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Camila Rodrigues de Souza, Senior Art Director at Wunderman Thompson and Spotlight Awards Judge, on how restrictions can be opportunities, mentoring young girls and the diversity of beauty

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With 17 years of experience, Camila has worked on a variety of interesting campaigns for companies such as Oreo, Nivea, Nissan, Pepsi Co, Netflix and many others. With that backgroud, it’s no surprise that she has been selected to be on the panel of judges for the beauty category for this year’s Spotlight Awards

We were fortunate enough to speak with Camila to find out the trends that art directors are looking for in beauty photography and the “new” perspective of beauty.   

Also learn about her inspiring personal project PorTips, which tackles the issue of gender equality through sharing knowledge with young girls in order to guide them through their professional lives. Check it out on Instagram @portips_ 

Leonie: We’re going to start. 

Hey. How are you? 

Camila: I’m fine!

Leonie: Thanks for doing this interview, it’s so nice talking to you. 

Camila: Yeah, it was great to talk to you too. 

Leonie: I’ve been looking forward to this! So you’re in Brazil at the moment. 

Camila: Yes, I’m in São Paulo. I’ve lived here for almost 20 years now.

Leonie: Okay. Okay. And so how long have you been working in art direction?

Camila: I’ve been working since I was 20. So, I’ve been working for 17 years. 

Leonie: So, you have recently become the senior art director at Wunderman Thompson. You’re obviously very knowledgeable in your field and you have a lot of experience. So could you tell us a little bit more about that as well?

Camila: Yeah, sure. I started my career in 2008. I began at Subaru Brazil, I was a creative assistant there and two years later I became an art director. 

I worked for eight years at FCB which was a great time, I learned a lot and I had a lot of great experiences. I also had the opportunity of working abroad because FCB has a very active network. So we worked on international projects and there I created campaigns that I’m really proud of for Nivea, Nestle, Sky, Oreo among other brands and well as local brands. 

In 2016, I joined BWA here in Brazil and started working with a whole different set of clients, including Nissan and PepsiCo, Gatorade and Netflix. I spent three years there. And then I have some great memories during that time. I also had the experience of travelling abroad to work for BWA International. And I had my baby during that time, he’s two years old now. So a lot of great memories. 

Leonie: Oh, that’s wonderful. 

So you’re, you’ve always been busy. You’ve always been active and being involved in a variety of really interesting campaigns. 

You said that you were able to work on some really interesting and memorable campaigns can you tell us one that’s particularly memorable to you and why.

Camila: Nivea, here in Brazil, built a platform around Brazilian music and for our first campaign when we decided to launch that platform, it was a tribute to Elizabeth Regina, which is a very beloved singer from our Brazilian history. It was about celebrating the memory of her passing 30 years ago. We had the opportunity of having her daughter Maria who is also a singer but she had never sung her mother’s songs before. She was going to be the headliner of the concerts, singing her mom songs. Nivea was the sponsor behind all that. So it was very emotional and it was a great campaign to be a part of it always give me chills and provokes so many emotions.

Recently, I joined Wunderman Thompson and now I also work with a very beloved beauty brand, which is Avon. And Avon is huge here in Brazil. And it’s a brand that I’ve always admired because they have for a while now had their mindset on bringing diversity, bringing all sorts of beauty – that is so important here in Brazil. I couldn’t be living in a better place during these crazy moments of lockdown, we have a very tight team at Wunderman Thompson. We are very united so I couldn’t have wished for a better team to be in during this crazy time.

Leonie: Yea! Very crazy times! 

It’s great that you’re working on something so current and trying to bring in more diversity and opening up how people view your campaign, I want to get back on to that later on. 

I’ve also read that you have some personal projects of your own, that has to do with gender equality and gender bias, which is a very relevant topic in our culture at the moment. Can you tell us a little more about some of the projects you’ve done?

Camila: Sure. I’m very passionate about my personal projects. I have two projects that approach gender equality, our search for gender equality.

One of them is called PorTips and is a project I started, based on my own experience. During my career, I didn’t have the opportunity of talking to more senior creative women, simply because there weren’t that many. I didn’t have the opportunity of having a mentor. So at this point in my career, I have this commitment to taking the time and see other girl’s portfolios and interviewing them so I can encourage them. Most of the time the same tips can be useful for different girls. So I just gathered all these tips, data and advice in a place that they could have easy access to. 

So, I created an Instagram page that’s called @portips_   and there I’ve written the text with what I would like to have heard during my time, during my experience, which is encouraging advice and friendly tips. It’s something that can make a difference for these girls to put up a strong portfolio, to seize the opportunities that come their way to know how to present themselves in an interview, all sorts of useful advice.

Leonie: Yeah. It’s like paving the way for a future generation of stronger female figures in this industry. And make sure that they have a clear path and that they’re given the right information, something you wish you had got when you were starting up. 

Camila: Yeah. And also a place for them to find out about incredible opportunities that are happening. We have platforms that are showcasing many talents in Brazil, like more girls or international visible creatives. Sometimes these girls don’t have access to that information, they just don’t know where to begin to be seen. So I share free courses, job openings, all sorts of opportunities.

Leonie: Have you seen a difference in the young girls and the women who take part in getting this information? 

Camila: Yeah, I think that the younger generations are just tuned to the right frequency. It’s so much easier because they are fighters.

Not that we weren’t! But, we were afraid of not being polite enough and hiding behind the others. We weren’t just as brave, I think, not as honest about the difficulties and saying it out loud. So I’m very happy every time I get in contact with the younger girls. 

Leonie: That it’s great because it’s showing them that the younger generation is very brave and they’re fighters. It’s also very nice to get encouragement from other generations and by the community around us to say that we can create a change and we can give more access to create opportunities for those who probably thought it was impossible.

Camila: I think that they are very ready to seize those opportunities and also say it out loud when they are being biased. That’s something great. I’m happy to see that we are in a bigger number now in the creative scene. It took long enough, but the industry woke up to the fact that they were just losing money by having a lack of diversity in the teams. 

Leonie: Not just losing money, but losing creative minds, losing potential. And with your fountain of experience, of knowledge as well, it’s probably priceless to some people who just want to find a way in, and it’s great that you’ve just opened the door and said, here you go.

Camila: I’ve been also publishing advice from other creative colleagues, other women in our teams. I have worked with women. Women whom I’ve gotten to know because we have friends in common. And I think we’re beginning to build this strong network, to match younger women with those that can mentor them. That’s something I’m very happy to be part of.

Leonie: That’s great, because when you see others around you also growing and being more connected, it gives light to a brighter and stronger future. In a sense, I’m not trying to sound cliche, but it’s giving you some hope in a sense. 

So, you are going to be a judge for this year’s Spotlight Awards, in the Beauty Category. What is it that made you accept our invitation, from Production Paradise to be a judge this year? 

Camila: I felt very honored. I felt very happy with the invitation. I think that as an art director and a huge fan of photography, I’ve always been. I love beautiful film scenes, nicely done post-production. I admire every project that in their visuals shows this carefully executed craft, I never thought of the art as something that could come separate from the concept. I’m a very visual person, I believe the majority of people are too, and that emotion, when provoking your audience, comes first from what people see. 

So when you portray a family scene, you want it to be warm. You want to be sweet and that’s the first thing that people will feel when they look at it.

Or if you want to show an athlete with all the strength, you will use a lot of contrast and maybe black and white, and that visual will also provoke a feeling of admiration, people will get that strength. First from the visual and then from the whole concept.

So I always thought of that craft, that carefully executed art visuals or something that couldn’t in any way come separated from the creative thinking. So I’m very happy to be a judge in the Spotlight Awards. 

Leonie: We’re very happy to have you. It’s going to be great. We are having the submissions coming in now. It’s very exciting to see what people are giving in to the Spotlight Awards but as a judge, not only as a judge but someone who has a pool of experience, what sorts of things are you looking to see in this competition? 

Camila: I’m looking forward to being inspired. To be a little shaken, to see stuff I wouldn’t expect. I think that something I love in every aspect of art is authenticity. I want to look at something and feel the work of the artist behind that piece.

Since I’ll be judging the beauty category, I hope I can see some new insights into the beauty industry. I think that we’ve been through a lot of change and that’s something very good, seeing different body types, different races, different people and accepting that beauty can be something more true, more real. 

Leonie: That diversity that you mentioned before – bringing diversity, different cultures and not being afraid to break the boundaries in a sense of what has been constructed as beauty.

Camila: Yes, exactly. Art and beauty can be something spontaneous. I think we’re moving forward. We’re leaving behind all that typical industry settings, that is a lot of sexy looks and serious faces. And we are bringing something much richer. Something new, new sorts of make up, new sorts of poses and models. I’m looking forward to seeing something innovative. 

Leonie: Yeah. But it can also be tied into, you know, what you were saying about, bringing the emotion into a campaign, not to something very classic and predictable, but making someone feel, or creating a connection.

Camila: Yes. I think that every brand has embraced the opportunity to send good messages to their audience, to the world, and I think they should. That’s something that comes to photography, that comes to the films we’re creating, the stories we are trying to tell, it’s very important to have that. To have some good message. We were, we’re all responsible for the transformation. They’re all responsible for the good changes. 

Leonie: Yes. Precisely. And that can also be done through beauty photography because beauty is quite a controversial topic, I think for many. So to be able to use the changes that we are witnessing and experiencing now, and create a beautiful piece that people can relate to, I think, it will be like a huge achievement. It’ll be great to see more work like that. 

Camila: Yes. That’s what I’m hoping for. I think that the beauty industry has been stuck on a pattern for too long and we need to break it, to bring diversity, to let people see that beauty has so many meanings, that it’s so broad. It has so much meaning, so much more than what we have seen so far. 

Leonie: Yes, exactly. That’s really, so it’s really exciting. It’s really great that there is someone like you who’s going to be one of our judges and hopefully encouraging people to be more daring. 

Camila: Sometimes people are just afraid to do what hasn’t been done yet, but they really should because that’s how you find your inner voice. That’s how you make authentic work. 

Leonie: Precisely! So, that leads me on to my next question, which is what kind of qualities, both personal and professional do you look for in photographers?

Camila: Throughout my career, I had the pleasure of working with really great professionals. So I think the bar is set really high. I would say that the first quality of all is talent. I think that it’s important for every photographer to build this body of work that shows his or her potential. I mean, not only what you have done so far, but what you can achieve! Maybe that won’t come through brands or agencies, it could be personal work, something that really speaks to you, that can really show your potential and that’s very important.

When I look at a photographer’s website, I always look for their personal work, because with that I know what true connection will she or he have wit my project, with the result I want to achieve. 

The second thing I’m looking for is initiative and passion because every creative is looking for someone who will just add that, something that will make the work more interesting. That can come from proposing a different composition to making maybe something else. Something totally different, a proposal that will wow us and will enhance the work.

Another very important quality is also trust and also reliability. We always love the projects we create so much, and one of the most important things is being able to trust the people who will work to make that come true. From respecting the scheduled appointments of the production to sharing your thoughts to planning and making sure that everything will go smoothly as possible during the time of the shooting.

When you look at a list of possibilities, someone you can trust will surely make it and stand out in a list of possible photographers to work with. 

Leonie: Yeah. It’s like a mixture of passion, reliability, but also being fearless, you know, feeling that you are part of the team that you are pushing forward for the same goal.

Camila: Yes. Being crazy creative but as responsible as you can, we need to trust that things are going to happen. 

Leonie: It’s like crazy, but not too crazy.

Camila: Crazy, but really reliable. 

Leonie: That’s great. I don’t want to keep you for too long, cause I know you’re still working but I have one last question, which is, in what way do you think the Production Paradise Spotlight Awards could benefit photographers? 

Camila: I think that the Spotlight Awards are an amazing opportunity, especially now, for photographers to have their work seen by creatives all around the world. It’s an incredible opportunity to showcase your images and reach creatives from different countries.

I think that we are facing very unusual times and suddenly it doesn’t matter where you are to get the job done. We are not thinking about the countries, frontiers, as something we need to worry about when producing work. 

Working remotely changed people’s views on how to get work done, that it is possible to actually work on campaigns from a distance.

I think even those who were more resistant to it at first, just realised that as we needed to keep things happening, we did! I believe that in the future, we’ll just keep that knowledge –  that we can expand the range of work opportunities and work with photographers from all around the world because we can make it work. So I think that photographers should seize this opportunity to put their work out there for everyone to see. 

Leonie: Exactly. So it’s very important to have that online presence, because now that we have been confined to our homes, it’s amazing how we still have been able to connect through the use of technology and through the use of being online. 

Camila: A lot of stuff changed and we adapted really quickly. I think that we learned a lot like being more specific on the briefings you’re sending and being more in touch during the pre-production, and it actually worked.

I think that everyone has opened the door to the idea that distance shouldn’t be an issue anymore. We can really make it work from a distance. If you love the images of photographers that are far away you can still work with them. You shouldn’t be afraid. That was something enlightening about these times. 

Leonie: Even though we’ve had these restrictions, it opened more opportunities and ir shows how quickly people can adapt. It hasn’t stopped moving! It hasn’t stopped work! It hasn’t stopped the change that’s going to be coming! So it is a really exciting time. 

Lastly, what would be your final message for photographers, especially photographers who are going to have their work seen by you?

Camila: Bring diversity, look forward, not back. Don’t look at what has been done, look at what you’re willing to do for the future, what messages are you sending through beauty and embrace your personal projects – that’s something that can be awesome!

Leonie: Wonderful. This has been such a lovely conversation, so inspiring. Thank you so much for your time. And I look forward to seeing what work you choose for Production Paradise Spotlight Awards.

Camila: Thank you so much. I’m looking forward to seeing the work. Thank you so much for the invitation. Thank you for this time and for letting me share my thoughts. 

Leonie: Absolute pleasure. Thank you. Bye! 

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