Michelle Bastos | Brasília, Brazil

Hello Michelle, thanks a lot for submitting your work. Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and how you got into photography?

I currently live and work in Brasília, where I was born. I am a Political Scientist and have a Bachelor of Arts (Drama). I believe that the double qualification had a lot of influence in my work, both form and conceptually. I mainly work with political themes (understanding as political especially the micro politics). The Drama comes to my images as performance and intensity.

As a background, I have a grandmother originally from Karajá´s native indigenous group. As many Brazilians, I came from a multi ethnic family, what means having European, African and Native Indigenous blood.

I am very interested in my background, what made me living in some Indigenous villages in order to understand more about their way of life. I am developing some photographic projects in those villages, which probably will not be seen in the art world because the images produced are on their own.

I got a specialization in Portrait and Visual Identity at Speos Paris Photographic Institute in 2011. Since there I started my own research about portraits, what became the main topic of my work. Currently, I research and work about what I call as “analogies of the portrait”. I am developing ways of portraying people without working with the traditional concept of a portrait. 

A few years ago, I won a partial scholarship at Istituto Europeo di Design of Madrid, where I concluded a Master Degree in Fine Art Photography.

My first experience in photography was between 2004 and 2007 when I wrote and published a book about the Brazilian actress Dulcina de Moraes and worked with her photographic archive, with photos from 1906 to 1996. The book was published by LGE Editors, having as title “Dulcina de Moraes- Memórias de um Teatro Brasileiro”.

At last but not least, I am Feminist! Considering how a woman lives in Brazil, that couldn´t be different.

You submitted your project about lines, mistakes and absences - shot in seven small villages in the middle of nothing in Brazil. Compared to your other work this one is very colourful and abstract. How did you come up with the idea?

I was portraying people on those villages when I realized that traditionally the locals paint their own homes, choosing 2 different colours and dividing the house façade horizontally. There is a kind of pattern, an own way to understanding what is the beauty.

Therefore, I considered that those walls, painted by the residents, keep a strong relation with their own skin. What their understanding as “me” was mixed with what their understanding as “home”. For me, the close of walls has a strong relation with portrait. Somehow, that is a portrait too.

Can you explain to us how people live in these villages? 

The year of 2017 is been an atypical for all Brazilians. Recently we had a Coup to the democratic State, what had negatives impacts for all Brazilians, especially the population socially vulnerable, mostly concentrated in rural areas (when they are not big unproductive landowners, what is common in Brazil), mostly black or Indigenous (related to Brazilian historical process of Slavery and Colonization).

In most villages, local people are missing everything: jobs, education access to health care and even hope. Somehow, I met people extremely positive about life and future. I learned a lot of them. Considering that I can´t do a lot about jobs, education and health care at least I can do something about hope. On my next trip, I will teach locals what I know about photography and social female protagonist.

You said that there is a tight relation between the walls of the houses and the skin of the local people… What do you mean by that?

I meant that I see that walls and skin tell the same story about their owners. Every mark, spot, wrinkle or disruption are related to an experience of life. Walls and skin are the same covers to the same subject.

It is so amazing to see that people want to express themselves, - how they want to be seen by colour painting their houses.

I think sometimes the less you have, the more creative you’ll get. Would you agree?

Most houses are built and painted with few resources. In cases where the owner can pay at least for the dye and the tape to mark a perfect line between colours, they get closer to the beautiful pattern. In cases where the owner has no financial way to pay for those materials, they improvise with donations of the rest of dye, clay or whitewash.

What is your intention with this project?

Initially, my intention with this project was to understand how life is in deep Brazil. 

Brazil has a population of 200.000.000 people, including different ethnic, social condition and strong regional differences.

I live in the capital, what makes me having a social experience - mostly the same. Because of that, I was wondering if I really know my country. That was the main reason to explore deep Brazil. I had met places that I never imagined before. Even for me, Brazil keeps been a big surprise in every small trip I do.

Tell us a bit about the photography scene in Brazil. Is there any work of female photographers you can recommend?

As many other countries, there are more male than female photographers and artists in galleries, biennales, art halls, prizes, grants and festivals.

This year the group “Yvy Mulheres da Images” was created by Brazilian women working in images - not only photographers, in order to get more space for the woman in the art world. The group wish to get gender equality in all fields of art/image.

Between the big list of Brazilian photographers who I admire I could say those names: Ana Lira, Elza Lima, Virgínia de Medeiros, Aleta Valente, Rosangela Renno, Marizilda Cruppe, Nair Benedicto, Cláudia Andujar, Maureen Bisilliat (Brazilian citizen), Berna Reale, Luisa Dörr, Musa Mattiuzzi (who is not exactly a photographer, but a performer who uses photography in her work) and from Brasília I recently know and admire the work of Julia Milward and Dalia Hofmann. 

Are you already planning other photographic projects?

I am always planning and doing something new in photography. My hyperactive personality keeps me working on more than one project at once.

You can find more about Michelles work by clicking here.