As a female photographer, Luisa feels closer and more connected to women subjects. On the female gaze, she says, “Generally speaking, when a woman takes photos of women, it feels like a fair exchange of emotional psychology.” Her project #womentopography documents a diversity of women photographed on her travels around the world. The hashtag began as a way for her to organise these portraits and has become an ongoing series. While these images are quick snapshots of women’s lives, other times Luisa’s photography expands to reveal more of her subjects’ experiences: we meet their family members or are invited into their homes or to the shop around the corner to pick up a loaf of bread. This was the case with Maysa Leite – the girl in the hot pink tank top.
Luisa met Maysa in 2014 when she was on assignment shooting photographs of the preteen contestants of the Young Miss Brazil pageant. Then, Maysa was an 11-year-old hopeful who was in need of a modelling portfolio. Luisa agreed to photograph her for free, and has been documenting her and her family ever since in their home in Brasilândia, one of São Paulo’s most dangerous slums. Maysa went on to win Young Miss São Paulo Black Beauty, a separate division specifically for girls of colour. Luisa’s photographs of Maysa’s journey highlight issues of racism, common in Brazil even though most people there are of mixed ethnicities. “Brazil is an extremely sexist, homophobic, religious, and violent country, but it’s also very liberal. [This creates] the fake sensation that all is just fine,” Luisa says. Maysa and Luisa are now close friends, and Luisa’s Instagram account bears witness to the 14-year-old Maysa’s rise as a promising model.