Catarina Milhais Reis Captures the Light and Color of Portugal

Catarina Milhais Reis Captures the Light and Color of Portugal

1600 900 James Tocchio

I happened upon Catarina Milhais Reis’ gorgeous film photography through one of my favorite analog photo sites around, She Shoots Film. And one of her photos in particular stopped me in my tracks (interestingly, it’s this very photo that she singles out later in our interview).

Catarina uses her incredible eye for color and composition to transport us to her home town in Portugal. I wanted to know more about her and her art, so I reached out, and she obliged us with an interview. Please enjoy.


Thank you for taking the time to talk. Can you please introduce yourself to our readers? Who are you, where are you from?

Hello, first of all, thank you so much for inviting me for this interview. My name is Catarina Milhais Reis, I was born in 1990 and I’m from the beautiful village called Cascais in Portugal.

When did you first become interested in photography, and how did that happen?

I don’t actually remember the precise moment I became interested in photography. I guess I’ve always been attracted to it, it was something that was present on my life. I do remember the first roll of film that I’ve took. It was on a school trip when I was about 8 years old.

Did you experience any challenges when you first started making photos? If so, how did you overcome these challenges?

Of course, still today I deal with many challenges when taking photos. We are always learning and dealing with different problems that appear on our way.

I do know that taking film photography helped me understand better photography and also, I have someone by my side that teaches me a lot. Still today I learn so much from him and will be forever grateful for that.

portugal on kodak film

What do you find most meaningful or fulfilling about photography now? (Essentially, why do you take pictures?)

For me, the importance of taking a photo is, and always was, the idea that someday, when I’m older and my memory may play tricks on me, I’ll have photos that will trigger my memories. Also it’s what I’ll have to show future generations about my life, the places I’ve visit and the moments I’ve lived during my lifetime.

Your work is so beautiful and vibrant, with very strong use of color. Many photographers find color photography to be challenging. How have you embraced color in your work so well?

Well, color for me means happiness and I also live in a place where the light is very strong and special. Where I live the use of color is found almost everywhere, for example, we have traditional houses with different color-stripes on them. Also I have the Atlantic Ocean so near me, with such deep blue, it’s impossible not to be attracted to colors.

I also find your photography to be somewhat minimalistic. There’s often a very obvious subject, and sometimes that subject is simply the colors in the frame. How do you pare the world back and take such precise, focused photos? Is it just pure talent? Or can you give some insight into the process? Do you know the photo you’ll make before you make it, or do you stroll and look for inspiration?

Normally I take my camera with me and stroll around looking for inspiration and I think my instinct do the rest. My compositions, what I photograph it’s mainly my intuition that works for me. When something catches my eye, I stop and make the photo.

Is there any particular piece of gear or equipment that you find to be crucial to your work? Is there a specific lens, camera, or film stock that you simply must use to make your images?

The most important thing for me is the film I use. I use Kodak film, I love the colors and especially the warmth of the film. The camera I prefer to use is any SLR camera. No camera in specific, just a working one will do!

Is there one photo that you’re most proud of? Can you share it, and tell us why?

It’s very difficult to choose one photo but I can share the one photo that I first felt really proud of and gave me “strength” and “motivation” to push my creative side more and more. It is this one below.

What do you think are the biggest challenges that photographers are facing today?

I think photographers nowadays are bombarded with so many photos from other photographers on social networks that they don’t take the time to look at their own photos and do their own thing without the pressure that we need to all do the same thing and that we all need to have “labels.” We should take more time looking at our own work, appreciating what we accomplish every day.

Which photographers are you currently following?

On Instagram, I follow closely the work of a few people that really inspires me. First of all, @by_joaoandrade, the one that pushes me to do better and is always by my side in this photography journey. I love his perfect compositions, and his view on the world in black & white really has a nostalgic and timeless feel.

Another photographer that really inspires me is @zakkoltun. I love his color work and the composition of his photos, so spot on. Then I can mention, of course, @dinokuznik, his work is really magical and makes you want to go to those places. At last I can mention someone that takes the most beautiful portraits I’ve seen, @raquelchicheri.

I do follow a lot of other amazing photographers and it’s hard for me to select just a few, if you go to my account you can see the photographers I follow and show them some love.

What’s next for you?

I’ll continue roaming around the streets, mountains, coastlines, searching for what attracts my eye and capture it with my camera. Maybe I’ll work on a little zine in the near future, and most important I’ll continue following my own view and be grateful for all the love and appreciation from the ones that follow my work.


Many thanks to Catarina for sharing her work here. If you know of a photographer making compelling images and you’d like to know more about their thoughts and process, let us know in the comments and we’ll reach out for an interview.

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio
12 comments
  • These are so appealing! I like the lamppost by the water, the tiny people on the shoreline, and the tiny tree on the hill the best. The color palette works so well on every photo here! And Catarina’s compositional choices are stellar.

  • Great shots that stand out in a way that really appeals to me. Color, composition, simplicity. Thanks to her and to you for bringing her to us!

  • All very beautiful.

  • Amazing pictures I have to say !
    If you’re looking for people to feature, I will do a little of self promotion if it’s ok: ( if it’s not, in that case just delete my comment)
    I’m a film photographer, experimenting with alternative technics like caffenol or RBM emulsion, and I release photos’ newspapers about cities around the world @citiesnewspapers .
    Always happy to talk about the process of making a publication and more in general about film photography.

  • This is an amazing body of work James. I keep returning to it and am inspired to check out all her links. Catarina’s focus throughout the interview was her work and inspiration with only scant reference to using an slr. The camera was incidental to the work. No mention of camera brand, lenses or focal lengths. In fact, any camera could have taken these images with comparable quality – even a humble 1980s point and shoot jobby. Yes, this is proof positive, it’s the photographer that makes the picture. Inspirational!!

    • Avatar
      Catarina Milhais Reis June 3, 2020 at 4:50 pm

      Thank you so much, it really doesn’t matter if you have the best camera ever made or the cheapest one, for me the important thing is if it works to make the photo when I need it (and also I prefer lightweight cameras hehe when it’s too heavy it can really bother me)

  • “I think photographers nowadays are bombarded with so many photos from other photographers on social networks that they don’t take the time to look at their own photos …”

    Amen, this has been my most recent realization. I kept consuming so much work of others and leaving my own to dust, not anymore!

    I would ask if anything Wes Anderson influences your work. I can’t help but to look at your colors and compositions and get reminded of him.

    • Avatar
      Catarina Milhais Reis September 21, 2020 at 4:23 pm

      Thank you Nuno for your words! And I’m glad you came to that conclusion too! I love Wes Anderson work, it’s just an honor to be compared to such visual artist! Thank you again!

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio