Interview: Teresa Santos

Today we’re joined by Teresa Santos.  Teresa is an amateur writer and photographer.  She’s a very versatile photographer and the images she sent along are absolutely lovely.  Her writing isn’t public yet, but if her photography is anything to go by, this is an artist who has an incredibly bright future ahead of her.  My thanks to her for taking part in this interview.

Cosplay photos
Cosplay photos

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m an amateur writer and photographer, two types of art I have dabbled in for years but never quite took to the next level. Fingers crossed that’ll change soon! In terms of writing, I write mostly short fantasy stories and have been slowly writing two YA novels, one fantasy, one contemporary.

As for photography, I do a little bit of everything: landscape, wildlife, urban, portrait – when I manage to go to a con or a medieval fair -, experimental, and travel photography. It all depends on where I go and what happens there that captures my eye.

What inspires you?

Nature, first and foremost. I’m a biologist by trade, so animals and the environment always seem to sneak into whatever I do. As do fairytales and everything magic. It may sound like a contradiction, but I’ve found that if there is a contrast between magic and science, there are also points where the two meet. Both the contrast and the blur, and the feelings they evoke, pique my interest. Current affairs and people’s perception also play a huge part in everything I make, especially LGBTQ+ issues and politics.

But nothing at all would come of it, if it wasn’t for the work of greater artists, whom I shan’t name because there are so many of them I’m bound to forget some and then chastise myself for it. Let’s just say it’s a combination of books, music (and musicals), films, and Flickr/DeviantArt artists.

Dwarf Mongoose I
Dwarf Mongoose I

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I’m not quite sure, to be honest. I have liked writing and photography ever since I was a child. At the age of nine, I would make little illustrated books in the winter, and cut my family’s heads in a group photo in the summer. Even when my notebooks were full and my parents had hold of the camera, I’d be begging for more paper and a camera of my own so I could capture everything. At fourteen, I knew that the only way to be happy was to pursue science without letting go of art. At nineteen, I’d be binge reading a series instead of studying for exams and taking my camera to every field trip. Now, I use every free moment I can to immerse myself in colour and storytelling. Art was always part of me, I suppose. I just never learned how to turn it into a “job”.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in our work that you’d be willing to reveal?

Not that I’m aware of. However, some friends have told me I have the tendency to heighten colours and contrasts, and use a lot of greens and browns (is that the influence of Biology again?) in my photography. Looking at it, it is probably a very good point.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Take your tools of the trade everywhere, be it a camera or a notebook (unless it’s very heavy, in which case, don’t or you’ll seriously damage your back and shoulders – nobody ever warns you about that!). Live life with wide eyes and pay attention. When you feel like giving up, take a walk. You never know what might happen. Sometimes the simple blowing of a leaf or the angle of the light can spark a brand new idea or breathe life into an old one.

Owl
Owl

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as aromantic asexual.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

All writers I communicate with are either 100% fine with LGBTQ+ or part of the community themselves, so I never spotted much prejudice there. As for the photography crew, it’s mostly composed of fellow biologists who feel such wonder about the world that they mostly don’t do or say anything horrible about asexuality. If anything, they ask me what it’s like, if there is any physiological or epigenetic explanation of it, and so on. It’s all very curiosity based.

I did say mostly though. I’ve had two instances where the reaction was not exactly positive, but not from photographers. They were two, at the time, fellow biology undergraduates. The first, who was convinced I was a lesbian because I had never had a boyfriend whilst everyone else in my year got around, was astonished at my explanation of asexuality. When he recovered from the shock, he proclaimed the now famous “So you’re an amoeba. Are you going to sprout an extra arm soon?” and laughed awkwardly. I suppose he acted like that because the concept was very new to him and he didn’t know how to react to someone “outing” themselves, especially in a way he did not expect.

The second case (or first really, if we’re doing this timewise) happened shortly after I began identifying myself as an aro ace. At the time, I was really lost on what to do. Should I out myself? Should I keep quiet? Did people in my country even know about asexuality?

So who did I decide to turn to? Why, the only publicly gay man in my course. The conversation barely lasted longer than a minute. After I told him I was ace and explained it to him, he turned to me and said, “Come back to me in ten years and tell me that again.” I insisted I knew what I was saying. “In ten years, tell me again,” he repeated.

Other than that, I’ve just had the usual “oh you haven’t met the right man yet” or “you’re too young, there’s time” or “I used to think the same way but I changed my mind” from acquaintances and family members, but they’re neither in my fields, nor do they know I identify as ace. But again, I doubt they’ve ever even heard of asexuality.

Plants and Big Ben
Plants and Big Ben

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

From my personal experiences, that it doesn’t exist. Although I’ve scarcely ever put a name to it when speaking of how natural it was for people to feel little or no sexual attraction, people’s reactions are nearly always the same. They shake their heads, they laugh, they say that “no, everyone wants to have sex with someone. That’s what makes us human”, or they suggest that such people have a medical problem and should go to the doctor quickly. Ah, erasure, you clinging fiend!

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

Don’t force yourself into the shoes of someone you’re not. You don’t owe anybody sex, romance, children or anything else. Your body is your body. As is everything it contains, spirit, mind and organs. You don’t owe anyone anything, no matter what they say. Even though it’s hard, even if you just want to fit in, it’s alright to be different. Everyone is different from everyone, no matter what people say. Find out what you want for the moment and stick to it. If it changes in the future, well, that’s part of character development. If it doesn’t, it’s part of it too. Know your limits and wishes, and embrace them. And if you can, if you have the luck of living near other asexuals, go meet them. If you don’t, the internet is a wonderful place for meeting them, be it on Twitter, Tumblr, or even Facebook. Go ahead, talk to other aces or just watch them from afar. Understand two fundamental truths:
You’re not alone.
You’re not broken.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

To access my writing, you would have to find seven keys – one in each continent -, to open a chest buried in the pit of a sleeping volcano in a remote island, guarded by a six headed dragon. Inside, you would see a computer. But to access it, you would have to swim to the bottom of the ocean and find the stone under which the password is written. Beware, there are hidden mermaids and a mighty kraken awaiting anyone who comes near.

My photography, however, is much easier to find. Just go to my Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tessblack/ or to my blog https://tessellatedtales.wordpress.com/ that also features book reviews and other ramblings. Hope to see you there!

Sea of Clouds V
Sea of Clouds V

Thank you so much, Teresa, for participating in this interview and this project.  It’s very much appreciated.

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