Marcela Ferri went on the mystic journey accompanied with her analogue camera to visit the salvation mountain. The series I’m Still Here is a testament of the powerful and crucial part that photography plays in individuals lives. This photographer gives a visual diary of her sightings, a personal recording of her private ‘salvation’. From the bright, colourful and candid deserted photos, these images are accompanied by her sincere account with an interview with Fisheye.

Fisheye : Would you be able to tell us about yourself and your photography ?

Marcela Ferri : I’m a Brazilian photographer and advertising producer with an Italian background living and working in London for over six and a half years now. I’ve been taking photos on and off since 2002. I say 2002 because that’s when my mother gave me my first SLR film camera. But before that I used to play a lot with a Fuji Instax documenting my school friends, pets and bad hair style decisions. My photography revolves around background stories, I’m obsessed. Whatever subject I shoot needs to have one, so I guess if you want to categorize it, you could call it an ongoing narrative.

What is your link with photography ?

Photography is a solid part of my life but is not a full time job (yet), I work as a freelance producer in advertising so I kind of have to manage my time well to be able to do both. As I like to joke photography is what keeps me sane. It’s through it that I manage to understand a lot about myself and my surroundings. Some people go to the bar, others to spiritual retreats, I take pictures.

What is the story behind the series ?

I lived in Los Angeles for a brief period of time in 2007 and since then I created a very strong relationship with the city and the friends I made during my time there. So every year I go to LA for a few weeks over the Christmas period to spend time with them, escape the lack of sunlight we have in London and also to be able to work on my creative projects (photo briefs I’ve set myself together with scripts I’ve been writing for short and feature films). I was there last December following my tradition when I randomly bumped into a guy known as Ssippi. I told him I was in town and that I would be around shooting and if he wanted to join he would be more than welcome, that’s when he suggested going to the Salvation Mountain. I was still recovering from a very traumatic experience so trusting wasn’t something I was practicing a lot, especially when dealing with a complete stranger, but for some reason I believed I could trust him so we agreed on meeting on the following day at a Cafe in Echo Park at 8am so we could drive over there.

How did shooting complement your experience ?

I shoot with film and one of the differences of this medium, compared to a digital camera, is that you  have to pay a lot of attention in what you’re shooting as you have a limited amount of frames to use, so this is an important thing to remember. The whole series was shot in a day so I’ve had to be very selective and attentive with my surrounding than normal, and I observe things a lot normally.

How did this experience benefit you and your photography ?

I’ve had no idea what I was putting myself through you know ? I knew about the Mountain as i’ve had enough time to read about it but I wasn’t sure of what I would find or even feel on the way there. It was a surprise to see how I managed to create this relationship between the derelict places I was seeing, side road crosses, fish carcasses, people I’ve met in Bombay Beach and Slab City and a magnificent man made mountain built as a tribute to God. When you go through difficult things in life and suddenly see yourself in a place where you don’t recognize yourself anymore, to suddenly place yourself in the middle of nowhere in a foreign land with a bunch of strangers, it can be a cathartic experience… the only thing I could be was myself and that’s when it hit me.

What are you trying to portray through these pictures ?

The idea is not to portray the raw and derelict side of the Salton Sea or the beautiful colours of the Mountain from an aesthetic perspective, if I’ve had done that it wouldn’t mean anything to me, specially after seeing the Salvation Mountain in front of me and understanding the power only one person can have when wanting to achieve something.

What is your favorite photo?

The memorial of Mary-Lou Sullivan : We left Bombay Beach towards the Mountain when we saw a side road cross surrounded by pink flamingos and some colourful plastic flowers, Ssippi and I looked at each other and decided to stop… my first thought was that she was a sassy lady but, as soon as I saw myself in front of it I started thinking about her and to be honest I still think of her every single day. Who was she? Why is she there? What happened to her?

Photos by © Marcela Ferri