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Cover Stories Last Updated: Dec 15th, 2012 - 23:02:00

Cover Stories: Paulo Filgueiras
By William Jenkins
Feb 28, 2011

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© Paulo Filgueiras

Paulo Filgueiras began his illustrious career at ABAF Brazilian Association of Photography, and has been shooting professionally in the fashion, music, and advertising industries for over 20 years. He was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro before moving to New York City in 1989, where he has been living and working ever since.

Known for his vibrant use of color and light, dynamic composition, and his uninhibited style, Filgueiras finds his roots in the old-school days of endless nights spent in the darkroom. Yet he has embraced the digital revolution, and it's this blend of the old and new, the desktop and the darkroom, which allows him to work with any kind of light, film or camera, to achieve the effect he wants.

Double Exposure: When did you first become interested in photography? When did you know you wanted to make it your career, or how did that come about?

Paulo Filgueiras: I've always been driven by still images and movies. I was a kid when I first had a curiosity about how an image could be captured, developed, and printed onto paper. It was fascinating to me the first time I stepped into a darkroom. It was like entering a secret box of a magician or an alchemist. At that point, the affordable Kodak Instamatic cameras had become popular, and I finally got my first camera to play with. Later, when I was 12 or 13, I found an old mechanic SLR camera on the ground of an empty public parking lot. I think that was a sign. And with that, I started my endless studies about photography.

I think I was about 17 or 18 when I first started practicing by shooting surf photography. Surf [surfing] in Brazil/Rio de Janeiro is a big industry, and to get to the beach and find good waves and athletes was no problem. After missing a text exam to enter the Architecture University, it would have been a long wait for the next semester. So I decided to enroll myself in the photography school. By my early 20s, I was shooting surf professionally, which led me to surf wear, and subsequently to the fashion industry. By then, I knew I wanted to further my career.

DE: What made you decide to move to New York? What was the transition like?

PF: Right before my decision to move to the States, Brazil was booming economically, and it was all going great. Suddenly, there was a major economy change and all the industries became stagnant. By that time, I had a three-story studio set up very close to the beach where I could shoot surf in the morning or late afternoon, and shoot my fashion work during the day. But with the business slowdown, I decided it was a good opportunity for me to come to New York where I felt I could find and grab the edge I was looking for in my fashion work. The transition was difficult and filled with many challenges, but I don't regret it a bit. I don't think my life would be as interesting as it is now.

DE: What is a "typical" day of work like for you? How long is a "typical" day?

PF: Hmmm...25 hours? There are never enough hours in one day to cope with all the tasks to be done. I thought the digital era would free up some time, but reality proved otherwise. The learning curves of the constantly changing and advancing technology just won't let you rest. We end up doing a lot of the work that, during the film era, used to be done by labs and other technicians. My day starts and ends leaving me just enough time to regroup for a few hours of sleep, and start again.

DE: Do you find any time for personal work? Hobbies? Other interests?

PF: They all seem to blend together. I do try, but I don't find much time to do anything else. But at least I have my studio with a beautiful backyard where I can expand my thoughts and grab a few minutes of relaxation, even though I'm in the heart of the East Village. If I am not shooting that weekend, I am barbequing and enjoying the sun. I love to go the beach, but it's too far away. I like movies and museums, but time is always an issue. If it's raining or snowing, then I might find time to play Forza Motorsport [Microsoft XBOX videogame] with my friend over the internet--just enough to release some steam and clear out my mind. Needless to say, I LOVE cars! Besides photography, cars and motorcycles are my passion. Oh, and the beach! Did I say that already?

DE: There was a photo credited to you on the Worldnews Network website. It was of Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf. Could you give a little background on where that came from?

PF: That is not a great shot, incidentally. You can see more interesting images at Living in NYC, you are in the middle of everything. Everything and anything happens here and I get all kinds of calls. If I have the opportunity, I work. After awhile, I noticed that I had on file an amazing chunk of New York City and USA history, so I decided to put it out to the world in a format of a photo agency. And that is what you saw out there. That particular one was shot at the United Nations.
(c)Paulo Filgueiras

Click here to see Paulo Filgueiras' B&W slideshow movie, a showcase of his amazing editorial work around the bustling streets of New York City from 1990-2000.

DE: Last words of advice for our readers?

PF: Follow your dreams with passion. In the end, it is all that matters.

Paulo Filgueiras

Visit Paulo's website.

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