Guilherme da Silva’s new zine provides a vision of utopia and safe space for the LGBTQ community  

In 2019, when Guilherme da Silva took a picture of his friend in Venice, he knew instantaneously that he needed to build a wider series. Perhaps it was the aftermath of being broken up with by his boyfriend – enduring a somewhat sensitive outlook on the world – or maybe it was more of an inherent drive hidden deep inside, that only needed a little nudge (or picture) to be let out. Either way, it was this very moment that sparked the idea to produce what would later become Overture, a zine which encapsulates Guilherme’s deep truths both as an individual and as a photographer: to support and provide a safe space for the LGBTQ community.

Nodding to the concept of Arcadia – a vision of utopia – and inspired by the work of Thomas Eakins, Guilherme has collated an intimate documentation of queerness in Brazil. As a country that’s less than accepting of the LGBTQ community, Guilherme turned towards photography as a way of understanding his own identity and experiences; he urges those who see themselves in his pictures, and those observing this works, to do the same. It’s not been an easy ride for the photographer, having experienced LGBTQ-phobic attitudes in the industry which sparked a bout of depression. But having self-published his own zine, Guilherme is taking matters into his own hands and hopes to continue building on this empowering body of work. In fact, it’s in the zine’s name Overture, which alludes to the opening of an opera. This edition is an introduction to a longer body of work in the future. I chat to Guilherme to find out more below. 

Dries at the park, 2021

What’s your ethos as a photographer, and what stories excite you?

I think it’s diversity to say the least. When it comes to my work, everything is so deep inside me that sometimes I can’t explain in words. But what has been driving me to create since the beginning is the people that I’ve met throughout the years; the connection I created with them. Part of what I’ve been doing lately in my work (and what I did with the zine) is creating this sort of tribe of young people who live in this utopian land away from the corruptions of society. And this is not just in the pictures; we ended up creating a community where everyone supports each other. What excites me about being a photographer is what comes after the photography.

Ayrton and Matheus at the park, 2021

What inspired you to make this zine?

Well, when I’m not doing my personal projects, I work as a very commercial fashion photographer in Brazil. What inspired me to start the zine was the frustration I had with people who wanted to shape the way I was supposed to be photographing – not just the technique, but also who I was photographing. I heard so many LGBTQ-phobic speeches during meetings and work that sometimes I felt like I was not welcomed, that I was there just to press a button. I ended up with anxiety and depression and, to pull me out of that dark place, I knew I had to find a place to be safe. During the process, the pandemic hit and I had to postpone the beginning of the project. The situation in Brazil has been awful because of the government and I knew this was another reason why I should start this project. The zine is about this group of queer people that I wanted to portray in this place that nobody knows where it is but everyone wants to go there. It’s Arcadia, it’s a scape. 

Heart-shaped tongue, 2021

Who are we meeting in the zine, where are we visiting, what stories are we hearing?

All of my personal work feels like a self-portrait to me, so the zine is pretty much about the feeling I was talking about in the answer above. We are meeting this group of queer people who lives in this utopian land, like the concept of Arcadia. I was very inspired by the ‘Arcadian’ paintings of Thomas Eakins, the political view behind the work of Justine Kurland in her book Girl Pictures, and also the works of Nan Goldin and David Armstrong. 

Tell me more about the people you’re photographing in your zine, and how you strive to represent them? 

I think everything happens so effortlessly. Most of them I meet online first and then we meet to take the pictures, most of the time with their own clothes, sometimes I use some of mine. It’s so simple and beautiful.

What does photography mean to you, what’s its purpose?

Photography for me is my joy, it’s what allows me to understand more about the world and more about who I am. It’s what makes me feel sane.

Kenzo at the park, 2022

What can your audience learn from this zine?

They can learn how important it is to create communities when you are LGBTQ+, where you can meet people and talk about your experiences. It’s important to have this safe place where there’s no judgement and you learn more about who you are. We spend so much of our lives trying to hide ourselves when we were kids that when we are adults we have to discover our true selves. Being inserted into a community that protects you can help a lot.

What’s next for you?

The title of zine means this one is just the first, I’m already working on my next publication and I definitely want to work more collectively with stylists, make-up artists and creative directors who are open to accept my view. 

Leo at the park, 2021

Lucas and Leo kissing at the monument, 2021

Pedro at the park, 2022

Charles Zana: Think About the Future

In the wake of his highly acclaimed show Utopia at Tournabuoni, Paris, the celebrated architect Charles Zana talks to JP Pryor about the power of multi-disciplinary creativity, and the need for collective action in the contemporary paradigm

It could be argued that in the age of post-capitalism and multiple streams of information we have lost a vitality of cultural production that shares a common mission to transform society, be that one that is conscious or unconscious in nature. The incredible speed and pressure of the art market par example leaves little room for radical multi-disciplinary departures that collectively challenge the fabric of society in the way that artists and designers did in a past that, perhaps, had a simpler clarity. The insurgent collective spirit that was, for example, apparent in art, design and architecture in post-fascist Italy could be argued to be as the last great utopic art project of the modern era, and something that can never now be repeated. 

Artists and designers such as Gaetano PesceEttore Sottsass, Lucio Fontana and Alighiero Boetti, created a radical departure from a bitter history of fascist rule, radically transforming the cultural landscape not only of Italy, but the entire Western world. In our accelerated era of commercialism could we ever witness the same kind of mass movement–one that forwarded entirely new ideas of utopic cultural production? This was exactly what the AD1000 architect Charles Zana approached this year in Utopia, an exhibition that conceptually rewired the collection of the Tournabuoni Gallery pairing artists, designers and architects in strangely affecting contemplations that juxtaposed creatives who sought to tear down every conceivable boundary between art and design in a moment of utopic defiance. Here, at the closing of one of the most interesting exhibitions in recent years, the architect who holds the distinguished Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres talks excusively to Port about the collective creative unconscious, and the importance of collective creative hope in our own challenging era.

Concetto spaziale, Attesa, by Lucio Fontana, 1965. © Tornabuoni Art

In what sense do you consider the cultural production of artists, architects and designers in the Post-WWII era to share a utopic aspect?

If you look at Italian art in the 50s, 60s and 70s there is a huge story around utopic art, architecture and design, and all of those people really were breaking down the rules and frontiers between the disciplines. The period was just uniquely important for cultural production in terms of the political and cultural scene. Because so many of those architects and designers in that era were much more like conceptual utopian artists than what you might consider a straight architect or designer. I mean, obviously, it is always great when you can create dialogue between art and design, but to bring some of the best Italian artists and architects together–well, this is my idea of really exploring utopia, to create a dialogue that is not about art history, but about raw emotion and new juxtapositions that create change. 

Photography: Matthieu Salvaing

Why do you feel the period was so unique?

It was, of course, a very strange period in in Italy because people were still trying to break from those memories of Mussolini, and a lot of groups were burgeoning into life, such as the arte povera movement – very radical movements, you know – very, very important groups in terms of how society is now viewed. And those groups were not working on function, they were not working on aesthetic, they were not working in commercial pursuit–they were much more working on what is behind the frame; what is behind the construction; it’s almost something I cannot describe but it was utopic, in that in both design and art, all of these people were working on ideas, very radical ideas. 

Why do you refer to the period as one defined by emotion over aesthetic?

Because I consider the feeling in all the work to be very important–in that period of cultural production, architects, artists and designers were thinking much more about the power that lives within a symbol. There was an intangible collective unconscious at work, in a way, because not all these people were even aware of each other, but at the same time they were pushing boundaries in similar ways–from the aesthetic to the politic, from the metaphysical to the communistic. They were all engaged politically at that time, and there was a kind of unspoken manifesto trying to break a systematic way of thinking, or break with the past. There was a link between heart, art and design in many ways that was utterly unique.  

Rare cabinet Barbarella by Ettore Sottsass,1966 with L’addio dell’amico che parte all’amico che rimane, by Giorgio de Chirico, 1950. Photography Jacques Pépion

Do you think that spirit has been in some way swallowed up in the modern by capitalism and commercial pursuit?

Well, throughout history people like Picasso were always in the market–art and design has always been commercially led. But I think the point is more that today there are just so many artists, so many fairs, and so on, that it’s much, much more complicated for an artist or architect today to emerge and make a point. I think it is for this reason that it is hard to see a real school or movement emerge, and, for me, that has maybe been true for the last 20 years. And, of course, when you don’t have a discernible movement, as such, it’s complicated to see the way certain things knit together, or to witness all those people working for a common idea or cause. Having said all of that, I think it is often only in retrospect that you can see the interesting associations in art and design come to the fore. There is also the reality that the accelerated pressure of the contemporary market makes it very difficult for the opportunity for an artist or designer to have a long time of maturation that way they could in the past. 

Photography: Matthieu Salvaing

Are we lacking that radical, or if you like, utopian, spirit in art and design in the contemporary paradigm?

It’s a very interesting question. These days are certainly very crucial but I think that from the period I have examined, there is a difference in the political sense, yes. I think it’s a very complicated time now to be engaged politically, and I don’t think that architects and artists are still engaged in the same way as they once were. There are people engaged conceptually for change, of course, but they don’t want to be political, with a few exceptions. I think that people like Formafantasma are perhaps carrying that multi-disciplinary baton in the modern era, and are perhaps working in the same mood, in that they first think about the Earth and climate before design, so, although, the subject is different, the need to be aware of the planet in the work first and foremost follows the same kind of logic. Personally, as an architect, I’m always contextual. I always begin from the culture of the place where we do the project, but I strongly feel it is the responsibility of an architect not to simply be part of the culture and reflect it. I always try to convince my colleagues that we have to in the front seat of the culture. We all have a responsibility to look towards change.