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Vanessa Silvestre Paulo

MA work

Old stars, young dust

'Old stars, young dust', explores notions of distance, proximity and perception through the photographic medium, drawing from the idea of an analogous relationship between outer space and photography, particles of matter and photographic grain, the night sky and the darkroom. 

A layering landscape of an endless mesh of affinities and links, disorienting the viewer; a circular form that come into view from a deep and vast blackness; or unknown figures floating in the depth of a dark space. The work addresses the discourse between the micro and macro space and plays with a sensorial perception of the infinite, the unknowable, and the vast, which refers to what is beyond comprehension and beyond measurement. 

The black and white silver gelatin prints have a tension between their material qualities (photographic paper, the depth of the blacks, the scale of the prints) and their subject matter. The immensity of other worlds hidden from our eyes such as bacteria as well as outer space, and brought to us through the lens, coexists in parallel with the plethora of photographic grain. 

In this body of work I am questioning the precarity of our existence, the laws of physics, chemical affinity and the similarities between the actions and processes that take place both in large and small scale. 

In 'Fractal Grains', photography itself can not only visualize matter but generate it as well. Here, the repetition of the photographic process, reshooting, redeveloping and reprinting each from a single print allows the viewer to go more deeply 'into' the image, generating more grain with each cycle. 

A Photograph is no longer only something that is represented but the very process itself of rephotographing can also generate new photographs. Through my observation of these photographic abstractions I invite the viewer to encounter particles of matter from outer space. It is my intention to transport the viewers out of themselves and into the infinite.


  • MA Degree


    School of Humanities


    MA Photography, 2017

  • I am guided by an interest in notions of looking, in the history and indexes of the photographic medium and its relationship to seeing through or beyond our on eye. 

    The work references early scientific methodologies but whilst generating new ways of considering photography with a special relation with the photographic grain.

    My practice explores natural phenomenas, the qualities of organic form and our relationship to the natural world.

  • Degrees

  • BA Fine Art Photography, Ar.Co, Lisbon, 2015; BA (Hons) Environmental Sciences, Évora University, 2006
  • Exhibitions

  • Offprint, Tate Modern, London, UK, 2017; P.P.S Letter: Double Take, Royal College of Art, London, UK, 2017; Open House: Work in Progress Show, Royal College of Art, London, UK, 2016; Bolseiros e Finalistas Ar.Co, Pavilhão 30 H. Júlio de Matos, Lisbon, PT, 2016; RCA Secret, Royal College of Art, London, UK, 2016; Open Studios, Quinta de S. Miguel Ar.Co, Almada, PT, 2014; Manteigaria, Group Show, Lisbon, PT, 2014
  • Awards

  • Scholarship, Évora University, 2005