Streets in Focus: Manuela Costa Lima, São Paulo

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Streets in Focus: Manuela Costa Lima, São Paulo

Manuela Costa Lima, 28, was born and raised in São Paulo. She got interested in photography during dark room workshops at FAU (Architecture and Urbanism College) where she is currently completing her major. Manuela uses an analog camera to register scenes that she "wouldn't know how to build." The architecture also appears, unconsciously, she says, at the crops, shapes and lines of her images. She has married recently and lately has been photographing her new home and the life with her husband. When asked about photographers that inspires her, she cites guys like Stephen Shore and William Eggleston. "Even when I don't want to, I feel their influence."

You can see more of Manuela's work on her Cargo Collective page.

See Streets in Focus, London here and Streets in Focus, NYC here.

Was there anything about growing up between São Paulo and a farm that led you to become a photographer?

Perhaps growing up between such different homes has fostered a special curiosity for places in me. But there's another thing that actually happens a lot in my photos - I seek in these urban chaotic scenarios a bit of the silence I find in the countryside. Just like Marco Polo in Calvino's "Invisible Cities," he's been to all these cities, but he always sees Venice in them.

You are also trained as an architect. Can you discuss how this discipline intersects with photography to influence your work?

I believe architecture is very present in my work. It didn't take me long to find out I would never be an architect, but all these years studying architecture has influenced me a lot in the way I compose my images. The lines, the fragmented framings, the obsession with color. There's a lot from a Paulista architect's eye in that.

Part of your technique involves going to unfamiliar parts of the city and discovering them through photography. Can you tell us more about this process?

I'm certainly not the only photographer that seeks out unfamiliarity. It's part of being what we are, curious people. But going to strange unfamiliar places has really become a very good way to shoot my photos. I started with this technique in São Paulo, but nowadays I do it everywhere I go. There's a whole world hidden and it's wonderful to discover it. I remember being in Saint Petersburg and doing the same thing, taking the metro to its final north station. It was a beautiful evening and I arrived in an amusement park, strange and beautiful, just nearby the sea of north. It was another city, young, colorful and light, very very different from what I've seen downtown. But São Paulo, where I have more time to explore, is where the most amazing things happen. The city behind the post cards is way more interesting than the known one.

São Paulo is one of the biggest cities in the world. What was the last thing you discovered hiding in plain sight in your home town?

It happens very often, and that's why I try to always carry my compact camera with me. Many times I find interesting scenes, nice hidden places during my plain city walks. Yesterday I was walking to work and found this Japanese food shop on the street. All kinds of Japanese pastas, sauces and snacks were there. Just like a shop in Liberdade - a very interesting neighborhood where most of the Japanese who came to São Paulo live. It was raw and lovely at the same time, I quite enjoyed that. I also think walking has a lot to do with these discoveries. When I'm walking, my perception of the city becomes much stronger than when I'm traveling by bus or by car.

You are working on more personal, portrait photography as well. Can you talk about how people and places interact in your work?

I've been always very much into places, and actually when I started shooting I would even run away from people. I would wait up to five minutes to shoot that empty space I wanted. But I've started to miss people in my images, and that's when I began to shoot these more personal portraits. Today, I am very interested in this relation between people and places. We can see a lot from the city in that. There are also the stories behind them - I generally try to shoot some mysterious scenes, not shooting the whole scene helps me with that. I love it when people see my photos and imagine what's been going on there.

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