An Interview with Paulo Abreu

Describe the room or location you're in, wherever you are. 

I'm in my office. I work from home and I've been renovating my apartment for a while, unfortunately with the pandemic this has been delayed a lot, so for now it's just a room with white walls, my computer and some furniture.


We've been living in a pandemic for over two years now and we're just getting out of it. How did you go through it? And has the pandemic changed you as a person? 

The management of the pandemic in Brazil was terrible, many people died and the government was completely irresponsible in several cases. I don't feel very comfortable associating something that has brought so much pain to so many people as an experience of personal evolution. I was privileged not to have to expose myself so much and to be able to work from my home.

My evolutionary process as a human being, as in other circumstances, did exist. But I definitely believe that a better reflection to have in these times is a more collective one. Mainly to question if we want our lives subjected to political and economic interests.

Every artist has personal principles in art. How would you describe your work and what principles do you hold onto in your photography? 

It is, above all, my way of expressing myself. It is through it that I talk about my feelings, my pain, my doubts and my anguish. I like to think of them mainly as visual metaphors. With that said, a good principle is to be guided more by what I feel and the desire to express myself than necessarily doing something I don't identify with.


In your work, there's recurring elements of the human body, expression and surrealism — all in a precise concept. What do these elements mean to you? 

Mostly my humanity. Hopefully, ours. I believe that unconventional forms of expression, or at least not restricted to speech, can carry subtle but very important messages. Surrealism is a great ally in this, since everything is possible in it and no logic necessarily has to be respected.

How do you approach each image you create? And what does the creation process look like? 

Everything I do comes initially from a textual point of view. It could be the lyrics of a song I heard, a book or just a conversation. I like to turn non-visual points of view into something visual.

Once I have an idea, the creation process is very experimental. I will test possibilities that reach what I intend to represent and feel how they impact me.


What do you ultimately wish to convey in your works? 

Perhaps the same beauty I find in so many other things, or people, or music, or books, or nature. But this is too much for me.


If you can tell an artist's emotions and thoughts through their work, how would you say your works represent you as a person? 

I would be glad if it, at least, demonstrates a sentient being. Or at least someone who has an interest in getting to know himself and if on the way to do that, he ends up discovering that other people feel the same way, great.

In general, what has shaped you the most in becoming an artist? And what elements in life inspire you in your work? 

Whenever I'm asked this, I spend a lot of time thinking about it. I have answered several things before: the influence of my older brother who is also an artist, how much other art forms moved me and made me interested. But lately I've been feeling that I'm still figuring out what I'm really going to be able to do for what is around me and for those who are around me and that maybe will become a great reason for me on why I became an artist. 

Anything that makes me feel more than a living organism with basic functions inspires me.

How would you describe your creative journey throughout the years? And how have you evolved? 

Certainly uncertain. I'm always learning something new, overcoming some limitations and finding others. This process is definitely not just about joy. I think, or at least I hope, that with time I am evolving to the point of leaving banal issues out of my artistic process and worrying only about what I believe to be important.

How do you balance your work with your personal life? And what is key to that balance? 

I believe that a while ago I tended to prioritize my professional life much more than my personal life. Perhaps this was necessary for significant growth. Now, even though I'm still in the process of building an artistic career and there's still a lot to be done I think I understood better that one does not exist without the other. It will probably be in my moments of pleasure or relaxation that I will have insights into possible images to be created. But also, it is through my work that I manage to achieve these moments. So both are necessary. The important thing is to know and respect when it’s each one's time.


What do you think are current challenges the world is facing? And how are you dealing with it? 

Inequalities, tyranny, exploitation of resources, lies, loss of humanity...the list would be long! For me we need to be very aware of these things and willing to have an impact on our surroundings. I'm dealing with it within my limitations. Hopeful that better things will come and aware of not reproducing mistakes or tolerating oppressive structures.

What are you working on next? 

I recently received an invitation to work on a project that, so far, is my greatest experience within a scenario that I am very interested in knowing. It's been great and I'm hopeful it's the first of many experiences like this.



If you could travel in time, would you travel to the past or future? 

Future. I know my past, I wouldn't be able to resist knowing my future.


Name a childhood memory you revisit often 

I always dream about the school I went to.


Favourite place to work?

I only work at my office, thankfully.


Something embarrassing that happened recently? 

In Brazil we usually greet people with a hug. So I went for a hug and the guy went for a handshake. It was horrible.


What is your ultimate obsession? 

Plants. My house is filled with them.


What is the best piece of advice you've ever received? 

My father never taught me to be a winner, only to be fair.


Name the last film that has moved you

It wasn't exactly a film but an episode of "Midnight Gospel". The last to be more precise. Serious, go watch it right now!


What do we need for a better world?

Kindness. End of capitalism would also be great. (Can I say that?)


Do you have a tip for starting photographers? 

Be more concerned with finding your own style than reproducing someone else's.

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