Brazilian photographer Rafael Pavarotti is known for his eccentric and sensitive approach to image making; he meticulously builds stories in his work, carefully analysing composition, colour and light as he does so. Having photographed for magazines like Vogue and i-D, and collaborated with fashion retailers from Matches to Browns, Pavarotti has accrued an impressive client list in the recent years. Referencing his own life experiences as themes in his practice, the photographer’s work is imbued with earnest emotion, existing to convey a message. To learn more about Pavarotti’s work, life and how he’s been handling the lockdown, Something Curated spoke with the remarkable photographer.
Can you give us some insight into your background; how did you enter this field?
Sometimes it is painful to look at my past, but on the other hand it brings back good memories and lots of good laughs until this day. I grew up in a small town in the interior of the Amazon surrounded by nature, bathing in Rio, walking barefoot through the forest, making houses in the trees with my friends and eating fruits above the trees. I grew up in a family of great strong women; I was raised by my grandmother while my parents worked. She taught me a lot of what I know today, about love, about going after what makes me happy and about not letting people be hard on me for being who I am.
When I was 12 years old I found out where my father hid his analogue camera, and I started taking it to school without him knowing. I used to make a money collection with my friends to buy films and then we went to the beach or invaded abandoned buildings to photograph, it was always such a great adventure. My friends asked to photograph me too, so there arose a very strong desire to be a model, I tried to venture into some castings, but after an invitation from a friend to accompany her on a shoot she would do, I changed my mind again. After seeing her photographing all day long, I felt that I could not escape it; it was something that was already beating in my heart since the first time I took that camera from my father and printed my first films.
I don’t know how to explain what I felt, I knew that that would be my life. After that everything unfolded very spontaneously. At the age of 16, I decided to leave home for the big cities to try to live on photography – my grandmother was the first person who heard about it. I was afraid to speak to my parents, but I took courage and told them. They did not let me leave the house. I had to insist and I told them that this would be my only chance to live my dreams. My father decided to let me go, but he said he would not help me with anything, he said that from that moment on I would take responsibility for my own life. So I left the Amazon at 16 years old and with R$115,00 (£18.00), full of desire to live my dreams. Today, here I am, 10 years later venturing out, creating, playing, existing and resisting the world.
What are you currently working on and how has the pandemic affected the way you work?
Currently I am taking time to rest, to take care of myself, to read, to see all the movies that I have not had time to before. I am also working on personal projects that I will put in motion as soon as everything goes back to work safely for all of us. I am working remotely at home and it has been very good, I am finding survival in other places within my work and it has been very experimental and questioning for me. I am realising other possibilities already present but never explored before.
What interests you in the themes you explore in your work?
Everything interests me, because everything I portray, most of the time, is a reflection of what I have lived, what I live, and what I want to live one day. Whether politically, socially or utopically, it is about today and tomorrow. Much of what I do today is for the next generations to come and for those who are not yet born. I want racialised children to grow up with reference to multiplicity where they can see themselves. Part of what I bring in my work is about addressing this absence of Black representation in the world’s historical narrative.
Can you tell us about your collaborative relationship with Ibrahim Kamara?
My collaborative relationship with Ib is about many exchanges of life, friendship, love and art. We give our all when we are going to create a story together, we have a true love for the things we create and the desire to take these messages to our community and to the world. It takes a lot of responsibility, and it’s beautiful to be able to share that with him, what we are doing today is creating a legacy for the next generation that will not grow with the absence of representation in the history of photography.
You have a very sensitive approach to capturing colour – could you expand on this?
Whenever someone asks me about my colours, I tell them that they are inspired by my grandmother’s colourful crockery. I grew up with her, passionate about the composition of colours in her house, even today when I visit her I am delighted with the arrangement of colours around the house. It is undoubtedly what inspires me the most today. My grandma’s world is colourful, and mine is too! Each colour chosen within my work has a meaning. They are there to leave a subtle message along with the subject matter.
What do you want to learn more about?