Beyond Rio: Taking to the Streets of São Paulo with Rodrigo Vieira
By Brogues - 7 min read
“You have to work hard to see beauty in these streets.”
Based in São Paulo, Rodrigo Vieira is a Creative Art Director with a deep-set dedication to photography – above all when it comes to capturing his native Brazil. Though the country attracted mainstream media attention earlier this year – with all eyes on Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics – Rodrigo prefers to cast his lens on its lesser publicized angles.
The talented community member recently took to the stage on our Instagram account @eyeemphoto, sharing his compelling photos and their accompanying narratives for three days.
Curious to delve further into what makes him click the shutter every day, we chatted to Rodrigo about his strikingly candid take on photography that allows for unseen insights into his local streets – and the distinctive characters inhabiting them.
Hi Rodrigo – thank you so much for your thoughtfully curated takeover! It’s clear to see that you have a real affinity towards your city, São Paulo. What makes it such a captivating place?
Well, I was born in São Paulo and I have lived in this city all my life. What fascinates me is the diversity, both in terms of its people and landscapes. You can see a beautiful, modern skyline and a small town set of houses – all in the same neighborhood.
“People are much more interesting to photograph than landscapes”
Your observation that “you have to work hard to see beauty in these streets” was particularly memorable during the takeover. Could you expand on this a little? How has living and shooting every day in such a place shaped your photography?
São Paulo is not a beautiful city like Rio de Janeiro. São Paulo is cold, it’s gray. Living in São Paulo is like living in different cities inside a big one. But that doesn’t mean that the city is ugly. Sure, it has parts that are really ugly. But it has very beautiful parts too. You have to know São Paulo to shoot exactly what you want.
You’ve definitely found your personal niche in street photography. What initially drew you towards this style?
I started like everybody, shooting buildings and beautiful places. Luckily for me, I realized very early on that my city has an element that would be impossible for me to avoid: people. In my opinion, people are much more difficult to take pictures of than landscapes or nature. For the same reason, they’re much more interesting too. When I realized that, I fell in love with street photography.
“People will scream at you – it comes with the job”
The nature of your work requires you to get up close and personal with strangers, often very spontaneously. How do you interact with such diverse characters in a respectful way that avoids hostility, but also gets you the shot “in the moment”?
To be honest, I almost never interact with the people I photograph. When I shoot in the streets I never stop, and I smile a lot. I’ve made a lot of friends in the streets. And I’ve never made any enemies. I think that means something.
Have you had any particularly memorable experiences with the people you’ve captured (good or bad)?
I’ve had bad experiences, especially at the beginning. Fortunately, I’ve always had much more good experiences than bad ones. You have to understand: People will scream at you, complain etc. It comes with the job!
While you mostly capture the streets of São Paulo in a raw and unconcealed way, you also spoke about your fascination with masks and the nonsensical. How did that come about?
It actually all started with a job, but now using masks with my street photography has kind of become a trademark. Of course there is the humorous element. It’s really fun to shoot the masks in the street! But there is also a feeling of discomfort when we see a stranger wearing a mask. It is this feeling of discomfort that interests me.
“I’m always looking for a story”
Although you shoot in both color and black and white, you seem to approach the two quite differently. Could you tell us more about that?
Basically, what determines whether a photo should or should not be in color is the light. If the light is bad, it’s easier to shoot in black and white, so I try to focus on finding good characters. If the light is good, it’s easier to shoot in color, so I look for situations involving light and shadow. Simple as that.
“You need to make all the obstacles in your mind disappear”
In both cases, I look for a story – I prefer a set of good photos than a unique, fantastic one (although a fantastic photo is always good too).
What advice would you give to someone who also wants to get into street photography?
The best advice I can give to someone who is starting to shoot on the streets is: You have to know this is a serious job and you are not doing anything wrong. When you really believe that, all the obstacles in your mind will disappear. You are documenting your people and your city – do you have any reason to be ashamed of it? I don’t think so.
Want to stay in-the-loop about future takeovers or have your own suggestions for EyeEm talents you’d like to see host a takeover?Headover to @eyeemphotoon Instagram, we always love to hear from you.