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From the Madeira de Lei (Hardwood) series / Courtesy of Pedro David
From the Madeira de Lei (Hardwood) series / Courtesy of Pedro David
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The Clash of Man and Nature: An Interview with Brazilian Artist Pedro David

Picture of Georganne Hassell
Updated: 18 February 2017
The overtaking of nature by urbanization is no easy subject in Brazil, but it’s one Pedro David has taken on with an unflinching lens. He dedicates his work to exploring the relationship between humans and their environment, and creates stunning, contemplative photos. Here is Culture Trip’s interview with this talented Brazilian photographer and visual artist.

How did you get started in photography?

“During my childhood I saw, and participated in my parents’ introduction to photography. They had a manual film camera and loved to experience the entire process, from taking photos of our weekends to developing films in our kitchen and enlarging photos in an improvised darkroom in the back room of the apartment we lived in. I remember that I couldn’t follow the entire process as they developed the film at night, and when I woke up the next morning I used to examine the hanging copies in the bathroom. And some time later, they started to introduce me to the camera’s techniques. That experience marked me deeply, and years later, when I was supposed to choose a profession, photography came first.”

From the Homem Pedra (Stone Man) Series / Courtesy of Pedro David
From the Homem Pedra (Stone Man) series | Courtesy of Pedro David

Where do you find the inspiration for your series?

“In the contemporary issues, the history of art, and my own experiences and feelings. So, art is for me a way to talk about our time, the world we live in, and the way we try to find ourselves in this place.”

From the series Aluga-se (For Rent) / Courtesy of Pedro David
From the series Aluga-se (For Rent) | Courtesy of Pedro David

What do you hope to convey in your work?

“I hope to call people to discuss their lives. To think about how they are living, what they are doing with their life, and with the world, and the Earth.”

From the series O Jardim (The Garden) / Courtesy of Pedro David
From the series O Jardim (The Garden) | Courtesy of Pedro David

You have dedicated yourself to, “the interpretation of the relationship between people and their environment, in its various forms and contexts.” Can you explain this?

“I use photography to try to find myself and my place. To find the meaning of life. To understand what are we here for. And at the same time, how do we deal with the places we pass by and live in. I’m always thinking about the physical and mental aspects. My work always has at least these two forms of reading and interpreting. So, when I try to deal with the neighborhood I am living in, of the apartments I visit to choose a new one to rent (such as the Garden, and For Rent series), I’m being objective because I need to create the art, and also subjective because I’m also dealing with the ontology question of who, where, why and how we are. And I want to put all of this in my work.”

From the series O Jardim (The Garden) / Courtesy of Pedro David
From the series O Jardim (The Garden) | Courtesy of Pedro David

Do you have a favorite photo or series that you’ve taken?

“All of my series are extremely important for me, because any one series is an attempt to keep going, to reach that meaning I’m talking about. So, each series reflects the questions I’m elaborating on in each moment.

“I have a special care for the first one, Route Root, because it was a kind of rite-of-passage from the adolescence/childhood to adult age. And it is also a trip collection around the Brazilian countryside, specifically the Jequitinhonha Valley, a region which my parents passed by a lot in my childhood. Making this series was a kind of dream come true for me, because I always thought about, and even planned to grow up and travel along that region making my own photos.

“The Hardwood series is also very important, because it opened a door for me in the contemporary art scene, and is one of the main selling works today, which brings me the bigger part of my income.”

From the series Rota Raiz (Root Route) / Courtesy of Pedro David
From the series Rota Raiz (Route Root) | Courtesy of Pedro David

You’re also a visual artist. What other kinds of projects outside of photography have you done?

“I call myself ‘visual artist’ because I see the photography I make as something more open to interpretation than simply photography. And my activity is wider than taking photos. I’m designing and assembling artist books, planning all the installations of my exhibitions and beginning to make bronze sculptures of found objects.”

Unnamed Sculpture / Courtesy of Pedro David
Unnamed sculpture | Courtesy of Pedro David

What advice would you give new photographers and artists just beginning their career?

“I think it’s very important to pay attention to the world, what’s happening abroad and inside your community. To pay attention to a wide variety of artistic expressions, and to always have courage to row against the tides.”

From the series Improváveis (Improbable) / Courtesy of Pedro David
From the series Improváveis (Improbable) | Courtesy of Pedro David

What projects are next for you as an artist?

“I’m trying to find resources to publish a book of my series 360 Square Meters, and I am photographing for another series, Red Earth. I am also experimenting with a series of photographs called On Experience. For next projects, I’m planning to approach the iron mining question, that is something that is running into a big problem in Brazil right now. I’m personally experiencing this problem, as I’m living near two huge mines. I’m also trying to figure out how can I set a work to talk openly about the coup d’etat we are experiencing in the country. The political question is totally out of control and no one knows what can happen in the near future.”

From the series 360 Metros Quadrados (360 Square Meters) / Courtesy of Pedro David
From the series 360 Metros Quadrados (360 Square Meters) | Courtesy of Pedro David
From the series Red Earth / Courtesy of Pedro David
From the series Red Earth | Courtesy of Pedro David
From the series Madeira de Lei (Hardwood) / Courtesy of Pedro David
From the series Madeira de Lei (Hardwood) | Courtesy of Pedro David