Immortalizing our passage on Earth
Hello Adolfo, it is a pleasure to welcome you for an interview, sharing some of the work you have done with your Fuji. To begin with, could you introduce yourself to our readers?
The pleasure is all mine Hugo, I am humbled that you considered my work worthy of this interview.
Well, my name is Adolfo Caldeira, I am 31 years old, and I am a Police Officer in the Portuguese Republican National Guard (GNR). I am also a father of two young daughters.
Only recently I started taking pictures, and it was a hobby that took my life by storm. Nowadays, I rarely leave my home without my beloved Fuji camera.
We got to know your work through your Instagram account, and one of the aspects that pleased us most was your approach to photography. Not through striking or unreal images, but by documenting real moments of your daily life in all its aspects: personal, family and professional. Could we say that it is a personal visual diary which, through social media, you share with the world?
In my line of work, like life in general, we never get second chances, there are no scripts, and nothing is rehearsed, so my photos are mostly taken in the unexpected, with a candid approach.
Photography has also brought me closer to my colleagues. At first, this hobby was not welcomed by my peers. I was given some weird looks whenever I took my camera out, nowadays most police officers are happy that I am capturing those meaningful moments that we very often experience, but rarely document.
Lastly, this is without any doubt, my visual diary, in which I not only share my photographs, but I also share my thoughts and feelings, and like a proud Portuguese that I am, I love to dwell in the past, so having those moments registered, means a lot to me.
This visual diary, which we referred to in the previous question, reaches its fullness when it also includes portraits of people whose path crosses yours, whether they are close family members or someone you have just met on the street. What are the key elements in a person, whether visual or personality, that make you want to portray them?
This is a question which I honestly never really thought of. To answer this, I must first explain that there is a clear difference between my street portraits and my police portraits.
Whenever I am not working, I just randomly pick people out of the crowds and talk to them a bit at first and then, politely ask them if I can take, a picture for my Instagram account, just for the sake of meeting another person, which is something that I love, so there is no real selection process, it’s random, and I like it that way.
Whenever I am working, that is a different story, those are portraits of people that meant something to me, both personally and professionally, and most of them, unfortunately, are sad moments that I capture, not for the drama, but to remind myself that I do what I do, for them, for the people, which is something that I, like everybody else, tend to forget.
Of your street portraits, do you have any particular episode that you could share here with us?
There is one that took place recently in a parking lot in Lisbon, near the University that I attend. I met two very polite and kind girls, of whom I took a picture, obviously.
One of the girls later that day shared the portrait I took of her, and what follows, is her description of the events that I absolutely loved.
The following is quoted directly from her Instagram account @jessicacjames:
“Today, approximately 15 minutes after waking up. In the usual boring parking lot. The parking meters were broken again.
Perhaps because of our common hatred, we immediately sympathized with each other. While I was going to call the useless number affixed to all the broken parking meters, Adolfo complimented me on the sunglasses I was wearing, said they were different and asked me if he could make a portrait of the occasion. I got confused.
“I am a stranger who knows how to recognize interesting faces, I like to photograph people in their environment in the most natural way possible” – he explained, more or less by these words. I answered nicely that I was not dressed up and that the wind was not appropriate for photoshoots. He insisted that what mattered was the photo capturing the essence of the naturalness of the occasion. I understood the intention. He photographed me for no more than 30 seconds.
Sara watched, praised his talent but said between a shy smile that she didn’t want to be photographed because she never liked the result. He accepted but disputed not realizing why, she was beautiful.
The parking meter was already working, I like to believe, I do not know if by conformism or by consolation, that nothing happens by chance. We decided to go to college for coffee where coincidentally we all studied, we had so much in common, I commented “it seems like we’ve been friends for years”, they both smiled and agreed.
While we were wearing the masks, I thought that the ‘fear’ we now have of all those who are not known to us did not stop me from going for coffee with two strangers who seemed to be long-standing, in another situation I would never have accepted. People’s energy is an amazing thing. Indescribable. We exchanged numbers and agreed to have dinner.
Life is funny like that. Thank you, EMEL. “
We assume that two tools always follow you in your day-to-day, the gun and the camera, right? What model do you use? We refer to the camera 🙂
This one made me laugh out loud. Honestly, I would much rather leave the house with the camera than with my gun, so even if I had to choose, it would be an easy choice for me.
I first tried Fujifilm cameras through an X-T20 coupled with the XF 18-55mm kit lens. I did not fell in love with the system right away, so when I moved back to Panasonic, which I am a big fan of, I felt that something was missing, the shooting experience was much more enjoyable on the Fujifilm, so I ended up trading all my Micro Four Thirds equipment and bought a Fujifilm X-T3.
What were the reasons that led you to choose Fuji for the type of work you do, and what are your impressions so far?
It’s a compact system that takes professional-looking photographs straight from the camera. Even if I shoot Raw + Jpeg, I end up uploading to social media platforms straight out of the camera jpegs more often than not. What’s not to love?
In which situations do you choose a zoom or a prime lens?
I own one zoom lens only, which is the XF 16-55mm F2.8. It’s a great lens, but it’s too heavy for me to carry every day, and I rarely use it because of this. So I end up relying mostly on prime lenses.
Which lens do you use the most, and why?
I mostly use the XF18mm F2.0 R. At first it was a hard focal length for me to shoot with, but with time, it ended up being my favourite lens for every day shooting because it’s versatile, compact, and takes great environmental portraits.
We noticed that you also use your camera a lot in a family context, making a record of your family and following your two daughters’ growth. Usually, children don’t have 2 seconds of patience to pose for a photo, do they? What technique do you use most often to photograph them, a posed portrait, or a more documental, candid approach?
Well, if I am being honest, my eldest daughter loves to be photographed, so it makes things a lot easier. However, I try to capture things naturally, as they flow, so I prefer a more documental approach.
Observing your portfolio, we could not help but notice the impressive collection of moments captured within the scope of your professional life. Could we say that all this work, in a way, is a tribute to all your colleagues and Law Enforcement professionals in general?
I began photography, without even realising it, on a small GoPro and a smartphone, right around the time when our squad was enforcing some very strict policing on drug trafficking, robberies, and all violent crimes in general. This led to some record-breaking arrests and drug seizures and of course, that comes with a price.
We started to get threats, that we usually brush off easily, it is part of the job after all. However, I could not shake this eerie feeling that I was somehow, somewhere, going to pay a price, even though we were righteous and fair in our mission, one should never underestimate a man that has nothing else to lose.
Fast forward six months and my first daughter was born on August 30th 2017, exactly 10 years after my sister died of cancer, on the exact same day that she celebrated her 24th birthday, August 30th. It got me thinking, if anything happens to me, I want my daughter to know who her father was and what he stood for, so I bought a camera, started shooting and writing little memoirs on each photo that I printed to a photo album, a sort of legacy for her to one day, hopefully, get to know me if I was to be gone.
Photography has this power to immortalize moments, and I wanted to immortalize my brief passage on this earth.
The hobby eventually evolved into something more, and I feel that now it is a big part of who I am, and I rarely go on patrol without my camera.
Friedrich Nietzsche has this famous quote that resounded profoundly with the man I eventually became after I wore the uniform for the first time, “Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.”
If I am to keep gazing into the abyss, let it be with a camera, for over the years, I have seen countless of my fellow officers do the unthinkable, the unexpected, and perform acts of pure heroism and selflessness that, more often than not, go unnoticed. And at least, I can keep honouring those moments, if I’m there to capture them.
“My name is Adolfo Caldeira, I am 31 years old, and I am a Police Officer in the Portuguese Republican National Guard (GNR). I am also a father of two young daughters.
Only recently I started taking pictures, and it was a hobby that took my life by storm. Nowadays, I rarely leave my home without my beloved Fuji camera.”