April 16, 2021
Photography by André Lobão
Interview by Melanie Meggs
An autodidact street photographer, André Lobão leans towards social documentary and storytelling, believing that the camera is an instrument of self expression and a way to question the world. His interest in photography started in 2019, when he came across the work and writings of Henri Cartier-Bresson. His humanist vision and poetic geometry resonated with his professional architecture background and lead him to other old masters like André Kertész and Robert Frank. André photographs to detach himself from the objective reality of the world.
IN CONVERSATION WITH ANDRÉ LOBÃO
TPL: Andre please tell us about yourself. How did you become interested in photography?
AL: I am originally from Portugal and I have been living and working in London since 2017. My first contact with photography started when I was 12 years old and my father gave me a Pentax film camera. As time passed, I pursued different fields of creativity while studying arts and architecture, and only rediscovered this passion three years ago when I bought, first, an instant film camera, and later, a mirrorless one.
TPL: Where do you find your inspiration?
AL: In philosophy and literature, mainly. Then in music and other forms of art. In reality, everything is connected and whatever makes me think, inspires me. It can be a dead poet’s book, a brand new song or a simple conversation between strangers I heard at the bus stop. The source doesn’t really matter, it’s what you do with your thoughts, I suppose.
TPL: What is it that you enjoy about street photography? Explain your technique? What do you want to express through your photography?
AL: I like the unpredictability, you never know what you are going to get. I also like the challenge of capturing unposed moments, the ability to blend into your environment while staying aware and curious.
I think the ultimate - and today’s most forgotten - goal of photography is a true form of humanism. If you look to the world and understand that we are all here together, then something meaningful can potentially emerge from inside you, no matter the type of work you are trying to create. You need to make it personal and it needs to be subjective, but the real value of your work will always be in someone else's emotional response.
I hope to include in my photographs that reaction, first, by using visual composition, to eliminate distractions, and, second, by implying more than the visible. I believe it is important to leave room in the frame for the viewer’s heart and imagination.
TPL: Do you have any favourite spots to go photographing? How has the pandemic affected you personally and your photography?
AL: No, I do not. I started photographing consistently in the beginning of the pandemic simply because before that I did not have a camera with full manual control. I made plans for seven trips abroad last year and only managed to do one of them. Like everyone else, I wanted to travel as much as possible and make great pictures.
With my photography, the pandemic situation was a complete U-turn and ended up pushing me into my immediate surroundings: first my city, then my neighbourhood and, lastly, my own house. It was a tough change of plans, but, eventually, it taught me that very often a good photograph is just around the corner.
On a personal level, the pandemic showed me how important it is to create ways to truly reconnect with other human beings.
TPL: Do you have any favourite artists and photographers?
AL: Between the classicism of Henri Cartier-Bresson, the poetic vision of ordinary life from André Kertész and the rawness and bold impulse of Robert Frank.
TPL: Does the equipment you use help you in achieving your vision in your photography? What camera do you use? Do you have a preferred lens/focal length?
AL: Not really. I see the camera as only a tool. Same way as I see a pencil. You can use it to write your grocery list or to write a poem.
I use a budget Olympus E-M10 Mark II with a 35mm full frame equivalent lens these days. However, most of the pictures here on display were made with a 28-84mm kit lens.
TPL: When you go out photographing, do you have a concept in mind of what you want to shoot, or do you let the images just "come to you", or is it both?
AL: It depends. If I am out for street shooting, I try to be like a sponge: I want to absorb the moments that catch my attention. If I am out shooting for a specific documentary or storytelling project, I am more intentional. Usually I draft a list of shots I need to get in order to complete the narrative. They are two completely different mindsets. One is mostly random, the other needs to be more rational.
TPL: Have you ever been involved in the creative world before photography?
AL: I have been a creative person since an early age. I wrote poetry, drew and played in some underground rock bands. All of those to different degrees of success. Photography is my newest (and hopefully last) creative endeavour.
TPL: What are some of your goals as an artist? Where do you see yourself or hope to see yourself in five years?
AL: The only possible goal is to aim to create meaningful work that resonates with people. I want to grow technically and conceptually in order to achieve it. I also hope to keep developing my own documentary projects and publish them in books.