Multiple Worlds, Identity and Magic Realism on the Streets of Brazil : Maximum Shadow, Minimal Light by Gustavo Minas
Have you ever thought why one street photographer takes a particular shot which is then part of their personal photographic interpretation of the world, when another will willingly pass up on the same opportunity? It might be related to the street photographer looking for their own ‘identity’, though it also means that we live in ‘different personal worlds’ while simultaneously living in the same world – if you catch my drift?
It is really all about that particular street photographer’s eye for the shot. Of being ready and prepared and being ‘out there’, searching for that elusive photograph and looking for our own particular ‘Idaho’ in street photography. Our own personal journey of discovery and our own ‘identity’ – shooting the world – and its ‘multiple individual worlds’ as it goes about its multifaceted business.
I can’t help but think of ‘identity’ and ‘multiple worlds’ when I consider the work of Gustavo Minas’ and his new book ‘Maximum Shadow, Minimal Light’, a series of 95 photographs in 192 pages from the publisher, Edition Lammerhuber..
True, ‘Maximum Shadow, Minimal Light’, takes Gustavo toward his own ‘identity’ as a street photographer, but, more importantly, delights the rest of us in the process.
Minas, a journalist and freelance photographer, once studied with street photographer Carlos Moreira on the streets of mega city Sao Paulo. A feature of his development as a street photographer that eventually brought success.
In 2017 his work, Bus Station, won the POY Latam Award in the category ‘Future of the Cities’. In the same year Minas was also was included in the David Gibson curated collection: 100 Great Street Photographs.
‘Maximum Shadow, Minimal Light’ resonates with great shots carefully selected, as he worked the street, by the award winning street photographer. Shots hinting not only at location, a sense of place or what people are doing or appearing to do, but at Minas himself as a street photographer, and his use of shadow, light and all the reflective subtleties of the world around him.
I have questioned before if South American street photography gives us, with its vibrancy, colours and rhythms, a sense of magic realism?
“I’ve no pretensions about messaging anything,”
Gustavo Minas once said to me, as if reading my mind and circumnavigating any theories of identity, multiple worlds and/or magic realism.
“Photographs can have totally different meanings and incite totally different emotions and sensations in different persons. This is one of the things I love about photography: it’s ambiguous nature.”
Of course, he is right. How we interpret and what we see and feel in one frame of photography differs between different people. But he does not shake me off so easily.
For me, there is real ‘identity’ in Gustavo’s work and an intriguing real sense of ‘multiple worlds’ at play – I am still working on magic realism in street photography.
Copyright ⓒ Gustavo Minas
Copyright ⓒ Gustavo Minas
Copyright ⓒ Gustavo Minas
In one shot from ‘Maximum Shadow, Minimal Light’, called Bela Artes and taken in Sao Paulo, Brazil, it is the movement of the woman central to the photograph cutting across the scene, strident and confident, that attracts our focus. Moving from some unknown starting point to an anonymous destination somewhere distant she crosses our field of vision with her head in the world of whatever it is she is listening to on her headphones – she seems oblivious to the street photographer.
In addition to this woman in the foreground, Gustavo has also caught several actors in mid flow, going about their own individual business but now captured together in one frame, and from here the image unfolds.
Another lady is revealed passing at the other side of our central subject and it makes me think of a metaphor – of life flowing in different directions good and bad. Perhaps the woman is moving toward the first lady’s starting point?
In the background a third lady is seated and making a mobile phone call is also reflected several feet away in glass (or maybe she just exists in a parallel universe?) Meanwhile a man to her right, our left, puffs longingly on a cigarette.
In one frame shot on the streets of Sao Paulo are multiple individual worlds. Where is the woman in the foreground going? Where is the other woman headed? Who is the seated woman phoning and what could it be in connection with? What is the smoking man thinking as he takes a drag of his cigarette -‘I should really give up’?
“If I have a goal,” Gustavo once told me. “It is to inspire people to look at their boring daily lives with other eyes.”
‘In Maximum Shadow, Minimal Light’ Gustavo Minas succeeds in doing just that. It is full of some really great street work and it does make you think. His work IS inspiring and he does have that way of all great street photographers of pulling us into to these ‘multiple’, separate, and yet connected worlds, and we do so with fresh eyes.
This book is a wonderful album of street shots that can be looked at from many different angles.
We see the head of a pretty young girl above a glass partition. She is wearing a t-shirt with an image slightly distorted by the glass. At first we sense it is a fairly innocuous shot until we see the dark, shadowy figures on either side of the girl. Lurking menacingly and reflected by the glass, could those silhouettes be the darkness that foreshadows all our lives? Each and everyone of us never knowing – or being completely certain – of the future. Never knowing what could happen to change our lives in the very next instant, or what lies ahead for any of us.
But, I am fascinated, that in this shot, the sky reflected by the glass bisects the girl through her middle – ‘Heaven in the gut’? While to her right, the torso of another young lady, this time in a red dress is also reflected.
There is so much happening in this photograph – Moca e Reflexos – taken in Brasília, that we could easily take a few thousand words to properly analyse.
All these images, reflected in glass or otherwise, while sharing the same frame of photograph also exist in differing lives with different and distinct motivations and agendas, each of them trying to play out against all the other motivations and agendas of all the other people on the planet. Hold that thought…
I won’t deny that I am big fan of Gustavo Minas’ work, and, for me, ‘Maximum Shadow, Minimal Light’ adds to his reputation as one of the best street photographers around.
There is much to be found in this collection from the streets of South America. There is much to be had from this book: ‘Maximum Shadow, Minimal Light’. Multiple worlds, identity, magic realism and more, much, much more.
To Learn More, Visit Gustavo Minas