Interview of Street Photographer Gustavo Gomes from Brazil

Few months ago Gustavo Gomes became a proud father of a daughter and everybody saw him becoming one… literally, as Gustavo shot his girlfriend’s pregnancy and home birth in a beautiful and intimate way. The images were featured on many online magazines and blogs. Gustavo captured loads of images during the 20-hour labor and has vowed to photograph his daughter Violeta for as long as she wants.

Gustavo Gomes (b.1981) is a street photographer born in Cassia, a small town in Brazilian countryside. He’s currently living and working in Sao Paulo. He holds a degree in journalism and shoots for the sake of pure pleasure. His street images are a play of light and shadow and dash of colours with layers of information. I asked him some simple questions about his photography and he responded as under:

Gustavo Gomes photography (3)Tell us about yourself and your relationship with photography. Do you feel a bit disadvantage at not having some education or a degree in photography?

I’m an amateur photographer in the sense that I don’t earn my living with photography, though I work as freelancer sometimes. I’m a journalist who started studying photography after getting very bored by working at a newspaper. I can’t say I ever felt disadvantaged, maybe because I never really intended to pursue a career in photography.

Gustavo Gomes photography (5)What does photography mean to you? What do you want to express from your images and how do you view your evolution as a photographer?

It’s basically the way I express myself, as well as a very fun past-time. It’s an excuse to go up early and go to places I’d never go, it’s a vehicle for my curiosity. I think I’ll always keep evolving (I hope so), and I hope that I’ll always find motivation to keep on doing what I do.

Gustavo Gomes photography (7)How did you develop interest in street photography? What kind of human activities and street elements do you like shooting most?

In the beginning I wasn’t even aware of such a genre called street photography. In 2009, I enrolled in a year long course under Carlos Moreira, a master who’s been photographing São Paulo downtown  since the 60’s. He showed us BW masters during the first semester, and then colorists like Harry Gruyaert, who’s been my main influence in terms of use of light and shadows, space and color. Then I started shooting on the streets a lot, to get to know Sao Paulo neighborhoods better and to venture into the city. I didn’t look for any specific subject matters, I was simply attracted by the effect of low sun light over urban surfaces. I also shot a lot in Cassia, my hometown, and in 2013 I was the runner up in International Street Photography Awards, which got me an exhibition in London.

Gustavo Gomes photography (8)What are your methods or critical approaches of shooting? How much of your work is carefully planned vs. spontaneous?

It’s a mix. I’m very attracted to light, colors and shadows, and how they alter our perception of our surroundings. So when I find an interesting scenario, I tend to plan a composition and wait for someone to pass by a certain spot. At the same time, as I wander a lot, many times I’m surprised by images I wasn’t expecting at all.

Gustavo Gomes photography (24)‘O Parto’ is perhaps your latest photo series. How different and challenging was it from your regular street work?

Yes, it is. Well, it wasn’t as challenging as it looks, because it wasn’t a deliberate series. I photograph all the time, including my girlfriend Priscila, so I naturally photographed her during her pregnancy and during the labor, which lasted 20 hours. Of course I helped her as I could during all this time as well. But the light was beautiful in our flat that day, and I wanted to record my first daughter coming to light. Of course there were tense moments, but they didn’t stop me from shooting. 2 months later I looked at all these photos again and thought: oh, they could be put together in a series. That was it.

Gustavo Gomes photography (9)What do you think about rising concerns over privacy and related things in street photography?

This is not a big issue in Brazil as I heard it is in US or France. I still can shoot with relative freedom here, except in malls or private buildings. But people are OK with my shooting in public spaces most of the time.

Gustavo Gomes photography (2)Tell me about the equipment (camera, lenses, software, etc.) you mostly use and why. Your photos are vividly colored with striking shadows. Do you believe you’ve found your style?

I’ve used Nikon cameras for a long time, but now I’m switching to Sony A7, because of its reduced size. I still use my Nikon lenses on it, mostly a Voigtlander 40mm. I process them on Lightroom. I’m not sure it’s my style, but maybe a style which is a mix of my influences. I guess I share this style with many others.🙂

Gustavo Gomes photography (4)Do you have a favorite photo or a significant memory related to photography or your travels?

It’s hard to choose a favorite one, but when I stop to think, this automatically comes to my mind, so, it might be this one (see above). It’s one of the first photos of mine that I thought were good.🙂

What do you think about contemporary photography (current trends, social media, photography as a career choice, etc.)?

Sorry, this question is too wide for me, hehe. I’m happy with my practice, and for me this is enough. Social media can be a huge source of inspiration, but it also can let you down if you’re on it just expecting some recognition. And as I always say, likes won’t pay my bills.

Gustavo Gomes photography (10)What are your future plans/projects, ambitions, aspirations etc.?

I’ll be quite happy if I keep finding motivation to keep shooting everyday life for a long time. I’m curious and excited to see how I’ll photograph my daughter Violeta once she starts walking and running around. Next year I’ll complete 2 years in Brasilia, so I might gather my best photos and make a new series out of them. And I hope someday in the future I can make a proper book of my best work. Who knows… And also I’m looking forward to retire from work so I can dedicate myself completely to photography.

Gustavo Gomes photography (11)Tell me about your favorite photographers, etc.:

Harry Gruyaert, Carlos Moreira, Georgui Pinkhassov, Saul Leiter, Charles Harbutt, Edward Hopper, Win Wenders are some of my influences.

Something to say to our readers or aspiring photographers (or random words of wisdom):

Try photographing to please yourself. If you’re really taking pleasure from it, it’ll show.

Gustavo Gomes photography (12) Gustavo Gomes photography (13) Gustavo Gomes photography (14) Gustavo Gomes photography (15) Gustavo Gomes photography (16) Gustavo Gomes photography (17) Gustavo Gomes photography (18) Gustavo Gomes photography (19) Gustavo Gomes photography (20) Gustavo Gomes photography (21) Gustavo Gomes photography (22) Gustavo Gomes photography (23) Gustavo Gomes photography (25) Gustavo Gomes photography (26)All photos © Gustavo Gomes : Website | Instagram | Flickr

About Nishant Mishra

Nishant studied art history and literature at the university during 1990s. He works as a translator in New Delhi, India and likes to read about arts, photography, films, life-lessons and Zen.

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