06 July 2016


06 July 2016 - Written by Veronica Sanchis Bencomo

Bruno Morais looks to challenge the fashion industry expectations, finding a creative response to such trends.

© Bruno Morais, from the series Palhetas

Bruno is a Brazilian photographer, the founder of Colectivo Pandilla, and a member of the agency, Imagens do Povo. He has a degree in education from Universidade Federal in Rio de Janeiro and finished his photography studies at Escola de Fotógrafos Populares in the same city. Aside from his personal projects as a documentary photographer, he works on a variety of projects where photography is used as a pedagogic and integration tool in less advantaged areas of Brazil. 

As part of Colectivo Pandilla, Bruno has exhibited his work at different gallery venues such as Vitrines during FotoRio, Gallery 535 as part of the Favelas Observatory, FB Gallery in New York, and the National Historical Museum in Rio de Janeiro. His personal work was part of the 2015 edition of the Paraty em Foco festival and most recently he exhibited at San José Photo Festival in Uruguay.

Can you tell us where the title, Palhetas, comes from?

“Palheta” is a reference to the index of colours that is normally used to create an harmonious combination of colours. As you can see, in many images of the project, this pattern is not always respected. Harmonious combinations can come from very different colours put together. The title, then, is a sort of  provocation to this almost scientific attempt to standardise the correct use of colours from the fashion industry.

What is your aim with the project?

My intention with this series is to show how women redefine the dictations of the fashion industry in their day to day life within their possibilities. My aim is also to show how this industry creates a propaganda that affects the standards of gender identity, sexuality and aesthetics, and these have a very strong impact on the feminine universe. This influence appears hermetic and mandatory from the outside, but the streets are full of examples of creative resistance to these rules. I am very interested in these cacophonies that might sound wrong, but that evidence, the cracks in a self-sufficent and also locked up fashion industry. 

© Bruno Morais, from the series Palhetas

What is the execution process of each image?

The process is quite simple. I walk the streets looking for women wearing an interesting combination of colours, already thinking of the final image. I explain to them briefly the project and I take a very basic portrait. Later in post production I cut the background out and replace it with the colours that each woman chose for their outfit.

How do you determine the colours and design of the background for each image?

It is actually the women who choose these colours before me. I just make them stand out with this display of the background.

In your statement, you mentioned that you have photographed women in Brazil, Mexico, Ecuador, India, Morocco, etc. and you intend to continue travelling to different locations, so I am interested to learn how do you choose your next location. On what basis do you choose a new place?

The project is now in its final stage and I would like to turn it into a small and funny book. I started taking pictures in every country I visited and I now have a big collection of Palhetas from almost every corner of the world. My intention is now to complete the global catalogue with women from China or Japan and from Europe. I also want to include women living in cities that rule the fashion industry like Paris or Milan.

 © Bruno Morais, from the series Palhetas

From where did this interest/urge in making a photographic statement about women fashion come? It seems quite a shift from your previous personal projects. Could you elaborate pn where this comes from. 

There is a clear change of the visual outcome in this series, but not that much, as my interest in the feminine universe or the way I approach my subjects was there long before.

For my first ever photographic project I was immersed in a squat community of 10 orphan women that I followed for more than 2 years. Although it was a strictly documentary approach to their lives, it raised an interest in me for any story related to women. Also, my training at the Escola de Fotógrafos da Maré and the years of work with Coletivo Pandila helped me understand how not approaching subjects in a straight forward way could even be more effective. I guess both ideas are present in the Palhetas series too.

Yet you are right when you say there is an obvious shift in my images and I am pretty sure there is a clear influence from my relationship with Cristina (Cristina De Middel). I have learned a lot during all this time that we have shared together. She is an amazing human being and a fantastic artist who is also very generous when it comes to sharing her approaches to photography. All this travelling, meeting with new people, and seing other artists' practice from very close has of course influenced my work in what I believe is a very positive way and I am ready to absorb as much as I can.

© Bruno Morais, from the series Palhetas

Does your Colectivo Pandilla connect in any way with your personal work?  

The Colectivo is a fundamental part of my creative process. Not only was it key to establish my capacity to create images in a collective way, but also because the political project that brings Americo Júnior and I together is based on respect of our individualities and of our differences.

In the collective we love to debate and the rhythm is very different to my own when I am working on my personal projects, but the balance between these two parts is very important for both of us as they feed each other with reflection and learning that could just come from this simultaneity.

To learn more about this project, visit Bruno's PHmuseum profile

Written by

Veronica Sanchis Bencomo

Reading time

6 minutes