“It is beautiful to say that the camera is an extension of the eye but I see the camera more as a scratch book.” INTERVIEW with Tuca Vieira

Tuca Vieira (*1974), a young Brazilian photographer,  captures amazing shots of his native city Sao Paulo (but not only). After having studied + graduated in languages and literature, he worked at Museu da Imagem e do Som and n-imagens photo agency. Since 1991 he is professional photographer,  among others as photographic reporter for Folha de S. Paulo. Vieira has studied with photographers Cláudio Feijó, Eduardo Castanho, Nair Benedicto and Eder Chiodetto.

Since 2002, Vieira realizes his own projects about cityscape, architecture and urbanism in São Paulo and has received several awards. He has already participated in numerous exhibitions, in Brazil/South America, North America and Europe (e.g. his works were shown in “Multiple City”, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich last year).

Vieira’s photos show impressive views of the city, and reveal its structure – in often amazingly aesthetic pictures.

In an interview with deconarch.com  Tuca Vieira gives us insight into his work and tells us why chose photography, what literature means to him and how it influences his work with the camera, and how he met Oscar Niemeyer. 

© photos Tuca Vieira


Why photography? How and why did you become a photographer?

I always wanted to have an instrument of expression. I have tried music and drawing before and now I realize that I was trying to say the same things. It is important to see the camera just as an instrument.
I have made an important travel in Europe when I was 16. I have visited many countries, alone with a backpack. At that time it was more difficult than today, I was the first in my family to visit Europe since the Italian immigrants and I wanted to share this experience with them. I had just a fake Yashica camera and a few rolls of film. I had to think before shooting. I became photographer at this moment.

You studied languages and literature first. Why did you decide to become a photographer?

I have decided to be a photographer before the university. And when I had to choose a course, I thought language and literature would give me a good aesthetic, social and historical background. Many photographers I admire didn’t study photography. I love literature; writers are the best image creators I know. Kafka, Jorge Luis Borges and José Saramago are always on my mind when I think about photography.

What does photography mean to you, what possibilities does it offer?

Photography is like a passport. It puts you in some interesting situations that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. Sometimes I feel that what I have experienced, the people I meet, are more important than the photographs I take. In the future I am not sure if I will leave a good photographic work, but I will have many stories to tell.

How do you choose your motives?

Photography is a passion. I guide myself by the pleasure of being on the streets. And sometimes I feel that the subject chooses the photographer. I live in the centre of São Paulo. The city is not as beautiful as Rio but it is a fascinating city, full of creativity and energy. Unlike Rio, where the beauty is everywhere, São Paulo is a place where you are forced to find the beauty in order to support the urban chaos. It makes a wonderful photographic subject.

Who / What are your role models? Who / What influenced your work?

I try to bring to the photography what I learned with literature, cinema, and music. It is more influent to me than photography. A good poem is full of beautiful images. I try to say to young photographers (at least younger then me) that there is not much to learn with other photographers. To read a good book is the best photo lesson I know.

Why architecture photos? What are your ambitions with your photographs?

I don’t know if I am exactly an architecture photographer. Sometimes I feel myself closer to the landscape photographers. But instead of nature, I look to the cities. I don’t know if it is the same in English or German, but In Portuguese we call a big city “stone jungle” (selva de pedra).

[[yes, in German there’s quite the same expression – Großstadtdschungel / jungle of the city – an idea, that became predominant in the 1910s and 1920s in Berlin and can often be found in Expressionist texts and poems. In English I heard say “urban jungle”, though I don’t know about the literature historical connotations.]]

You mostly photographed São Paulo so far – but I take it that you are now exploring new cities, S. Petersburg, Berlin,…

Exactly. I have been photographing São Paulo during the last years I now I feel that it is time to explore different places. I am going to Berlin this year for a six months period. I am curious to see what will happen. São Paulo is my city and I love to see the work of a foreign photographer about São Paulo. Now I will be a foreigner in Berlin.

Did you shoot the major part of your o Paulo portrays from “above”, i.e. from an airplane?
Some are from the top of buildings, others from helicopter. But I also have a black and white work, more intimate and personal, where I try to make some “street photography”. It is important to me to be on the street level, closer to the people, even to understand the city from above.

Most of your photos are without humans. Is that intentional?

Not intentional. I don’t think much about this. But even without people, I try to show the human presence behind the buildings. A city is perhaps the most complex human work ever made. I see a great human drama in the city shape.

What does architecture mean to you?

I lived in Belo Horizonte, in state of Minas Gerais when I was teenager, and I will never forget the impact of visiting the works of Niemeyer in the Pampulha complex or the colonial cities like Ouro Preto and Sabará. The richness of baroque and modernist architecture in Brazil (and its relations) is a wonderful example of what this country can offer to the world.

You portrayed Oscar Niemeyer – any experiences you want to share about meeting him?

Oscar Niemeyer is one the artists I most admire. Not only because of his architecture, but also his example as human being. The first time I went to his office to portrait him was not easy. I have introduced myself, saying I am a great admirer of him. After two or three pictures he sad to me: ok enough. I was disappointed until I put the camera back in the bag. Than we started to chat and we had a wonderful conversation about Brazil, about life. He made me think what I was I was doing there. It was not just about the pictures. He always repeats that architecture is not important. That day I realized that also photography is not important. To meet someone like Niemeyer is much more important.

What – in your opinion – is characteristical of your work and your working method?

Composition is important to me. I try to find a balance in the frame. I always have in my mind that every photograph is just an interpretation of the subject. The nature of the photography, its two dimensions, the frame format, request a different way of approaching a subject. It is beautiful to say that the camera is an extension of the eye but I see the camera more as a scratch book.

Where can we see your works? Exhibitions coming up?

I have a website, www.fototucavieira.com.br. Now I am planning this trip to Berlin and it would be wonderful to show my work in Germany.

Tuca Vieira, thank you very much for the interview!!

3 Responses to ““It is beautiful to say that the camera is an extension of the eye but I see the camera more as a scratch book.” INTERVIEW with Tuca Vieira”

  1. Daniel Araujo

    Mai 15. 2009

    I had to read the interview again after I saw his photos at his website, then I could understand what he meant by saying that the camera is like a scratch book. He may have taken few photos from Niemeyer himself, but they are surely worth. Funny that he mentioned “selva de pedra”, this expression became usual in Brazil after a famous soap opera with this title.


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