How did you get into photography and street photography in particular?
I first got interested in photography in my second year of college but I couldn’t afford to buy a camera at the time so my interest was put on hold for a few years until the appearance of smartphones. A few years later, I bought my first camera and started to dedicate myself daily to photography.
Since I was going out to photograph the streets and with the enormity of scenes in São Paulo, street photography became something natural. The book The Americans by Robert Frank was one of the first photographic works that I studied, and I believe that inspired me to keep doing street photography.
It’s definitely a book that has inspired many a street photographer.
Tell us about your São Paulo project. Where did you get the inspiration to do this project? And what do you hope it conveys to viewers?
São Paulo, like every big city, is a living organism that is constantly changing. It is also the biggest city in Latin America and one of the biggest cities in the world. However, it is a city like the rest of Brazil that has little esteem for culture and art. Of course, the city has good options when it comes to cultural attractions, but considering its size we could have more of an investment in this sector.
A few years ago, some politicians implemented a gray city “project”, where several works of street art were erased and replaced by gray paint. This project, along with the excessive number of commercial buildings in the city give São Paulo a reputation for being a city without color. São Paulo is also an extremely populated city (about 12 million inhabitants) with a lot of social inequality and with chaotic traffic on most days.
I had already created some photos with bright colors and minimalism (when possible) but I can say that the project took shape because of the photo “Painting in Red”, which is an image that contrasts with the more usual scenes in the city. After capturing that photo, I started looking for scenes that fit this theme in my walks around the city, and over time the series started to transform. I stopped being so demanding about minimalism but always kept the main subject in view – that is the colors – no matter where they were taken.
Wow, interesting. Did you face any challenges along the way?
Finding color spots in the city is not always easy but I don’t believe this is the real challenge. The biggest challenge of photographing in São Paulo is definitely the lack of security.
The pandemic, mainly due to the bad work done by the federal government, increased poverty and inequality in the country (Brazil is one of the 5 largest producers of food in the world, but we still have more than 30 million people suffering from hunger in the country). The increase of social inequality has as a consequence an increase in criminality.
Today, if you are alone with a camera in certain parts of the city you run the risk of suffering some kind of assault.
After the pandemic I also felt a change in the behavior of people on the streets. Nowadays, a camera seems to bother a lot of people and some people have even approached me when they thought they were photographed. Fortunately, I never suffered any kind of problem or violence because of this, but I have friends who have experienced some intense situations.
It definitely sounds like a huge challenge. I’m glad you were able to carry on with your project despite deteriorating conditions.
On another note, how do you curate your work? It can be challenging to choose the best photos for a project.
This year we published a photography magazine called “Imagem Vertigem” for which I had the pleasure of being one of the creators. I did the editing and curatorial work. Currently, we are working on two more projects that will be published soon.
Curating your own work is more challenging, though. I’m very critical about my work. My curatorial “script” is to divide the photos in series/folders, and try to create a link between them. From there, I try to make combinations between these photos, many times I take a photo and it stays ” archived” for months or more than a year until I create other materials that match with it to become a coherent series. I believe that some photos complement each other, you can have two “ok” photos but when you put them together it can become a great duo.
That said, it sure is easier to curate the work of other photographers.
I completely agree!
Are there any photographers, films, or something else you draw inspiration from when you work on a photography project?
I am a cinema addict. I think I consume more cinema than photography. I like to watch movies with great cinematography and study them. Wes Anderson‘s films are for sure a great source of inspiration (even the animations) – he’s one of my favorite filmmakers. Works by Roger Deakins (2017, Blade Runner), and the movie Roma (even though it’s a black and white movie) have great cinematography too.
I also like tv shows like Mr Robot and Handmaid’s Tale, which have unique cinematography, excellent light and color work, and great framing and compositions.
In photography, William Eggleston and Vivian Maier are my favorites, Eggleston’s capacity to bring life to banal scenes using lots of color and Vivian’s often humorous captures really appeal to me. I also really like Francesca Woodman‘s work, even though it’s not street photography.
And of course, the Brazilians Walter Firmo and German Lorca.
What’s your most memorable experience or photo from this project?
The “Painting in Red ” photo for sure. As I mentioned earlier, the series basically grew out of it. I took this photo in the beginning of 2021, after a few months without going out to photograph due to health problems caused by the pandemic. So it has a personal value as well.
This photo was also the one with the most “impact” in the series and was published in some magazines and in the Brazilian Exhibition “Trabalho e Trabalhadores” in 2021.
The “Brotherhood” photo also has significance for me. I took it in June 2019 and it is one of the examples of the constant changes in the city, the same building once full of color and life is now completely empty and painted gray.