It’s always pleasing to hear of creatives from South Africa or neighbouring countries who’ve risen up against all odds and made a name for themselves with their powerful work. Mário Macilau, a photographer from Mozambique, is one such example.
Born in Maputo during a particularly turbulent time for the country, Mário began casually photographing people with a borrowed camera at a small market he worked at as a young boy so as to help support his family. However, his career really kicked off in 2007 when he swapped his mother’s cellphone for his own first camera.
Since then, he’s gone from strength to strength, winning numerous awards and showcasing his work at various exhibitions, the most recent being the prestigious VOLTA art fair in New York in early March 2016 (this was his very first show in New York).
Although he’s started to earn some fame, he’s never let go of the rawness and realness that made his images stand out in the first place. Mário started photography to document the living conditions and labour market in his home country, and this is still his aim today. Only he doesn’t want people to look at his photographers from the position of an outsider peering in; rather, his images draw the viewer right in so that they feel part of what’s being portrayed.
He deliberately uses close-ups in his portraiture to break down the boundary between the viewer and subject, to convey a sense of intimacy and connection with the people in his pictures, who he identifies as the ‘ghosts of society’ – overlooked individuals and groups who need a voice and identity.
Similarly, in an article by Wallpaper, he explains that he uses black and white portraiture to really showcase the textures, light and shadow in the scenes he photographs, which makes the viewer feel even more present.
At the end of the day, he photographs for social change, and considering all the people who are now paying him attention, he just might achieve this.