INTERVIEW WITH GUSTAVO MINAS

Beautifully colourful with playfully juxtaposed scenes that turn the mundane into something poetic and often complex to the point that his photographs transcend reality, Gustavo Minas has managed to create a voice and style that is unmistakably his.

This uniqueness is what first drew us to his work and after several chats and a couple of fantastic workshops in which his humility and ability to communicate shone through, we were quick to make him an Ambassador of The Raw Society.

Many of you reading this will have already attended our live online workshops with him, but for those who haven’t, here’s a chance to get to know a little more about him (oh, and keep an eye out as we’ll be doing more workshops with him in the near future!).

Christelle Enquist: Tell us a little about yourself.

Gustavo Minas: I’m a freelance photographer and journalist based in Brasilia, Brazil. I started photographing the streets more seriously around 2009, when I attended a year-long course under Brazilian master Carlos Moreira. This was a watershed for me. I knew how to make a correct image before, but up to this point I knew nothing about the photographic language and history of the medium.

Since then, I’ve been regularly photographing the streets of the cities I live in and I also travel now and then just to photograph. In 2019, I launched my first book, “Maximum Shadow Minimal Light” (Edition Lammerhuber). I’m a member of Burn my Eye collective and now a Raw Society ambassador 🙂

CE : Do you have a mantra?

Gustavo Minas: It’s not a mantra, but I always try to relax and say to myself that the experience of being out in the streets in the end matters more than the photos I take. This prevents me from being frustrated when I don’t take any good photographs.

post-processing with Gustavo Minas

CE: Do you have a favourite place or country to photograph?

Gustavo Minas: I have a love-hate relationship with the bus station where I’ve done my most important, in Brasilia. I love shooting there, and I know each corner very well, but because it’s the only busy place in Brasilia, I keep coming back, and some days I’m just fed up of seeing the same situations 2 or 3 times a week. But I can’t complain, it’s been a very important place for me.

CE: Your project on the Bus Station in Brasilia is your first long-term project. How long have you been working on it and what are the most important lessons you’ve learned from it.

Gustavo Minas: I’ve been working on it since the beginning of 2015. Actually, at that time I was just passing by it on my route to work or to satellite cities and photographing the station now and then. By the end of that year I looked back at my archive and realized that the place had potential for a series.

The project has been very important for my career. It’s been published and exhibited in different countries, and it was by looking at one of such publications that Lois Lammerhuber, publisher of my first book, got to know my work

In terms of lessons, photographing there many times a week has pushed me as a photographer. In the beginning, I’d make very descriptive images of the place, but as months passed, my photos got more and more sophisticated in terms of structure and composition, often including many layers and parallel stories. I’ll probably keep photographing there as long as I live in Brasília.

CE: How do you balance your work as a journalist with your photography?

Gustavo Minas: Fortunately, I always find some time to shoot in my routine. For example, I used to work from 2 PM to 10 PM, so I would get up early in the morning to shoot for 2 or 3 hours. Then I’d take my break at 5PM to shoot again. My job is relatively flexible, so now and then I can take days off to cover assignments out of Brasilia too. It’s a good thing not to worry about paying my bills with photography, I feel very free to shoot whatever I want, and I have a lot of energy to do photography. But at the same time, I’d probably be exposed to more interesting situations if I took photography as a full time career.

CE: Throughout your photographic journey you’ve been inspired by photographers like Harry Gruyaert, Helen Levitt, Lee Friedlander, Constantine Manos, and painters like Edward Hopper. Who’s inspiring you at the moment?

Gustavo Minas: Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. I went to a workshop with a Brazilian curator last year, and a funny thing happened: she took a look at my work and said that it reminded her of Murakami. We hadn’t mentioned him before, but the thing is that I’d been reading many of his books in the previous 2 years – and I still am. It’s crazy to think how literature can affect your work. I’ve been watching more movies than usual during the pandemic too. I rewatched The Mirror and Nostalgia, by Andrei Tarkovsky, who was very influential to one of my favourite photographers: Gueorgui Pinkhassov. I like them a lot because they’re not so much about narrative, the wonderful moving images he creates play a huge part in the films.

CE: What is the best advice you have ever been given?

Gustavo Minas: Photography is fiction: This was liberating because then I stopped looking only for interesting moments on the streets, as I learned that I could transform banal reality into something extraordinary through the use of light, shadows and reflections.

CE: Tell us a bit about ‘Maximum shadow, minimal light’ and the experience of publishing this first book.

Gustavo Minas: This happened a bit out of the blue. My Bus Station project was published on Atlantic magazine website, and by chance my publisher in Austria saw it, visited my website and invited me to do a book. I went to Austria in the summer of 2017 to edit it, taking 900 photos of 8 years of work with me. We rated them in 5 rounds until we got to the final 95. It’s quite a lot for a photobook, so the sequencing tries to break the viewer’s expectation until the end – one picture has to be different from the previous, and so on. It was only published in 2019 though, with an exhibition in Hamburg. It felt great travelling all the way from Brazil to see it. But as most of the images are from before 2017, I already feel like doing a second one, hopefully soon.

CE: Do you have any new projects on the horizon?

Gustavo Minas: I have an ongoing series about Brasilia outside of the bus station that I guess I’ll only finish when I leave the city for good. Also, I think these pandemic times could turn into a series about daily life under quarantine here, let’s see. But I’m looking forward to travelling to different cities to photograph again too, I’m a bit sick of Brasília now (August/2020).

CE: What advice would you give street photographers that are just starting out?

Gustavo Minas: Don’t give up too early. Try and see your city with a tourist mentality. Enjoy your walks and give yourself a reward at the end of the day, be it a beer or an ice-cream. Don’t put all the weight of the experience on the pictures you take.

A big thank you Gustavo, for your time and for this very interesting interview!

Dear readers, if you want to see more of Gustavo’s work, check out the links below”

Website |Instagram

You can also purchase his book “Maximum Shadow, Minimal Light” from Edition Lammerhuber

Follow us on Instagram too!

@the_raw_society | @jorgedelgadophoto | @christelle_enquist

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