Artist Interview: Jair Bortoleto
Living in Sao Vicente City, on the south coast of São Paulo, Brazil, photographer Jair Bortoleto has developed an eye to see the magic where others see the mundane. This keen eye has paved the path for a successful career for this talented Brazilian, shooting photos and curating various art exhibits around the world. Striving to convey honesty and the imperfections of life, Jair has found that he is most adept to maintaining the pureness that life really brings...something we all can appreciate.
How long have you been shooting photographs? What sparked your interest?
I have been taking photos since I was a kid. When I was 8, my mom gave me an old Yashica that it was broken. So I ran around the neighborhood faking that I was a photojournalist. I still have those pictures in my mind. Since the beginning, photojournalism was my deal. I was all about Magnum photographers and use to say that I would love to go to conflict zones as a war photographer.
Then when I was 22, I went to Boston for a few months, and I was always around artists and musicians that study at the colleges there. This one student, Tiffany Knight, gave me a black and white roll of film. I shot it on my old point and shoot camera and gave it to a friend that works on a lab by Harvard square, a place that I use to go a lot. A week later, she came with the photos. I will never forget that day. All my images started to make sense to me, and after that I began to see the world around me in black in white. Some years later, I got a better camera and had the idea of taking photos of the iconic surfers from Santos City, the place that I live and where all my inspiration came from. That’s when it all came together.
You stated that you are searching for the imperfection via your photographs. Define the "pureness in the imperfection."
The pureness in the imperfection. We are all imperfect human beings, so in my mind, it’s impossible to reach perfection in anything we do. We can be very good in some things, but not perfect. Knowing that, I search for pureness in everything. Even with all the imperfection in our bodies and minds, we can try to be pure.
Why do you feel most photographers are in search of perfection? And how do you find the opposite...the pureness in the imperfect?
I have read about and talked with photographers all over, and most of them talk that they reach for the “perfect photo”. To me that´s impossible. As I said, you can come close, but not perfect. In my photography, I see the opposite.
I was in Chile some years ago, and I bought two 100’ rolls of 35mm and a little machine to roll them. I didn’t use that much, and stayed with me for 4 years. When I eventually used it, it was full of fungus and defects. Those images where so beautiful to me and made me think completely different from the crowd here. It opened my mind and made me change my directions and thoughts. The exaggerated granulation and defects, in my opinion, brings reality and pureness in the middle of the chaos that we live.
What type of equipment do you use? Digital or film?
I like to use film, but in this day and age, I catch myself using digital more. Processing film and the prices here made everything harder. I would love to use film exclusively, but unfortunately I can’t.
What does it take to be a successful curator? And how do you approach your curation process?
I don’t see myself as a successful curator, but I think the curator job is to show the best of the artists. I think I did that in my shows, but unfortunately the lack of financial support made my shows less cool then they could be. My last show was super fun to do. Jazzy Way to End a Day was an experiment that worked out well. Sending my own photos to a bunch of different artists around the world and showing the result in the concrete jungle of Sao Paulo made everything work.
Most of the process of curating a show is to talk with artists. Most of the artists know their own work, which makes it very easy for me to work with them. Art to me is very subjective. I try to work with artists that I like what they do. This is very important to me and makes everything smoother. I started to work as a curator for the surf brand Art in Surf here in Brazil and I’m learning everyday to put myself down, and make myself more humble in a way that I can work with all kinds of artists, even if, personally, I am not a fan of their work.
It seems the Brazilians are starting to move up the ranks in the professional surfing scene. What do you think accounts for this rise in, not only popularity, but also the level of surfing for the Brazilians?
I think the easy answer is that the younger generation has much more support than the older guys. We have a legend surfer in Brazil named Picuruta Salazar. He was a professional surfer in the end of 70’s and in the 80’s. He was for sure one of the best surfers in the world at his time, but unfortunately didn’t have support. You can ask most of the pro surfer from his time and they will easily remember his name, “Picuruta”. If he had all the support he would be a world champion or very close to that.
The new Brazilians kids travel the whole world intensely, and surf the best waves. These kids, Gabriel Medina, Filipe Toledo, Junior Faria, Jesse Mendes, just to name a few, are surfing so good that really impresses everyone. But they are completely different from the older guys. They are much more clean, travel more, trains a lot, work out, eat well and surf a lot. They eat waves. Most of them don’t party much, sleep well. I think all of this can relate to this new wave of Brazilians surfers that are breaking the walls. I think this is the new Busting Down The Doors.
What's next for Jair Bortoleto?
I love photography. It’s my way to express my feelings and thoughts. I think I will keep doing it forever. Now I’m really interest in filmmaking. With this new boom of HDSLRs, I have started to express myself in motion. I’m interested in making short films about the surf culture here in Brazil, especially here in Santos City areas, where surfing was born in Brazil. We have so much to show, it would be a shame if nobody does it. I need to learn more about filming and editing. Also, want to keep working as a curator and photographer for Art in Surf. I just got hired as an executive editor for a publishing house here in Brazil, and soon we will have some exciting news.