My thoughts on social distancing and its implications on my life; from experiencing the world walking through its streets, to observing the changes from my living room.
For some people being around others is an option for others, being surrounded by people, strangers or not, is a choice to be made. Well, the latter was my case. When I was 17, I decided to study Journalism. I chose a career that would give me the opportunity to constantly meet new people and tell their stories. I would be able to give a voice to those who cannot speak. I would communicate with the world, face challenges and, of course, get out of my comfort zone while seeing the beauty in every aspect of life. When I immersed myself in this world of images, all I hoped to do was to seek the truth and observe the world so that through the lens of my camera, and through the power of words, I could document reality, giving the world a taste of what humanity is working towards, and bringing to the forefront some harsh realities that are taking place in society.
I remember when I was working as a writer for one of the local newspapers in Brasilia, Brazil. My sections’ editor, who happened to be my professor would always tell me that as a journalist we had to avoid staying in the newsroom as much as possible while phone calls and emails were to be used only in times of emergency (I guess being in lockdown can be an example of that). Being in the streets is a must for a journalist. We needed to see everything up close in order to feel what was happening and to be able to convey the events and the emotions through writing. As the years passed, I learned that my duty as a journalist goes beyond sharing the truth. Sometimes with the lack of audio-visual materials, writing had to become as clear as a painting to describe as much as possible what was seen or heard. However, there were times I felt that my written paintings could make it too abstract for the reader to understand what I was trying to report. That’s when I decided to paint with light, as I believe that photography can really connect people; not only to one another but also to the world. Photography helps with understanding both the challenges and opportunities facing our world today.
From a young age I always felt more comfortable with storytelling through photography rather than through writing. But in university, I saw how much the photo and the written words complement one another and how much the role of the photojournalist needs to be in perfect harmony with the work of the writer. I chose journalism because of the way images spoke to me. Even though they have a silent way of communicating, I always felt we spoke the same language. As Minor White, an American photographer and educator once wrote, “Photography is a language more universal than words”. No matter how silent photos could be, they could be heard in every corner of the world. But whenever I wrote something, only a small group of people were able to understand, and the truth is that I wanted find a way to speak to the world. The only way I could make it happen was by using photography. I was always attracted to the beautiful scenes around me, but when it comes to portraits it is a different story. The diversity of the portraits around the world show that differences are in fact the reason for unity among nations, as in a garden with its diversity of flowers and plants.
The writer, Ananda Beleza once wrote about the art of writing: “The good in writing is that you won’t always write about yourself. You can become a character, a scriptwriter, a narrator or observer.”
The same applies to when you are a photographer. However, with the absence of words, you need to know how to create a visual narrative. You need to know how to tell a story. You need to be a scriptwriter, you need to be the narrator, find the character and most importantly you need to observe and connect with the person in front of you, a person that has feelings, a soul and a story to tell, a story that isn’t fiction, it is real.
In the same way that my editor would always encourage journalists to be out on the streets, Robert Capa, war photographer and photojournalist, in his book “Slightly Out of Focus” reminds photographers, “if your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough”. Applying this thought to taking portraits, it makes everything much more human. You feel this connection between the operator (photographer) and the referent (person being photographed). No matter what prejudices I may have latent within me, I always strive to put them aside and appreciate the people and their uniqueness, I try to see the inner reality of each human being, their divine essence; their soul, something our material and limited eyes have difficulty understanding, something we can only feel.
Today, my photographs are what I live and see–and what I feel. I try to connect my soul with the moment I am experiencing, capturing reality for others. Every shot may capture a positive or negative aspect of the world, it might be shocking sometimes, but that is the reality for many. With the smile of a young or old person I try to transmit their happiness into another life; I try to put that same smile on someone else’s face. With beautiful scene I try to show that the world is not only about hate, prejudice or envy.
It has been 11 years since I decided to study journalism. After 4 years of studies and 7 years of travel and work in the field of communication a lot has changed. I am not a writer, editor, or a chief-editor. I don’t take photos every day let alone photograph portraits. But I will always carry the understanding of the power of words and images, seeing both as important tools to change the world we live in. I don't announce breaking news or appear on the screen, but as a journalist, I will always carry the responsibility of sharing the truth that we find in the world, on what is happening out there. Considering the world’s circumstances today, we can only see what is happening out the window, and the only thing I can see in my window right now, is the reflection of a caged photojournalist.