All images by Bruno Massao. Used with permission
Photographer Bruno Massao is a 29 years old half-Brazilian half-Japanese creative that has been shooting for over 10 years.
He first got into photography from his great grandfather–who was more of a videographer. But the affinity for the art form stayed in his family and he did it in school with support from his father. Bruno’s dad loved photography and still does even though now he just uses his phone. However, Bruno sticks to the analogue ways.
Combine this with his family’s open attitude towards sexuality and his quiet confidence in his own work and you’ll get a photographer who understands that doing intimate work is all about trust. As a result, Bruno is one of the founding members of The Foxy Fox Crew, a photo collective that focuses on female beauty.
“…although I really love what I do, my heart always had this huge passion for street photography.” says Bruno. “Seeing photographers such as Steve McCurry, Vincent Laforet and John Free working inspired me to go out and give it a try.”
Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography.
Bruno: Since I was a child I have had a huge fascination about photography, and my family shared this same passion to some degree. My great grandfather used to have lots of camera gear and used to take a lot of pictures of his day, including our family, which after developing he would attach the images to his personal diary. I looked a lot to him, since he always told me stories about a time when he was in Japan, World War II, how he managed to get out of the country and come to Brazil. My grandfather loved photography as well, but he was way more into video making. Most of his gear was camcorders: VHS-C, Super8, 16mm. He had lots of them. But both of them passed away when I was hitting adulthood, so I never ever had an adult conversation about photography with them – most of it was child curiosity.
I have a bit different story with my father. He still photographs but, nowadays, he just prefers to carry around his phone than a proper camera. But he always, always loved photography. Funny thing is: he always used Nikon, and when I was really getting into photography, he gave my first SLR: a Canon camera – if I recall, it was a Canon EOS 1000 (Rebel S in the US). When I asked “why”, since he used Nikon, he answered “I don’t want you messing with my lenses”.
Then I grew up, and ever since I never left Canon.
Funny thing is: he always used Nikon, and when I was really getting into photography, he gave my first SLR: a Canon camera – if I recall, it was a Canon EOS 1000 (Rebel S in the US). When I asked “why”, since he used Nikon, he answered “I don’t want you messing with my lenses”.
Phoblographer: What made you want to get into intimate portraiture?
Bruno: My parents had a really straight forward relationship with me and my brother about sexuality. They never denied these adult magazines like Playboy when I was about 14/15 years old. Playboy was a huge thing in the 90’s here in Brazil.
When I got older and started studying photography, I did some photos of naked models – both male and female – and they were a huge disaster! I don’t know if it was the ambience (I was in a classroom with lots of other students, and we’d take turns to photograph the models) or if it was excitement over being the first time I’ve got to do something like this – but it was a mess. This first experience was a huge let down, and I didn’t even wanted to try anymore for a long time.
When I finished my photography classes, I started to work as a freelancer photographer for some news agencies, but most of my work came from photographing independent concerts. I spent years doing this kind of work, and just got bored until I decided that I had to take a break and photograph for myself. I just started to take portraits of my friends and a friend of mine asked me if I could shoot her in lingerie, because she wanted to give a book with these photos for her fiancee. We scheduled a cheap hotel to try to do some pictures before hand, but she loved the result of these photos and wanted to use them instead.
She started showing these pictures to her friends, and some of them asked me to shoot them as well – and that’s pretty much how I started.
Phoblographer: Talk to us about your influences. Whose work inspires you and why?
Bruno: I have a lot of influences – and some of them don’t even do the kind of photography that I do.
I think that most of my inspiration comes from Richard Kern. I just love his work. The way he works with light, poses, framing: I just love it. While I don’t copy-paste his work, some of my photos reflects this influence. Marcio Scavone, Bob Wolfenson and Autumn Sonnichsen also play a huge influence in this regard, but I don’t look up at their work as I look to Kern’s work. And since I prefer to work in colors – even though some girls ask for black and white photos -, there’s two great photographers that set the tone for me: William Eggleston and Steve McCurry. Their use of color is definitely a huge influence of my work.
I also look at lot of movies, especially the cinematography, to inspire me. Daniel Mindel, Michael Slovis, Mark Irwin, Slawomir Idziak are some of my favorites.
Phoblographer: What was your very first session of intimate portraiture like? How did you go about explaining the creative vision and ideas to your subject?
Bruno: My very first session was with a friend of mine. She wanted to do a lingerie photoshoot to print as a book and give to her fiancee as a present. Since I wasn’t confident enough to just go and do it, I told her “can we schedule a cheap hotel just so we can test and see what works and what doesn’t in our shoot?” and she answered “yeah, we can do it.” We talked about what she wanted and what she didn’t. She also sent me some references before the shoot, with lots of magazine pictures. When the time had come, we were both nervous, but decided to go ahead.
After 15 minutes I wasn’t so nervous anymore, and my photos got better. When I started to grow confident, she also started to get more and more confident about herself. Then the ideas started to flow, and we just kept shooting. At the end, I had nearly 100 pictures that I liked among 500 or so, and she loved even more of then. When I asked her “should we do the real thing?” she just said “no! We just did the real thing!”
Phoblographer: What are your sessions like these days? Are there ideas talked about back and forth? Is there storyboarding involved?
Bruno: It depends. Most of the time I photograph girls that aren’t models, so I really got to be careful, since these girls don’t want to be exposed – they want the pictures for themselves. So, when someone approach me with this kind of intent, I let the girl speak about what she expects: if it’s more intimate, if it’s with a more sexual approach, if it’s like a fashion shoot, what she wants to wear and stuff like that. So, in these cases, I just let the girl talk about her preferences and then give ideas that may complement what they want.
For professional models, I usually explain what I want from them and they tell me what they like it or not. Sometimes I just come with a concept and we’ll finish it, or sometimes I come with the whole idea in mind – but whatever the case, we just sit through and talk about the whole process. It’s way better than not planning anything.
Phoblographer:Talk to us about the Foxy Fox Crew. What’s that all about?
Bruno: The concept of the Foxy Fox Crew came when I started to help a friend of mine, Pedro, to do his shooting. Eventually I would just make a behind the scenes, sometimes I helped him with the light, then he would do the same with me and so we go. Then another friend of ours, Gabriela, started to help us out in the same way, and we would help her out as well. Next we see we were dividing costs for locations, castings models, shooting these models and, at the same time, producing content to showcase our work. At first we didn’t know exactly what direction we’d take, but then we decided to focus only in female beauty – not necessarily portraiture.
When we started doing some photoshoots under The Foxy Fox Crew banner, people mistook us as a new project – which we aren’t. We are a collective: we’re photographers that work together so we can achieve results together. But, at the same time, we create content of our own: per example, Pedro went to the US last year and create content for his own zine, and some of the girls that I’ve shot for The Foxy Fox Crew accepted to work with me for another projects.
Phoblographer: How do you try to make your work differ from everyone else’s?
Bruno: Actually, it’s funny. I never knew how to answer this question properly by myself. Since I prefer to work with colors, most of the people that talked to me about my own work usually say something like “man, I love the colors of this picture” or “I really like these colors”. I’ve got even friends that don’t like intimate portraiture to come out and say “your photos are amazing!” It’s really awesome to hear these kind of things. But again, I don’t know. I guess I just do my own thing, I’m just trying to put what I’m thinking of in a photo.
Phoblographer: You are one of those photographers that is all about film, and totally loves it. But why? What does it do for you? Is it the process? Talk to us about the gear that you use.
Bruno: I love film. I’ve learned how to photograph with film, I grew up seeing my family taking rolls and rolls of film to develop and come back with prints, so part of what I feel about photography comes from film itself. However, in the past few years I entered some sort of “hate/love” relationship with it: while I do love film, the process, my film cameras and the look it gives me, I hate the fact that it just became really costly to do anything film-related these days. Here in Brazil, film prices skyrocketed in a way that no one in their own minds would pay for – a Portra roll, which costs around $10 USD, can turn easily into $70 BRL. Fuji killed one of my favorites films ever back in 2013, the Provia 400X. Everything tells me – and other film lovers – that we should just stop using it and going fully digital. But I love film, mostly its colors. While you can do replicate those colors on digital photography, sometimes it’s just too much work to do so – and I go with film.
I shoot with film and digital gear. For digital, I currently use a 5D Mk III. For film, I have some cameras: a Holga (which is really fun to shoot with), a Mamiya-6 IV (the fully mechanical), a Konica Autoreflex T3 with the Hexanon 50mm f/1.7 lens, and I also have an EOS 3, so I can use it with the lenses that I use on my digital camera. And the EOS 3 is such a blast to use. I think it’s the best camera Canon ever put out in the market, and no digital camera ever came near it. But since it’s so hard to keep shooting film on a regular basis, I’ve decided to change the approach and use film mostly for fun, or with girls that I’ve worked before.
Phoblographer: How are you trying to improve your business over the next year?
Bruno: I have some ideas in mind. First of all, I wanna start to produce video content. I’ve been studying film making in the past couple of years, and I think it’s a good time to try some of these. I’ve already played a bit before, but didn’t took it seriously. I also have a project that I’m working on. In this project, I’m trying to create images that may look like a movie still. The fun about this is that I can really work on a script and can get crazy as the project goes forward.
Besides that, I also want to do other kinds of photography. I love street photography as well, and maybe I’ll start shooting more street fashion.