“Photography alerts us concerning the fire we carry inside ourselves. Art is one of the most powerful resources to keep human beings evolving.“ says Alexandre Santos, a photographer from Brazil. In his photography project “em torno do quase * surrounding almost” he captured moments of the daily life of people from different cities and at the end it has lead to an investigation of the inner city. And I really like the message of it:
“Surrounding almost deals with the idea that we can only find home when we feel our own inner city.”
Alexandre, what does photography mean to you? It means my own way of learning about life. Without photography I totally lose my balance. While I go through getting all the pieces/images together, trying to reach a meaningful path, I do develop myself into a better person.
Do you have a photography related education or are you self-taught? When I bought my first camera at the Portobello Road Market (London), I didn’t have any education related to photography at all. I only understood the relationship between shutter speed and aperture by reading the monthly magazine Practical Photography. After organizing a project on British homeless people´s daily life I got myself admitted at the Kensington and Chelsea Adult Education College. There I was able to polish what had been inside of me.
Tell us a bit about this photography project of yours “Surrounding almost”. When did you start this project and is there a message that you want to bring across with it? When I left Brazil (1990) I was running away from the Brazilian dictatorship and also the one inflicted on me by myself. So it might not be a surprise having my first project on homeless´ people daily life, entitled “London, from the side without light” (1994). After learning I integrated other moments of the British daily life, enlarging the research to “In the lime lights of London” (1996). In the course of the next fourteen years the moments of the human daily life were expanded even more by incorporating four other cities: Brasília, Curitiba, Goiânia, Anápolis. This approach brought into life (2010) an investigation of the inner city. An (almost) invented city materialized on “Surrounding almost” by five cities’ daily lives. Since the moment I took my first picture, I have been building up the path to reach home. Albert Einstein teaches us that “mass warps space-time and warped space-time tells mass how to move”. The message on “Surrounding almost” deals with the idea that we can only find home when we feel our own inner city.
I like your pictures, because the person you photograph doesn’t seem to know that you are taking the picture, so it’s very natural and personal moments. Do you also photograph in a studio sometimes? Most of the time they don’t know I’m around. Some of the time they do know, but even then they always acted as if I wasn’t there. Most of the pictures had been taken in one or two frames. I must confess that the concentration for reaching that result had always been a difficult one.
“However, I grasped that the right moment to be photographed doesn’t wait for us. It moves with us.”
I only did a bit of studio at the Kensington and Chelsea College. But I don’t think it would be a difficult issue to deal with if one day I had to do so. After I shiver, honesty is my main commandment to reach the right image.
You have lived in London for some time and now you are back in Brazil. Do you miss Europe at times or are you happy to be living back home now? I lived in London for almost four years. In 1994 I was already back to Brazil. I miss Europe in the same way I miss any good memory. I take life as it comes. I always want to learn to make the best choices, wherever I am. I got on in life in London, I had my first photo exhibition in Curitiba, I fell in love for the first time in Brasília, I discovered myself ready to see and take pictures on color in Goiânia. I do not want to sound pathetic, but being able to feel life moving is so exuberant. Now is the time to live and picture the city I was born – Goiânia.
What or who inspires you? People inspire me. Whatever they are capable to be and do is my main inspiration.
Do you think art/photography can help to change society? Yes, I definitely do. In the same way we can keep enjoying, from earth, the sight of a shining star that has died already. After its real sight has died we are able to maintain that flame alive by looking at the photo taken from it. Photography alerts us concerning the fire we carry inside ourselves. Art is one of the most powerful resources to keep human beings evolving.
Five things you cannot live without? Take pictures – Watch movies – Read books – Listen to music – Have a nice chat with a loving companion and good friends.
If there was one thing in your life that you could change, what would that be? If I could go back and change something, I would like to have bought my own place. It took me too long to believe and understand my own photography art. Apart from that I think we can only have exactly the one thing we can tolerate.
The most important thing in life is? Seeing and feeling the love of the loved ones in their eyes. Especially when the one is wide open to my camera for recording it.
Alexandre, thanks for your time!
Interview by Sigrun Guggenberger