StoryNorth Atlantic; Profound Azores by Paulo Monteiro

The Azores are an archipelago in the North Atlantic that consists of nine small islands. The smallest, Corvo (Raven), is only 17 km2 and has about 400 inhabitants.

My name is Paulo Monteiro. I was born June 1963, in San Miguel, Azores. I am a self taught photographer.

I have developed long term projects about various subjects, such as popular religiosity, profane festivities, architecture, landscape, Nature, or the world of work. My inspiration sources are the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson, William Eugene Smith, Sebastião Salgado and Cristina García Rodero, among others. This work is part of my ongoing project “Profound Azores”. The Azores are an archipelago in the North Atlantic that consists of nine small islands. The smallest, Corvo (Raven), is only 17 km2 and has about 400 inhabitants.

The largest one is São Miguel (San Miguel), where I was born and where I continue to live and work. This island has about 745 km2 and 130 000 inhabitants. Officially, the archipelago was discovered by the Portuguese in the fifteenth century. The first inhabitants of these islands brought with them ancient religious practices, whose rituals are still practiced in a more or less pure manner. Those rituals take very different forms in each of the islands. These differences are a result of the isolation that each island was voted to for centuries.

Historically, the islands have been affected by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and storms. They have also been attacked by pirates and privateers. Isolated from the world and often abandoned by their king, the Azoreans always sought protection in the divine, by practicing rituals that still exist today.

Of more recent origin, other rituals take on a more urban context. Of a non-religious origin, but no less valid or less characteristic, Carnival rituals are mostly practiced by a youth who are irreverent and who find in these forms of expression a way of affirming their character.

As an Azorean and a photographer, it seems important to document these rituals, before they are tainted by globalization, mass tourism, or power-seeking politicians who often appropriate popular culture, as a way to get the support of the people. In addition, the economic and financial crisis affecting the world, and particularly Portugal, begins to have consequences in the realization of these festivities. There are worrying signs of the decline of a culture that, if not documented in time, will disappear without leaving any traces.

Started in 1998, for me this series will always be an ongoing project. It portraits all that it is real and authentic in the culture of the archipelago of the Azores, because these black and white Azores that over the centuries have existed as a soap bubble are about to burst and disappear. While this small community insists on retaining its cultural identity, I will be here to document a combination of information and aesthetics, photography and anthropology.

All photos were taken on 35 mm film cameras. My favorite films are Ilford HP5+ and Kodak Tri-X. Since 2010, I usually work with two Leica bodies: an R5 and an R 6, fitted with a Summilux 50 mm and an Elmarit 35 mm. I develop myself the negatives and I make the prints. I use raw chemicals in order to prepare the developers. This gives me a full control on all the process. I think I`ll never move to digital.

My work has been displayed in the Azores and abroad. I have won some prizes and honorable mentions in Portugal and abroad by the hand of WPGA, the International Photography Awards and The International Aperture Awards, among others. I have published in Magazine Artes, Réponses Photo and Visura Spotlight. My book Açores Profundos/Profound Azores, published in 2007 by Edições Caixotim (a publishing house that is no longer trading) portraits the genuineness of the Azorean culture. [Official Website]
Saída da procissão da coroação da igreja. Guadalupe, ilha Graciosa, 2006. MonteiroP20 MonteiroP19 MonteiroP18 MonteiroP17 MonteiroP15 MonteiroP14 MonteiroP13 MonteiroP03 MonteiroP04 MonteiroP05 MonteiroP06 MonteiroP08 MonteiroP09 MonteiroP10 MonteiroP11 MonteiroP12 Rosais, domingo da Trindade, 2004. Desfile dos carros. MonteiroP01



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