Out of the half million people expected to visit Brazil, the first South American nation to host the Olympics, few will make it their mission to see the people, sites and Candomblé rituals of the favela communities of Salvador in the Northeastern state of Bahia. Unless, you have been enticed to by the Instagram-exhibited works of self-taught Photographer and Architecture student, Guilherme Malaquias.
In deeply dense black-and-white and vividly saturated hues, Guilherme Malaquias’ body of work explores the people of his native Bahia as they engage with their surroundings, capturing beauty in everyday life. The twenty-eight year old’s work has attracted a global following thanks to Instagram, where Malaquias uploads striking, sensitively profound and zestful depictions of life in Salvador, Bahia.
In conversation with Guilherme Malaquias, I get to know more about the man who holds a lens to the community he so evidently loves and his thoughts on Brazil hosting the forthcoming Olympic Games amidst a whirlwind of sociopolitical controversy and economic challenges.
How did you get into photography?
I began shooting in adolescence with the emergence of the first digital cameras. Under the influence of existing social networks at the time, photoblogs, I exercised my gaze which matured over time. I consider photography my best form of expression.
You studied Architecture, how do the architectural skills learnt influence your photography?
My academic background in Architecture has made me mature in my art and to see the relationship of people with the spaces in which they inhabit. It has made me stay aware of the compositions necessary to have a positive aesthetic effect on the whole: lighting, framing, colours. Factors that are also the pillars of good architecture.
How would you describe your aesthetic or approach to photography?
I believe in eternal process. I can shoot one way today and next week it changes completely. I go after what I’m feeling right now. I aim for my photography to have substance, so I like to photograph people and their relationships with space to tell a story. I create through lived moments, experiences and interactions.
The moments lived undoubtedly are the most important, but the recognition we receive is the fuel to continue.
What would be your favourite photo you’ve taken?
It is hard to say… I like the photographs taken in Gamboa, a small community in my city of Salvador. The place has taught me to look at other perspectives of life. It is where I see the most substance in my photos.
What was the best moment of your career so far?
Late last year, I was invited to an exhibition in Brasilia by Instagram where I could talk to the Secretary of Human Rights and tell of my experience in lived spaces. The moments lived undoubtedly are the most important, but the recognition we receive is the fuel to continue.
Do you think a formal education in photography is necessary to become a great photographer?
No. I think that Art is freedom of expression and I believe the same for Photography.
What are you most inspired by?
My city, Salvador in Bahia, inspires me the most.
Brazil recently made international news because of allegations of corruption and recession. You see a visible effect on the people you photograph?
People living in low-income communities are visibly having access to materials and consumer goods that were previously not within reach. This is very positive in a country where inequality is quite considerable and in turn makes the government target another segment of society.
How do you feel about the Olympics being held in Brazil this year?
I think it’s not the best time for an event of this magnitude happen in our country. We went through major political, social and economic conflicts. Public money, in my opinion, should have been invested in basic needs of the country: education, health and basic infrastructure.
What are some of the best things about where you live?
I enjoy anything that has substance and history. The religious manifestations of Candomblé and Catholicism are our greatest wealth— of culture, ancestry and faith.
Some of your images bare resemblance to fashion photography, is that a genre you would like to expand to?
I love the fashion photography. Certainly, I believe in the possibility of me to deepen in this field.
What are your goals for the rest of 2016 and beyond?
I’m at the end of an academic degree in Architecture. My goal after the completion of this process is to continue with Photography, combined with my knowledge of architecture, and risk the possibilities that arise.
Where should we expect to see your work in the future?
The future is uncertain. I have chosen to let things flow naturally and enter the paths that appear in front of me. Hopefully my photography reaches many people.