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.

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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.

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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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