André Paxiuta Portfolio Contest Winner

Words: Larry Lytle

A feeling of contemplation is not a typical element one expects from street photography. For André Paxiuta, it’s intrinsic to his imagery. He calls it “the silence of film.”

Photographers tend to include certain idiosyncrasies in their picture-taking regime—the choice of a favored camera, a decision of film over digital, preferences for certain types of film or paper, procedures and rituals in their darkroom or digital workflow to bring forth the image—the list is endless and particular to their emotional and psychological creative process. Some are mannerisms and delineate what we call style. Other elements, though as important, are more difficult to grasp.

In Paxiuta’s photographic practice there is undeniably a thoughtfully conceived visual style, but his use of silence as a conceptual framework is decidedly thought-provoking and complex. Though it eludes a precise explanation, it’s an important part of his overarching idea, and a feature of his methodology.

“I honestly feel that in the process of keeping up with the demands of the digital world we are excluding silence from the formula of our daily affairs as photographers and as human beings,” he says.

“We are becoming incapable of coping with the absence of noise. And while there is no escape from the digital world, I have found that by keeping film alive in my workflow I’m forcing myself to secure these moments of silence while doing something that I love.”

Paxiuta explains his use of silence by way of three steps that formulate his picture-making process.
First, there is the silence of the film camera. It is simply an instrument of his vision; there is no digital menu to distract him and no screen to show him what he’s just shot. He is focused on the scene in front of him, unmitigated by the camera’s electronic needs.

Second, there is a silence imposed by the interval of time between the release of the shutter and the placing of his film in the developer, and that may be days or weeks. The silence is further extended while he processes the film. His darkroom is a quiet space for him both physically and mentally, as there is no computer or cell phone to distract him.

Third, there’s the silence that seeps into each of the various steps that employ his vision, craft and handwork to make his final print, which includes a modicum of quietude.

The use of the word silence as a descriptive state of being, a kind of focus that lets the world ebb and flow around Paxiuta allowing him to concentrate upon the events unreeling before him, helps us understand this elemental aspect of his method. We see what that silence, that highly focused concentration, adds to each image and each resultant print.

The visual complexity of these images makes it hard to believe he began shooting street scenes just four years ago, as a break from his duties as a new father. “I started hitting the streets just for the sake of sanity,” he says. “At home I was all for one…in the streets I was none for all. I am an introvert by nature, and street photography has made me appreciate life in a more lively way by forcing me to take part in whatever street scene is happening around me. I don’t follow a specific narrative. I walk around town, talk to people, stop for a coffee, a snack, the occasional cigarette, and document life on the street.”

Born and based in Lisbon, Portugal, Paxiuta is primarily a documentary filmmaker and photographer engaged in issues environmental and social. Through his focus on Lisbon, and a documentarian’s point of view, Paxiuta shows us passages of momentary solitude. An ocelot-coated woman lit by a narrow shaft of light smokes a cigarette while crossing a street. A man trudges up the steps of a subway station while on the tiled wall behind him life-size images of girls cavort on the banister. A dog’s head lolls from a car’s half-open rear window as a mysterious arm protrudes from the darkness of the open front window.

Infused with an indefinable quietude, Paxiuta’s photographs entice us to become engaged in his world, partaking in its external nature

Fact File
André Paxiuta, Lisbon, Portugal

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Photo 1 Photo 2 Photo 3 Photo 4 Photo 5
Untitled 8, Lisbon, Portugal, 2016