Intimate Portraits of Brazil’s Young Dreamers

Brazilian photographer Larissa Zaidan describes her homeland as a "weird" place in which to grow up. Based on her personal experiences, she began to seek youngsters who, like herself, have dreams and aspirations yet feel trapped within the country’s immense urban jungles.

© Larissa Zaidan, from the series You Are Young and I Love You

You Are Young And I Love You is a peek into the millennial generation from Brazil's mega-cities; a search for vanities and aspirations, like anyone could have at that age. The portraits are fractions of intimacy shared between Larissa and the subjects in question, all perceived through a delicate and critical eye.

Hi Larissa, thanks for joining us! To open the conversation, I'd like to ask in what cities of Brazil have you photographed people?

I photographed these people mainly in the city of São Paulo and in the state of Pará, Brazil. Actually, everything has to do with my universe - I photograph people and places that thrill me, that drive me into them. That's what happened with these two places I chose to focus on. These are my favourite places in the world.

What other cities/towns do you have in mind to work in?

I still don't know. I'm now going to Ukraine and Russia and I must photograph the youth there, but it will probably become a new project!

Could you elaborate on the process that you're following to produce this body of work?

I'm a very street sort of person. I also worked as a store saleswoman for a while and it helped me create a great skill of talking to people, to be interested in people. The production of this series has always been very organic because of this process - I simply always seek a moment of intimacy or a moment of melancholy with which I identify. The kinds of scenes that usually attract me most are those featuring young people; people who somehow have something I see as special and I want to capture this.


© Larissa Zaidan, from the series You Are Young and I Love You

Have you thought that this project is more self-biographical as opposed to a national portrait?

Yes, I think about it a lot. In a way, I search in these characters something that is inside of me. I fall in love with these people, I get involved, I'm very sentimental. That's why it's so important to me to find intimacy. I could never photograph something that doesn't thrill me or something that somehow doesn't make me euphoric or passionate. I love to feel the happiness and sadness of the people around me. I want to record those feelings.

I noticed that the majority of your photographs have a red element. Why is that so - is this intentionally part of your narrative?

I started thinking about it when a friend of mine commented about the appearance of red in my photos. It's funny because I've never worked on this intentionally. It seems that I'm very attracted to this colour palette somehow. I have always been like this - red attracts me because it is intense and can represent different things at different times. Both, the intensity of good things and bad things. I believe my eyes always follow this sort of emotional thread.


© Larissa Zaidan, from the series You Are Young and I Love You

I really enjoy the diversity, almost playfulness of your portraits, where for instance you pay attention to special hairstyle details. Could you talk us through the decisions of focusing on such specific points?

I come from a traditional family in São Paulo. We don't have artists in the family. Until a few years ago, I thought my life was a little dull and boring. I thought I was very common like everybody else. As I was walking more in other neighbourhoods and places of the city, I fell in love with everything that was different and far from my reality. I call it mojo, which is a natural charisma that you either have or you don't. You can't conquer mojo.

I think each of these characters that I have photographed have this mojo that enchants me. These are small extracts of extremely special human beings that sometimes are even considered strange by a portion of people, but I see it as something precious, almost a secret.

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Larissa Zaidan is a Brazilian photographer currently based in São Paulo. She began her career as a photojournalist at Vice Brazil, and since 2017, Larissa has been a member of the Brazilian photo agency Angústia Photo. Follow her on PHmuseum, Twitter and Instagram.

Verónica Sanchis Bencomo is a Venezuelan photographer and curator based in Hong Kong. In 2014, she founded Foto Féminas, a platform that promotes the works of female Latin American and Caribbean photographers. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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This article is part of In Focus: Latin American Female Photographers, a monthly series curated by Verónica Sanchis Bencomo focusing on the works of female visual storytellers working and living in Latin America.

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