Portugal-based photographer Pedro de Passos combines his deep connection with art with a strong story-telling aesthetic to create images that are both fascinating and beautiful. Pedro uses a lot of diptychs in his work (two images side-by-side) – a technique he uses to convey the wider story around his photos. We spoke to Pedro about carrying his camera everywhere and sending his photography around the world.
Hi Pedro. Where are you from, where are you based and what do you do outside of photography?
My name is Pedro de Passos and I'm a photographer currently living and working in Porto, Portugal. Lately my life has been completely connected to photography. From the long hours of work in the company I usually spend my time with family and friends during the weekend but always armed at least with a point-and-shoot camera.
When did you begin shooting, what made you start and what has driven you to continue?
It started at a young age. At 6 years old my mother gave me my first camera (it was a Kodak Star 275 and I still have it). Since then that I've never stopped photographing, even if it was from a random school trip or just taking photos of family at social events (I also still have those films). I don't think it made me continue, it just became part of my life in a natural way. I never leave my house without the camera, it’s like those people that can't leave the house without a watch or without spraying some perfume. Basically the sound of the mechanical click makes me happy inside in every frame.
I never leave my house without the camera, it’s like those people that can't leave the house without wearing a watch or spraying some perfume.
With diptychs I try to tell a story of the moment I photograph, with one photo of the main subject and the second photo of the place that I took the photograph.
What do you shoot on? Is there a story behind your favourite camera?
I use a digital camera at work on a daily basis, a Canon EOS DX1. It’s High Fashion imagery, so they always want the best in terms of quality, especially with the brands that I usually shoot for. But the cameras that I use for my personal work are always film cameras like a Contax T2, a Fujifilm GA645 or from time to time a Hasselblad 501 C. Actually I have two stories about my favourite cameras. I got a Polaroid 360 with the entire full leather case and all the equipment and components completely working at an auction for 45 euros. My second story was when my sister bought an old house and I went to the attic and found a trunk where inside was some old journals, rag dolls and a Rolleiflex 2.8. It was like finding the best treasure ever. In your face Indiana Jones.
Over what span of time were these photos taken? What makes them stand out from your other shots?
If I'm not mistaken around 2 and a half years. I don't think that any of them stand out from other shots. They're meant to be seen has a continuous work and not image by image.
You use a lot of diptychs and triptychs when presenting your photography. What attracted you to these formats?
My education since I was a kid that was completely connected to art. My grandfather was a painter so basically my after-school afternoons were spent with him and always talking about art and history, from old civilizations to more contemporary works. But the period of art that most appealed to me was the 15th and 16th centuries paintings ranging from secular portraiture to religious personages and stories. They were seen like a story. So that's what I try to do with these diptychs. To tell a story of the moment I photograph, with one photo of the main subject and the second photo of the place that I took the photograph.
How do you think your work is affected by sharing it online?
I once had a teacher on my Master Degree that always told me that everything that goes online stops being yours the second you upload it. It's my work but the possibility of it being "stolen" or even modified generates new ways of seeing and creating new art. If I’m honest about it I don't mind that someone reproduces or uses the images. It's clear in my mind that it was taken by me and it can also be a developing ramp for someone else work. We always learn from others I think. I think the possibility of the work being seen in another part of the world by another person with another mentality and culture already feels me up inside with joy.
The possibility of my work being seen in another part of the world by another person with another mentality and culture fills me up inside with joy.
What do you look for when you’re taking a photo? Are you more concerned with the composition or evoking a certain feeling?
I think every photographer tries to always show some certain personal feeling. Some people feel it and some don't, but as art in usual, everything is a bit relative. What is good for me may not be good for other person. What I think about a subject may be different to the way another person thinks about it. But yes, I try to show a bit of me in every frame, but at the same time the composition is crucial because this geometric and structured imagery is also the way I see and need in my life.
Is there anyone you’d like to shout out (photographers, friends, creatives)?
I must have to say Mariana Rocha. Its completely different from my line of work and aesthetic, but her intimate and autobiographical works are by far the most realistic, natural and honest photos about her life and own body that I have see for a long time. Also a fellow photographer that is completely obsessed with analogue photography.
I think every photographer tries to show some certain personal feeling. Some people feel it and some don't, but in art as usual, everything is a bit relative.