Sao Paulo photographer Gustavo Lacerda made waves across the Internet for his delicate, haunting portrait series Albinos. We sat him down to ask what spurred on this project.
I’m a Brazilian photographer. I was born in 1970 in Belo Horizonte. I live and work in Sao Paulo.
Tell us the idea behind the Albinos series – what attracted you to it?
For some years, albinism and its peculiar beauty arouse my attention. Since the beginning of 2009, I’ve been researching the universe of albinos and trying to bring them to the front of the camera. I chose the posed studio portrait – I was seeking to mystify the production process with costumes, hair, makeup and backgrounds. The idea was to put them clearly in the forefront, which is a new situation for those who have always been an outsider.
How do most of your sitters feel?
This focus caused them discomfort in the beginning, but at the same time they’re proud too. Trying to capture this mixture of sensations has been a major challenge and there arises the essence of the work.
Who was the first albino you knew/photographed and how did you meet?
The first people I met were Flavio and Fernanda, an albino couple. They met through social networks and in a very short time they decided to get married. When I invited them to my project, they were happy because I decided to meet them in a special moment, on the day of Fernanda’s bridal fitting.
How did you convince so many people to sit for you?
At the beginning of the project it was very difficult. Most of them had never been photographed in a studio. They did not consider themselves beautiful and didn’t understand why anyone would put them as the center of attention, so the first step was to get them to trust me. Trying to explain their unique beauty really interested me and that was what I wanted to show i
n the photos.
What was the photographing process for this project – did you ask sitters to turn up in their own clothes, did you direct them, etc?
An important thing in the project was to make people feel really special. I was careful with the costumes, the hair and makeup. Even the background of the photos was something specifically designed for every skin tone.
How did you get people to relax in front of your camera?
I think there is no formula for this. I’m human like everyone and have a thousand doubts and fears. But I always try to be honest and let things flow naturally. Sometimes, for example, the tension caused by my own shyness brings something interesting to work.
What was the first photo you remember taking and what did it look like?
One of the first pictures I remember doing was a picture of a little horse on a carousel at an amusement park. Funny that it happened more than 20 years ago!
What else are you working on?
I’m currently finalising this project. Recently I’ve been photographing many albinos on a remote island in the extreme north of Brazil, where there is one of the highest incidences of albinism.
Words: Zing Tsjeng