Mário Macilau is an exciting and talented photographer from Mozambique. I first heard about him from his show in the Vatican Pavillion in the Arsenale at the heart of the Venice Biennale last year. His collection of works shown at Venice Biennale titled "Growing in Darkness" captured the street children of Maputo and for Macilau this project was one that was very close to home.
Macilau himself lived on the streets of Maputo for 15 years, selling his mother's biscuits, washing cars and doing odd jobs in order to survive. His mother did all she could to try and send him to school, getting worried about her young son who often slept in the market at night with friends - a very dangerous place to be where kids stole from each other and lead a life of crime. Macilau, instead of school, learnt how to read and speak English through volunteering at NGOs.
His love of photography first came at the age of 14 when he borrowed the camera of a friend and began to take pictures of the township, the streets and the people who lived and worked in the market, producing black and white images that documented their day to day lives. Sadly, he could not keep up his new found love as camera film and equipment was too expensive.
Then in 2007, at the age of 23, Macilau sold his mother's mobile phone for a camera (he had to lie to his poor mother and said he was assaulted) and began to take photographs and post his images online on a blog.
Macilau is not professionally trained and instead learnt though watching the works of others and attending photography exhibitions as well as his own trial and error methods. Not one to rush, he specialises in long term projects that focus on living and environmental conditions over the time that affects the social isolated groups such as cement resellers from Mozambique, illegal loggers in Nigeria, and stone miners in Bangladesh getting a thorough sense of those he wishes to capture.
Looking at his recent work 'Growing in Darkness,' Macilau's images show much more than poverty despite still being haunting images. His subjects are not just seen sleeping on streets or begging, he shows children who have adapted and quite frankly survive the environment they are in. These are not children that you feel only pity for, the subjects are strong and secure in their surroundings. His photographs project the strength of human identity and dignity and are the type of images that you do not glance at - you immerse yourself them in and observe for a long time giving each the attention they command.
Most certainly one to watch, reproductions of his work can be found courtesy of Ed Cross Fine Art.