When I first came across Maya Beano‘s work, I was quickly reminded of the Portuguese word saudade, which roughly translates to “nostalgia.” But, More than just the slight twinge of sadness over some memories of years gone by, this sentiment is said to be more accurately described as the profound and melancholic longing for something or someone that one loves, who may never return. Her works make this association easy: mysterious and often lone subjects, muted hues, dreamy tones, surreal locations, and misty sceneries.
However, Maya told me that she did not intend for her subjects to appear lonely. In her highly imaginative mind, they represent the varied journeys of the subconscious, deep into worlds she conjured with the help of colors, grains, and feel innate to film.
“I don’t mean for the people in the photos to look lonely, although I do realize that the atmosphere is poignant sometimes,” she said. “I always intended for this to translate to a journey of the mind as it tries to make sense of everything and to forge its own path in life.”
Yet, there’s always something a little bit saudade when it comes to journeys; in a way, we all travel through paths where the experience is never the same no matter how many back and forths we go. These paths are always different, in varying degrees, to the travelers making their way through it. This is perhaps why Maya was open to the idea that viewers like me have feelings and views about her work that are different from her own.
“It’s great when people have their own guesses to what is being conveyed in a photo. I share my work because I want it to be the viewers’ as much as it is mine.”
My chat with Maya yielded many other realizations about how we film photographers translate all the stimuli the world throws at us, but I’d like you to get yours too. So take this chance to pry into Maya’s brilliant mind and analogue soul, and maybe let a little bit of saudade tide you over while looking at some of her works.
Hello again, Maya! What has kept you busy since our last chat?
Hi again! Our last chat, yes, that was a couple of months ago. I’ve actually been back to the Dead Sea since then and taken some new photos. It was just a brief visit though — I’ve mainly been busy with work.
Can you tell us about how your film photography journey began? Any milestones, highlights, or funny stories you can share with us?
I had a toy film camera as a kid, but my real film journey began a couple of years ago when I decided to pursue photography a bit more seriously than I had in the past. I’ve always considered the first Dead Sea series to be a real milestone because that trip was the first time I made a complete switch from digital to film. I started out with an old point-and-shoot film camera, but after a few photo series, it fell apart altogether. The camera itself stopped working so well, and the camera case ended up being blown into the Atlantic Ocean during a trip to Cornwall.
Many of your photos show some sort of lonely interaction between man and nature. Is this something that you see yourself making a consistent part of your work in the years to come?
I don’t mean for the people in the photos to look lonely, although I do realize that the atmosphere is poignant sometimes. I think the photos are emotionally-charged, and there is a heavy dose of escapism in most of the series. I’m definitely attached to nature and it will always be a focal point in everything I do. The mood of the work might vary though!
With your work mostly dreamy and moody, by chance, were any of them inspired by your own dreams? If not, has it ever crossed your mind to work with what your subconscious mind hints at you through dreams?
I mostly have very average dreams. I’m either falling or flying or late for an important exam. It just dawned on me that I can’t remember the last time I had a particularly interesting dream. Most of the work is actually inspired by memories, thoughts and daydreams rather than dreams. Wandering minds can make beautiful things happen when they drift just the right amount.
How did you develop the style of photography that you widely practice today? Were you guided by any aesthetic, vision, or emotion while you were in the process of adapting this style?
A lot of the photos feature people suspended mid-journey in a hazy-looking place, and I always intended for this to translate to a journey of the mind as it tries to make sense of everything and to forge its own path in life — not always the most straightforward of journeys!
Where you do you seek or draw creative inspiration from at present? What about it affects your recent works the most?
Music, definitely. You know that feeling when you’re on the bus or train with your headphones on, and all of a sudden, you become so wrapped up in the music that you almost miss your stop? Images pop into my head during moments like these. It is a handy exercise in self-reflection.
Our readers and your followers have our own guesses to this, but we’re curious, which side of the human psyche are you trying to capture with all the people photos that you take?
It’s great when people have their own guesses to what is being conveyed in a photo. I share my work because I want it to be the viewers’ as much as it is mine. I rely on the effects of the film, the colours and the posture of the subjects to set the mood of the narrative, but I really don’t mind if the photos evoke different emotions in different people, which they inevitably will. The human mind is infinitely complex, and I am intrigued by the wonder of it all.
Muted hues and surreal colors set the tone and voice of your visual narratives. Was this intentional right from the beginning or something you later decided fits your vision or style the most?
I’ve always been drawn to photos that look like they’re a bit out of this world, and the feeling in a photo is the most important thing about it to me. I actively look out for the light and think about how it might influence the colours, and hence the mood. Before I started shooting film, I used to experiment a lot with digital long exposures, and I remember using coloured filters extensively to achieve the desired tone.
What’s up next for you? Any trips, projects, side projects, or events that you’ll get involved with soon?
I’ve got some trips within Europe planned for this summer, and I’ll hopefully be going on a bigger trip around the US in the autumn.
Lastly, please tell us why you still shoot film. Why is it important that you do so and what is its role in your life?
Film really slows me down when I’m taking photos, which I consider a good thing. It’s like a friendly reminder that one needs to take a step back sometimes in order to reach the places they want to get to. I like being able to put a lot more thought into my work, and I also love the build up of emotions before seeing the final results.
To see more of Maya’s photos, please head to the links below: