Dear Alex Cooke,
I'm a Brazilian photographer living in São Paulo and a member of the Fstoppers Community. I'm publishing my first photobook and thought it might be of your readers' interest to know about it. Here's why:
The pictures from Learning to Die were made by me between 2014 and 2017 and depict the audience of heavy rock concerts in its most different and extreme variations. The book is divided into three chapters and its photos relate obliquely to a short story 24-page booklet of the same name included in the book.
Made up with 42 black and white photographs throughout 64 pages in a 16 x 17.5 cm format, the book is printed on high-quality Italian paper by Ipsis Gafica, a reference in graphic quality and production of photography books in Brazil. All pictures, the story and the graphic design are made by myself.
The short piece Learning to Die tells the story of difficult times in the relationship between a man and his son following a troubled separation. A short summary:
Miguel believed he had the answers to most of life's questions and that he could control most of his own destiny. After separating from Pedro's mother, a woman affected by a psychiatric disorder who tries in many ways to undermine the relationship between him and his son, and struggling with a slow and ineffective judicial system, Miguel has to admit that this control doesn't exist.
In this story of many losses in which Miguel's life is shaken from all sides, he holds to anything he and his son share in common. If, for many fathers and sons, these moments of connection are linked to sports, for Miguel and Pedro they're in the chaos of a mosh pit.
I have a wide range of interests in Photography, but my heart lies mostly in the documentary field. I'm also an amateur musician and music fan, so it was natural for me to bring together my love for music and photography and start shooting concerts.
Every concert is a challenge. The musicians are always moving, the lighting is constantly changing and people are jumping and dancing around you. Even when you can predict that moment when the musician will make the right pose or face, you always have to count on luck to get a good photo. I love it.
I started a blog, two years ago, where I used to post my concert photos along with small reviews (https://fotografistademusica.wordpress.com/ - in Portuguese). With time, I created another publication, this time in English, where I do the same, attempting to bring attention to some outstanding Brazilian musicians and bands (https://medium.com/brazilian-stages).
In 2015 (before creating the blogs), I was shooting the concert of the American thrash metal band Exodus in São Paulo. The audience was particularly wild and I was being shaken a lot, so my attention was drawn to them. By the end of the concert, when the band played the song "Strike of the beast", the audience performed the "wall of death", an event in which the crowd splits up into two columns and, after a countdown, the columns run at each other. It was amazing. From that time on, half of the pictures I shot on every metal concert I attended to was made facing the crowd instead of the stage. With time, it grew to a photo essay and then to a photobook.
There are other (but surprisingly not too many) photography projects about people that attend to rock concerts. My project has some singularities, though.
First, there's a dialogue between images and text. The photobook and the booklet are two separate bodies of work that stand by themselves but have a connection, each chapter of one corresponding to a section of the other. This conversation is more about mood than description.
Second, the photos explore the ambiguity inherent to the nature of Photography in which an image can be one thing or another entirely different, even opposed. This ambiguous nature leaves to the readers the translation of the sensations they get from each piece according to their own background.
As a reference, two similar works exploring the interconnection between Photography and words I could mention are House of Coates, by Brad Zellar and Alec Soth and Love on the Left Bank, by Ed Van Der Elsken.
Most pictures were made with a Nikon D610 with a Sigma 24-70mm 2.8 DG HSM, my go-to lens, but some were made with 24 and 35mm Nikon lenses on the same camera and with a Canon G-12. To get the wild and sometimes spooky looks of most of the photos, I used slow shutter speeds and the lowest ISO possible according to light conditions. It was tricky to get the right shutter speed due to the changing lights.
Additional interesting facts:
- The crowd seems very aggressive and the violence seems real, but it's rare that somebody gets hurt. In spite of the aggressive faces and gestures, it's all a cathartic experience where everybody goes to the show to scream and let their inner energy flows freely. I've seen on a number of times somebody falling to the floor and people around stopping moving to help the person getting up.
- To get these photos, I usually stand right into the pit. I try to stand by its borders to avoid being pushed or kicked. Even so, it's frequent that I get caught in the frenzy. It's not a war zone, but it has its risks.
- I composed, played and recorded the music for the videos related to the campaign. I'm not a heavy metal musician, so I had to learn some chops to get it right. It was fun.
- I also created an Instagram account where I'm posting pictures that didn't make it to the book. I'm posting one picture a day until 2019.07.13, the World Rock Day. https://www.instagram.com/365rockheadz/