Family and folklore inform Silvana Trevale’s fashion images

“I like to believe that with my work, I honor my culture, my roots and my ancestors,” says Venezuelan photographer Silvana Trevale. Even though her mix of fashion and documentary work shares the same ethos, her portfolio is surprisingly diverse. She took on-the-fly photography in natural and built environments; balanced and carefully orchestrated shoots with elaborate modes and sets; and intimate portraits that would make you believe there isn’t another soul for miles around.

As a teenager, Trevale received her first new camera from her mother, and she later took it everywhere, with her schoolmates populating her first experiences with the medium. When she first started filming, it was Viviane Sassen, Alec Soth and Gregory Halpern who set the benchmark – and this cross-pollination of fashion and documentary remains a cornerstone of her work today.

From the Venezuelan Youth series. All photos: Silvana Trevale

Trevale grew up in the “busy” but “beautiful” capital of Venezuela, Caracas, and often visited the nearby seaside town of Mamporal, the influences of which can be seen in his penchant for “the ocean” and “the bare skin under the sun” in his images.

She left her home country in 2011 and has “lived as an immigrant” ever since, she says. For around nine of those years, she lived in the UK and often finds herself “looking for a home in faraway places”. It is for this reason that, wherever his work takes place, Trevale’s images often recall his heritage in codified or explicit ways.

Black and white portrait by Silvana Trevale
From the Cayetana series

For her graduation project completing her master’s degree in fashion imagery at Central Saint Martins, she found a creative collaborator in the person of her grandmother, who still lives in Venezuela. She wanted it to be a project where “working with fashion felt personal and close to me”, and did so through the lens of her grandmother, who “showed me her love by making me dresses when I was a child,” she explains. .

Trevale soon realized that clothing and style could “communicate stories that transcend fashion itself”, regardless of geography. “When we started working together, we started talking about my great-grandmother Cayetana and her amazing story. She was a black indigenous woman who had three children on her own, forced to serve her own family for years because of her skin color,” she says. Her great-grandmother eventually left for Caracas, her children in tow, in search of a better life. These stories, passed down through her grandmother’s memories, have informed a body of sobering yet beautifully realized works.

Image by Silvana Trevale of three people playing in the sea, one of them pregnant
venezuelan youth
Image by Silvana Trevale of a young boy on a bicycle stopping on a wet trail
venezuelan youth

She has also revisited her home country to create personal works, such as her Venezuelan Youth series, which grew out of her interest in the transition from youthful innocence to sudden maturity in a country facing “a social, political and economic”. she says. Yet the work has also reinvigorated his emotional connection to his homeland: “Coming home and collaborating with these hopeful young Venezuelans, I almost feel like I’ve never left, as if a part of me was still at home.

For the past year or so, she has focused her energies on the double optimism and hardships faced by immigrants in her adopted home of London, manifesting in projects such as Comadres and Pueblito Paisa, commissioned by Vogue Italia and British respectively. vogue.

Members of London’s Latino community appear in Comadres, proudly reviving and reinterpreting everything from queer folk figures to bandits and anti-heroines. It’s a triumphant series full of symbolism, where the codes are buried in tablecloths, harnesses, hand-painted candles and intricate hairstyles. Much of his work has been done in close collaboration with Venezuelan art director and stylist Daniela Benaim, the two having become comadres in their own brotherhood of shared understanding and ambition.

La Manta from the Comadres project in collaboration with Daniela Benaim, commissioned by Vogue Italia
Image by Silvana Trevale of a person in a red dress holding a young girl in her lap
Above and above: by Pueblito Paisa in collaboration with Daniela Benaim, commissioned by British Vogue

In Pueblito Paisa, Trevale photographed shopkeepers and locals in the heart of the Latin Village market in Seven Sisters, north London. The market, also known as El Pueblito Paisa, has spent years fighting for its longevity, with activists driving away vulture promoters in scenes seen elsewhere in the city, from Brixton to Dalston.

“With markets, centers and spaces closed for gentrification, many are having their homes and source of income taken away from them. In making these stories, we took into account all of their hard work and bravery to celebrate them as the heroes they are. At the time of filming, news spread that the Latin Village market would avoid closing, and the success story eventually imbued the work with new meaning: “The images still represent a form of protest but more a victory and a celebration”.

Image by Silvana Trevale of a smiling person with their hair twisted into a tiara
The Quinceañera of Comadres
Image by Silvana Trevale of a person lying on the floor in a studio with hair braided into a 'tree'
Violeta Parra from Comadres
Image by Silvana Trevale of a shirtless young person
From the Rio Chico series

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