Tuca Vieira

Posted: April 21st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: interviews | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »


Paraisopólis. Courtesy of Tuca Vieira

‘I have published this picture many times. I like it because it symbolises the worst about this country, social unequality.’
Tuca Vieira

His work is linked with cityscape, architecture and urbanism, more specifically in São Paulo, his hometown.
São Paulo is known for its helicopter fleet, a sea of traffic, architecture and a multitude of skyscrapers. It officially became a city in 1711 but had lacked any city plan before 1889, and no zoning law was passed until 1972. It is now the largest city in Brazil and the third in the world in number of buildings (more than 5000), losing only to Hong Kong and New York City.

Some describe Tuca Vieira as a urban landscape photographer. His São Paulo series, widely published, shows the gigantic city from different angles, quite often standing back from the urban bustle.
Maybe the urban landscape is the real subject of his work. We notice the photographs depict only a few characters, more often they are in the distance or pictured by a shadow. It seems they are swallowed up by the city’s thickness.

Architecture plays also a major role, with repetitive patterns such as floors or windows. In a way, they contribute to give the impression that the picture sometimes becomes some abstract geometrical canvas. Two pictures I have seen on his website are good examples of this. They were taken from above, one is showing people at a zebra crossing (Paulista Avenue) and the other one is an outdoor market with blue tarpaulins making some kind of mosaic (Concórdia Square).

Tuca’s photographic work embraces both colour and black & white. The shooting viewpoint is quite often in the distance and tends to picture the city as a sprawling entity, possibly scary. Center (see below) is a panoramic view of São Paulo from some building floor which illustrates perfectly this impression, it is as we would look at the metropolis through some skylight.

As a final word to this short introduction, I would like to add that Tuca Vieira is also a sky photographer. I just looked at the images published in this review, as well as the ones displayed in his website.
I was struck by the fact that the sky is definitely a key element in Tuca’s photography. Either he is pointing the lens of his camera at the sky (see below Washington). Or he is standing in high level when he is taking the shot. It contributes to give some dizzy or breathtaking feeling when we are facing the images, like with most of Andreas Gursky’s work. However the huge difference between them is that Tuca is not so distant with the subject of his photography.

Tell me about yourself.
I am from typical Brazilian, urban, middle-class family, descendant of European immigrants. There are many books trying to define the Brazilian identity, I fell myself somewhere between Bolivia and Italy, let’s say so..

What are you looking for when you process an image?
I am always trying to understand where I am, what things mean and the camera is a wonderful tool for this. Photography has something to do with possession. When I have a good picture of a place, it is like to have the place for myself, or even better, to understand the place. If I can communicate this feeling to another person, then I think I have a good picture.

Do you have criteria for choosing the composition?
After choosing an interesting subject, I try to find the best way to translate the feeling I have in front of this subject. It is a rational and slow process and it is a consequence that some of my pictures have a rigid composition. I try to find a balance, with a good framing everything is important and nothing is missing, every corner has its significance.

What is a typical day of work?
After some years in photojournalism, working on the streets every day, now I find myself most of the time working in office, editing, sending pictures, making computer work, dealing with bureaucracy, etc… I spend less than 30% of my time shooting. It looks boring, but I do think that the less I shoot, the better I shoot, especially in this moment of photography when images are everywhere.

What are your projects?
Now I am editing the pictures I‘ve made in Berlin last year during a three month artistic residency. I wish I could make a book! It was a deep, very intense experience that really changed the course of my photography.


Berlin, 2009. Courtesy of Tuca Vieira

How did you choose to work while in Berlin? Was your interest in the buildings somehow linked with the history of the city? (the Nazi era, the Wall era, the recent rebuidings etc.)
A city like Berlin has a kind of ‘collective memory’. The city means something for everybody, even if you have never been there. In Berlin it is hard to avoid the history behind every building, it is like a historical laboratory of the 20th century. I decided to shoot at night to create this ‘memory city’ but also to explore the new possibilities of color in digital photography. Before digital, we had to use daylight films to shoot at night and everything had a yellow/orange color. I ask myself many questions about digital but this is a good advantage.

How important is art in your life?
It is just like food, I can’t live without art.

Could you review your work in a critical way?
It’s difficult to me. I am a very critical person but I try not to criticize too much my own work. I am afraid that too much self-critic could block the creative process. But (so far) I think I have made a contribution to the photography of São Paulo.

What is your dream?
To create some beauty.

What do you see for yourself in ten years?
I hope I can make more of what I want than what people want me to do.

What epitaph on your grave?
Diz que fui por aí” (the title of a brazilian song, something like ‘tell them I went for a walk‘).


Office, Rio de Janeiro. Courtesy of Tuca Vieira

Oscar Niemeyer is one of the persons I admire the most. Not only for his art, but also for his political views.


Viaduto Santa Ifigênia. Courtesy of Tuca Vieira

This is in São Paulo Center. To me, it’s like a metaphor of this city where some beauty is possible over the chaos and ugliness.


Baikonour, Kazakhstan. Courtesy of Tuca Vieira

I went to Kazakhstan to cover the story about the first Brazilian astronaut.


London, 2007. Courtesy of Tuca Vieira

Nothing against clichés…


Rio de Janeiro, 2006. Courtesy of Tuca Vieira

There is nothing like to walk in a city with a small camera. Images are everywhere. One of the things I like in photography is to create beauty from this kind of object.


Copan. Courtesy of Tuca Vieira

Copan is a 1954 building by the architect Oscar Niemeyer. It’s a landmark in the city, where 6000 people live, with they own postal code. I live one block from Copan, in São Paulo Center. This is the back facade, hard to see from the street level.


Centro. Courtesy of Tuca Vieira

From an apartment in Copan building.


São Paulo, 2008. Courtesy of Tuca Vieira

Sad and common scene in São Paulo. Sometimes a composition makes the difference.


Washington, 2004. Courtesy of Tuca Vieira

André Kertész, one of my favourite photographers used to say: ‘simplify, simplify’.

Tuca Vieira
Born in 1974.
Lives and works in São Paulo.
Became professional photographer in 1991.
Studied Language and Literature at the University of São Paulo.