Capturing Space, Color, and Light in Sao Paulo: Street Photography by Gustavo Minas

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Gustavo Minas is a street photographer based in Sao Paulo, Brazil and part of the Street-Photographers and the SelvaSP collective.

Gustavo: Hi there, I’m a 32 years old guy born in Cassia, a small town in Brazilian countryside, now living in Sao Paulo. I first got interested in photography during my journalism course at uni, around 2001. Maybe a bit earlier, as I drew a lot as a child, roughly, and photographed school parties with a point and shoot.

After university, I lived in London for 1 year, working as a waiter and just spending time. I bought a handycam with miniDV tapes and started filming everything around, later editing with Windows Movie Maker. I was inspired by those late boring Godard movies, which are mostly about apparently random images. These were the origins of my street photography, as the process was about the same – wandering alone and watching people.

net bolha thermas laranjais olimpia 28 12 2013

I went back to Brazil in 2007 and a friend arranged me a job as a business journalist in a popular newspaper. It was boring as hell and it was killing me, so I started photographing to try and make my life a bit less boring (that’s the reason I’ve been photographing so far, I suppose). I shot everything: long exposures, landscapes, macros– every kind of crap.

Photography was a great excuse to explore a city I didn’t know very well. As an outsider I had the idea that Sao Paulo was dangerous and unfriendly, and through photography I realized that it wasn’t true – not always. But my photos were still very bad.

net senhora no mar morto thermas laranjais olimpia 28 12 2013

Then in 2009 I enrolled in Carlos Moreira course. He’s been photographing Sao Paulo since the 60’s, and was (still is) a master in every sense. I can’t describe how much I learned from him. In the second semester, after studying BW masters, he showed us Harry Gruyaert, amongst other colorists, who’s been my main influence in terms of composition, use of light and shadows, space and color.

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Time passed by, I shot obsessively for 3 years, mostly in my hometown and Sao Paulo. I didn’t look for any specific subject matter, I was simply attracted by the effect of low sun light over urban surfaces. If I had something interesting going on in the frame, fine, but I wasn’t after any curious events or anything.


Nowadays I’m a bit more relaxed about photography, and I tend to think that photos themselves are slightly overrated: in the end of the day, it’s the fun you have and the person you are which counts, as well as the relations you build through photography, the way you interact with the city and its people, the odd experiences you have because you decided to leave home to wander around with a camera. It’s not about the photographs, but about the photographer, Carlos used to say.


I’m still an amateur photographer and I pay my bills working as an image researcher. Now and then I shoot weddings for couples who don’t want wedding photographers, it’s been fun. This is the only way I get paid by doing street photography.

Eric asked me to give some advice for beginners, but I believe that the whole process must be very natural and personal – besides, I still consider myself a beginner. Technical aspects and compositions can be taught in 2 lessons. Here are two tips I would give:

1. There’s a quote from Otto Stupakoff that could do: “When entering a forest, choose the darkest path! That hardest one with no signs! If you’re gifted, you’ll find a pearl instead of a dragon.” I like this quote a lot, because I think that a gift is something you can build up.

2. Another important thing is faith. It might sound a bit mystic, but if you walk around thinking that nothing will happen, that’s what you’ll get.

Novo livro no Blurb:

I’m a member of two collectives, Street Photographers and SelvaSP. I’m learning a lot from both, they’re a great way to deal with the solitary nature of street photography.


Unfortunately I haven’t met anyone in person from street photography. Our communication’s completely virtual, but it’s still stimulating following their work, and we know we can count on ourselves as a source of honest feedback whenever we need.


My experience with my fellows of SelvaSP has been closer. We started with 6 guys in May 2012, and now we’re around 13, and counting. Our “philosophy” is not only to do street photography, but to bring it back to the streets.

Now and then we stick prints onto the walls of Sao Paulo streets, and it’s great seeing how people react to them. We post 3-5 photos daily on our Facebook fan page , and it’s interesting interacting with people who recognize themselves or their friends in the images.


We also do some slideshows projections at public spaces and parties, and we’re planning new ways of returning photos to the city. Our current website is very bad, so within the next months we’ll try to set up a new one via crowdfunding.

All our photos are under Creative Commons, so the idea is having a public contemporary archive of Sao Paulo. We’ve put together a collection of our images in a Blurb, you can see it here.

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We’re having the World Cup here in June, and we recently had a lot of violent protests in Brazil, so we’re expecting intense events within the next months. Also, we have a project called Oficina (Workshop), which basically consists of us hanging out through Sao Paulo streets at night and shooting.


The aim is to develop a huge collective body of work about Sao Paulo nightlife and having fun. I’m 10 years older than the youngest one of us, and I’m amazed to see how the guys can get wonderful, crazy and innovative photos being completely pissed.

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  • Chris L

    Love your colour and sense of composition. Superb work. I live in the UK and your photographs really give a sense of your place and the people who live their lives there. I love really good street photography, but its susually where great colour composition and some personal touch clicks together to make a memorable image. Sadly I don’t have that touch yet and I’m only just really learning about what it takes to create really great images. But your photographs are inspiring.

  • Kyerion Printup

    Great interview and choice of photographers for this blog post. He has a strong portfolio, reminiscent of Constatine Manos’ American Color 2. Good stuff and very inspirational.

  • igorschutz

    We have so few street photographers in Brazil, that it makes even more surprisely that Gustavo is one of the best contemporary street photographers, IMHO.

    His work is incredibly consistent for someone who has so little practice time, and the immense amount of good photos that he posts on his social networks, makes it seem like it’s easy to play the game of light and shadow in which he is a master.

    Who lives here in Brazil, especially in São Paulo, and has minimal experience with the practice of street photography knows that it is not easy to gather the beautiful images he shows us almost daily.

    I’m a big fan of his work and I’m glad to see it displayed here in Eric’s site. He deserves all the success and exposure he is receiving.

    Congratulations Gustavo, and keep up the good work!

    • Marty Cutter

      I echo your thoughts, igorschutz. Also a fan of Gustavo’s work and he truly is one of the premiere street shooters in the world–bar none. Always a pleasure to view his images and take great pleasure from his superb compositions, critical eye and, of course, the wonderful use of color, light and shadow. Happy to see Gustavo is receiving well-deserved recognition!

  • Gabriel

    The master of our daily amateur photography!

  • Gustavo

    Thanks a lot, guys, and thanks Eric to the opportunity.

  • 8gNYC

    Off the topic. Eric – Were you in NYC last Monday ? Bumping into me in Starbucks, and asked what lens I had. (I had 50mm) ?

    • Jaibo Wang

      No, that wasn’t Eric. But it was me!! :)

  • James

    Just curious. How many pictures do you have in flickr hcsp pool? And have you ever submitted your pictures for critique on Flickr hcsp?

    • Giovanni

      Flickr hcsp is a cesspool. No sane street photographer would want to be in that pool. The critics led by Justin are a narcissistic bunch.

    • Jaibo Wang

      Most of G’s street pictures won’t make into Flickr hcsp as they are not candid.

  • iAwani

    i read about Gustavo before, i was surprised he was being featured in this blog. I really admire his work.

  • Mat

    Gustavo’s got a great eye, I can definitely see Gruyaert’s influence on his work ( one of my fav photographers), but he’s quite versatile too.. keep up the good work, man.

  • Joe

    Really fantastic photos and very inspiring. I’d be fascinated to know how you (Gustavo) go about your post processing. I’m viewing these photos on a laptop and even so the colours are so vivid, how do you decide where to draw the line in terms of saturation? :D

  • João Almeida

    I really enjoyed how Gustavo used color in a very clever way. Congrats to him!

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  • Nobruskt

    Estou sempre acompanhando o trabalho dele , muito bom !

  • Snan

    Great post. Thanks for your thoughts!