of the World
I have a great predilection for photographing movements, transformation, cultures, territories, injustices.
I believe that I am inspired by art and society in general, and I use documentary photography as my tool. My style is perhaps more towards observing life, in all its beauty and contradictions.
I was born and raised in Brazil. More specifically in the city of São Paulo, the largest city in Occident, with 22 million inhabitants.
I spent some years of my childhood in a much smaller city, in the countryside, called Piracicaba, which in the Guarani language means "the place where the fish stops" – this period was fundamental for the construction of my imagination.
The Firefighters of the World Deserve Witnesses
This photo was taken in June 2020, in the Indigenous Guarani village of Itakupe, on the outskirts of the city of São Paulo. There was a huge fire in the Atlantic forest inside the Indigenous land and the Guarani, who are the guardians of the forest, fought all night to contain it.
It is an image of bravery, of resilience, that has accompanied the native peoples of this land in their struggle against colonization for 520 years - which cannot be better represented if not by fire, which destroys in a few seconds contexts that took centuries or even millennia to establish.
This photograph is part of my ongoing personal project, Forest Ruins, a story about the climate crisis in the largest city in the Americas based on my encounter with the Guarani Mbyá people and their perspectives. They resist amid a degraded urban environment, preserving their language, their culture, and their beliefs.
It is a project that calls us to look at our sewers, rivers, streets, and buildings and understand that this is our environment, it is what we have made of it. That the way of life in big cities is a sure formula for our downfall as a human race and of the planet itself.
Today, cities consume about 75% of global primary energy and emit about 60% of global greenhouse gasses.
The original populations, especially those who live in this urban environment, have answers to these dilemmas that point to a possible future. I believe we must listen to and learn from them.
I am always particularly struck by the atmosphere of some photos. The ability to take you to another space and time, to put you inside another reality, almost as if it were possible to feel something similar to who was there at that moment. This is what makes the sum of art and information and when photography reaches this place it is always very exciting.
LOBA Shortlist Candidate 2022
Rafael Vilela and his project "Forest Ruins: Indigenous Way of Life and Environmental Crisis in the Americas’ Largest City" were one of the Leica Oscar Barnack Award shortlist candidates in 2022.