“Back in 2014, I remember everyone talking about Instagram and how great it was,” says Puerto Rican born photographer Paola M. Franqui, otherwise known as Monaris. Impressed by the platform’s ability to showcase work, Monaris began making photographs with her iPhone 4S of everything and anything that caught her eye.
Although she experimented with portraiture, landscape, and food photography, street photography became her calling. “I always say it was my first true love,” Monaris says. “I was captivated by human emotion, interactions, and everyday moments – and all I wanted to do was to go out there and document life.”
Using Instagram as a visual journal, Monaris began chronicling the timeless moments of splendour and repose amid the chaos of daily life. “My biggest influence in street photography has been Vivian Maier,” she says. “Her self-portraits inspired my Reflection Stories series. I’ve learned that there is nothing more beautiful than documenting the simplicity of everyday life.”
With the recent publication of Momentos (Setanta Books), Monaris brings together images made during her travels in recent years to Cuba, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Japan, London, and New York. Whether walking quietly through the snow on a cold winter day, traveling alone on public transportation, or sharing an intimate embrace on the street, Monaris crafts a cinematic portrait of street life that underscores the universal qualities of the human experience.
“What I love most about street photography is that it forces me to slow down and become fully immersed in myself and my surroundings,” Monaris says. “There’s something about it that keeps me grounded and inspired. It has to do with the waiting, the anticipation, and even just trying and failing. It has taught me how to see the beauty in the mundane and ordinary.”
With the ambition of telling stories in a single frame, Monaris searches for pure expressions of emotion: “The human face is a beautiful thing; it’s full of wonders and mysteries,” she says.
By capturing that energy as it unfolds, Monaris’ photographs become repositories of the soul. “There is one photo in the book that always puts a smile on my face,” she says, “During a trip to Argentina, we visited a town called ‘La Boca’. As I watched a couple performing tango on the streets, a little kid grabbed his mom and said, ‘Mama, dance with me!’ It was such a beautiful moment filled with joy and happiness.”
These intimate vignettes convey the wonders and mysteries of life – something the photographer cherishes given the state of he world today. “Looking back to last year, I don’t think anyone had any idea of what was to come or that it would last this long. It left many of us feeling like we took moments for granted,” she says. “One of the many things the Covid-19 pandemic has taught me is to live in the present moment. Life can simply change in an instant. This body of work is a reminder of how things used to be.”
Momentos is out now on Setanta Books.
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