A photographer explores the “velvet kingdom” that is Southern Europe

The fields and forests of southern Europe have cinematic quality. From mountains to villages, photographer Henri prestes traveled in southern Europe photographing landscapes of fantastic quality. The work of the Portuguese art photographer includes a few scattered humans, solitary figures who almost seem to be part of the melancholy landscapes that surround them. His series The Velvet Kingdom is a continuous exploration of these majestic and majestic landscapes.

It took the sun to set for Prestes to regain his artistic voice. “Once I started going out at night to take pictures, I immediately fell in love with this medium” he explains. To create his work, he mainly photographs with wide angle lenses – 24mm or 35mm. “If it’s dark, I always use long exposures, most of the time based only on the ambient light present in the scene,” he said. With a few tweaks in Lightroom and Photoshop, these images become dream landscapes.

Prestes enjoys exploring remote areas at night or in bad weather. These explorations remind him of the exploits of his childhood. Although the resulting images are familiar to anyone who has traveled to southern Europe, their magical quality is universal. No matter where you live or roam, The Velvet Kingdom is an escape fantasy with all the drama of classic cinema.

My Modern Met had the chance to sit down with Henri Prestes and talk more about their current series. Read on for the exclusive interview. To purchase prints of Prestes’ images, check out his workshop shop.

Read on for My Modern Met’s exclusive interview with photographer Henri Prestes on his The Velvet Kingdom series.

Velvet Kingdom of Southern EuropeYou travel to southern Europe for your photography. Why did you start The Velvet Kingdom series? What has Southern Europe inspired you?

The main reason I started this series was that I come from a small Portuguese town near the Spanish border, and since I was a child I had this idea of ​​creating stories that involved these landscapes of the southern region – somewhere I felt comfortable exploring and knew it would be easy to find interesting places.

I also wanted to return to the villages, fields and mountains that I remember having traveled as a child with my family and I wanted to portray the loneliness but also the beauty that exists there.

Velvet Kingdom of Southern EuropeThe colors of The Velvet Kingdom are quite pictorial and cinematographic. What lighting conditions are you looking for to achieve this dreamlike effect?

Thank you. I am very influenced by painters and movies, so getting this kind of look was very natural for me. I mostly try to shoot in foggy weather – I find it adds an otherworldly feel to an otherwise ordinary place, and I also love how it simplifies a landscape; pushing the most important parts of the image towards the viewer, making irrelevant details disappear in the distance.

I also experimented with shooting during the day, which I wasn’t too used to at the time – most of my work was then created at night; trying to capture the sunlight that rarely appears on foggy days was an exercise in patience that has sometimes paid off.

Velvet Kingdom of Southern EuropeThe characters in your show almost seem like they’re from another era, wearing hats and overcoats from a vintage movie. Can you tell us more about the stories you see in these pictures?

I never think of stories before creating these images; during filming, i am most interested in capturing a certain atmosphere or an interesting composition. If I’m lucky I’m able to uncover a hint of history, but that only happens after the photo has been taken, when I’m alone editing, and I hope that translates to too to the viewer when he sees my images – that’s my main focus.

As for hats and overcoats: these were the kind of clothes I remember seeing the elderly in my family wearing when I was growing up, especially on my grandparents and friends and I wanted to recreate that feeling of nostalgia.

Velvet Kingdom of Southern EuropeWhy did you choose the name The Velvet Kingdom?

The name is inspired by a collection of stories that someone very close to me told me when I was a child. She is the oldest lady who appears in some pictures and she has known me since I was born. She grew up in the 1930s and it was a very difficult time in this country; poverty was rampant and people were really struggling to survive, but these stories were something his family passed on to him and it gave him and his sister comfort and joy. She wanted to pass them on to me, which as a kid I found incredibly haunting and scary but also funny and with the title I wanted to pay homage to those stories.

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Henri Prestes: Website | Instagram

My Modern Met has granted permission to present photos of Henri Prestes.

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