in Lisbon, because I already knew some Portuguese people. I was very well impression by the city and decided to do a Portuguese course. I lived a few years in Brazil, but I had difficulty understanding the language. It coincided with a time of life when I had no roots and I don’t know ... the decision to stay was gradual.
You came for a week and stayed here?
Yes, I was doing the Portuguese course for a month, but I ended up staying five months. First I lived in Principe Real, until I met Mouraria. The first place that I met was the Largo dos Trigueiros and I loved it. I discovered that there was a house to sell in one of the buildings and I bought it (laughs)! I had an apartment in England and at this time someone made me an offer to buy it. It was one of those things that happen because they even happen! I sold the apartment of England and bought the apartment here.
You also had the opportunity to have the studio?
This was a store and as I sell my house I could have the freedom not to work for a year. For the first time in my life I had the freedom to work with alternative processes, because I could never do the projects they wanted. I am a photographer for 22 years and is complicated experience, these works are very expensive processes.
How did you had the idea of taking pictures to older people in the neighborhood and put them on the walls?
I had the studio and many seniors passed here daily, I began to know them. I also had a close bond with the children, who were curious about my work. I began to teach them to make pinholes (analogic photography) and it was a natural connection, because the doors of the studio are always open. And the seniors also were also curious, they had time to talk, were very friendly and I began to imagine their faces on the walls. This was in 2009 and I thought, how will I be able to put their faces on the walls? I thought of the liquid emulsion and tried to print images directly on the walls. I failed completely and then I print on wood. I had to go investigating the technique.
How did you convince old people to let themselves be photographed?
I photograph people and everyone was open to being photographed. My way of connecting with them was to give them the photos. Then when the idea of putting the pictures on the walls arose, the first person I asked was someone who everyone liked. It was important that the first person on the wall was Mr Carlos with Don Quixote. After that everyone wanted to appear!
It was this project that began calling attention to your work.
Yes, it was amazing. First no one cared, but then it began to draw the attention of people outside the neighbourhood. It's my live project and continues exposed.
What do you like most in Mouraria?
I feel good living here, I was warmly welcomed by the people. I like the quiet, its perfect for my work. I like to have a studio that faces the street, is a place where I create, I have it all here.
How is your relationship with Portuguese cuisine, what do you like to eat?
For example tonight I'll eat meat porc Alentejo way in Grupo Gente Nova. It's a party with a group of residents. I also like Cantinho do Aziz, Trigueirinho and Leitaria Moderna. As for typical dishes I like sardines, traditional flavours like sausages with cabbage Lombard, codfish (bacalhau à Lagareiro), I love chicken soup and beans with chorizo! I love clams à bulhão-pato and snails with beer at the end of the day!
And plans for the future?
I would like to continue the project of pictures outdoors, working with the community, but also to do a project with some connection to the history of the neighbourhood. I just put an image on the terrace of Cantinho do Aziz taken in 1987. That is the picture of the owner of the restaurant, which at the time was 8 years old, and was taken in that same place. I would like to in Largo dos Trigueiros put a picture taken 100 years ago next to a current photo, as if telling a story. And there are beautiful pictures!