Rui Palha (born 1953) began shooting at 14 years old and is one of the leading street photographers worldwide.
Distinguished by the SPA (Portuguese Authors Society) and RTP with the “Best of Photography Work” award in premiums Authors 2011 in the category of Visual Arts, with his book “Street Photography – Street Photography”. In 2015, he was considered by the Blog “Street Hunters” as one of the 20 most influential street photographers internationally (position confirmed in 2016 by a vote of blog readers), and the world’s best street photographer for the site “Top Ten – Top ten of the best “. With an exhibition in Barreiro including 50 photographs of Palha, he answers a few questions on this scope of work and shares some images from the exhibition. 

Where were these particular images taken and when?

Almost all of them in Lisbon and just one in Porto. All of them were made this year, since June till October.

Your street photography is monochrome, do you think black and white enhances street photography? Or do you think it’s the real voice of this style?

Apart from a brief period in my early days, when I did some Kodachrome photos, I‘ve always preferred the black and white to “tell” my stories . What I want to convey to the viewers of my pictures is my interpretation of the reality, based in a split second of the true reality. And for that I don’t think the color as anything to add. In fact the monochrome photo can give as much information and context to the viewer as a color one, with the benefit of avoiding the distraction that , in my view, the color can generate in street photography. I feel more free to focus on the subject, the framing, the textures and the relationship between the elements in the foreground and background. If I can put it simple, I would say that black ad white photography has the “soul” that I hardly can find in color photography.

As Ted Grant said, and I agree, ” When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in Black and white, you photograph their souls!”

In your images, there is usually a person or couple in the shot, part of the composition and story of the image, and always balancing out the main focus of the image, why is this?

I believe that to tell a good story it is of outmost importance to provide the context  in the frame. Also I’m fascinated by large empty spaces where the fragility of the human condition is enhanced. In fact my work is pretty much  focused on this theme .This is the reason why I’m using more and more wide angle lenses ( 21, 24 and 28mm)  besides my favourite focal length, 35 mm.

Please share your thoughts in terms of the performance of the Leica Monochrom, compared to other similar cameras.

I know fairly well other Leica models that can compare with the MM (typ 246), like the Leica M (Typ 240) and the Leica M-D (Typ 262). The main advantage I see , for a B&W photographer , like me, is the fact that the final result of the image is, to me,  the closest you can get to the B&W film.

Besides showing this scope of work at the exhibition, what do you want visitors to walk away with after seeing your images?

The reason of my work is not commercial. Photography is not my way of living in the sense that I don´t get any relevant revenues from the activity. My main motivation is to continue to tell my stories and, above all, to meet the extraordinary people that I met over the last years. In a nut shell my passion is  people.

So I hope I can transmit, to all the visitors, the passion I devote to Street Photography, in general, and to People, in particular.

Lastly, is there a particular project you’re working on right now that you might want to share with our readers?

My main project is to continue to go out and photograph as I’ve been doing in the past and while my legs will allow me. There are of course ongoing projects that I plan to move forward related to the nomad gypsies , and people from problematic  neighborhoods in order to show the reality versus the cliché.

Thank you Rui!

To know more about Rui’s work, please visit his official website and follow him on Facebook.

To know more about the exhibition, please visit this link.