Marina Zabenzi: Crafting Stories Through the Lens of Serendipity

Her photography intertwines instinct and intention to transcend realism and evoke novel emotions. Through her work, Zabenzi aims to foster a personal exploration within the intricate interplay of human life and the surrounding world.

Marina Zabenzi’s photographs are not merely static images; they tell us a story, or two, or many, weaving together a multitude of moments and narratives imbued with a fusion of colors, shapes, and dimensions. As Zabenzi suggests, photography becomes a creative tool for intimate exploration and discovery, providing a unique perspective through which to engage and interpret the world around us.
Her artistic journey doesn't always adhere to a linear trajectory. Instead, Zabenzi’s File, a diverse array of photographs, often meanders through disparate moments in space and time, weaving together a tapestry of images in a spontaneous collage. “I'm inspired by things that simply exist, by mundane things,” Zabenzi explains. 

Guided by tones, shapes, and the essence of the moment, Zabenzi’s creative process is fueled by the ordinary, finding inspiration in the everyday aspects of life. She immerses herself in the world around her, observing and experimenting with the interplay of shapes, tones, light, and shadow. To Zabenzi, photography is both an act of invention and a form of translation, allowing her to explore and articulate the intricacies of emotion and reality. “I'm interested to create and play with ideas of deploying feelings and inventing other realities from photography.”

Editing lies at the heart of Zabenzi’s creativity, as she approaches it as a day-to-day process. Photography, for her, is an instinctive act, devoid of overthinking, simply capturing moments as they come. However, during the editing phase, she transforms her raw captures into something more deliberate. By manipulating tones, shadows, and juxtaposing images, she crafts a unique composition, and an internal shift. “Taking the picture is more on [the] emotional side and then editing is more [the] rational side,” she explains, “And it's infinite, it’s endless,” as unlimited are possibilities for artistic exploration.

Reflecting on her creative process, Zabenzi expresses a desire to move beyond realism, aiming to convey deeper feelings and memories through unexpected combinations of objects and scenes. “Sometimes a mouse and a shoe [shown together] can feel like you can remember someone, or remember a feeling just because of these two things that have nothing to do with another. But the mix, it makes you laugh,” she says, bringing a new feeling to the body. The goal is to evoke new emotions in viewers, transcending familiar feelings and bringing fresh perspectives. 

When creating her photographs or her collections, Zabenzi doesn't have a specific audience in mind. Instead, her process is more akin to composing a song or writing a poem, driven by a flow of emotions and experiences, where the viewer is transported into a realm of feelings and imagination. In essence, she want the photographs to transcend being mere pictures and become vessels for the exploration, creating a space for personal connection. 

At the same time, while she does leave some room for interpretation, she provides cues through her work. Her process often involve comparisons, not just in the choice of subjects but also in other elements, creating intentional layers, offering subtle hints through titles, colors, and other elements that can help shape the viewer's experience and understanding of her work. 

In one of her photographs taken during a religious parade on a beach in Maceió, Northeast Brazil, we are drawn to a close-up of a man riding a horse. Originally part of a larger frame featuring numerous horses and riders, the main subject is now isolated and centrally positioned, commanding attention. This deliberate choice in composition highlights the photographer's focus on specific elements within the bustling event. Through color manipulation, the image achieves a vibrant feel, and despite the apparent stillness, the composition exudes a sense of movement, adding dynamism to the scene. 

This sense of movement recurs in other images. The parallel bodies of two boys twist on the beach forming two arches, like waves closer or farther away, in a play of lights and shadows that recall the texture of the water behind them in the background. Similarly, two bathers replicate the structure of those movements, their backs curved like sand dunes, the rounded line of their arms and legs echoing the circular repetitive motion of waves. 

In another shot, Zabenzi captured her mother in an intimate moment of vulnerability, her arm positioned over her head shielding her eyes from the sun, creating an interesting shadow effect. Zabenzi felt deeply moved by the beauty of this moment. And depending on how she edited it, the image transformed. 

It could highlight the intimacy of a nipple on a naked breast, or the grandeur of a mountain within a single frame, transcending the simple depiction of the human body. In this convergence, the private beauty and personal story of a human life intertwine with the vastness of the surrounding landscape—the nature to which we are both immersed in and belong to. It becomes a transitory yet harmonious moment of coexistence, where the individual and the environment are no so clearly apart, but converge gracefully, part of the same cosmos we inhabit. 


All photos © Marina Zabenzi, from the series Zabenzi's file


Marina Zabenzi (Rio de Janeiro, 1999) lives and works in between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Brazil. She is a self-taught multimedia artist whose work brings a constant comparison between human presence and urban noise. The images also speak of the protagonism of detail, and the sincere eroticism present in bodies and objects. Find her work on PhMuseum.

Lucia De Stefani is a writer and editor focusing on photography, illustration, and everything teens. She lives between New York and Italy. Find her on Instagram and Twitter.