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To see more of Flavio’s photographs, follow @flaviosamelo on Instagram.
Growing up, São Paulo photographer and visual artist Flavio Samelo (@flaviosamelo) was different from most kids in Brazil. “I never liked soccer, or any group activities where everyone seemed to think alike,” he says. Instead, he was drawn to more individual activities like skateboarding, which he does not consider a sport. “We cheer for our friends when they land a trick, but we don’t fight with other skaters because they are from another town or play on another team,” he remarks.
Despite finding a sense of belonging in the skating community, Flavio discovered early on his friends were much better skaters than he was. “It was a little bit embarrassing,” he says. “I remember one day my friend Kamau suggested I take photos of us skateboarding. That was back in 1992, and until this day that’s basically what I do – photograph my friends while they skate.” Photographing skaters comes with it’s own challenges, with no margin for error. “You have to be very quick. Sometimes the skater is trying to get a trick right for hours and you cannot miss the chance to capture that exact instant.”
For Flavio, who’s 39, skateboarding photography is not just his profession, it’s heavily influenced his perspective on his hometown, which he shares through photographs and geometric visual art. “As I would walk through the streets to take photos, I started to notice things like graffiti, pichação and the brutal socioeconomic differences,” he says.
He also started to notice the city’s architecture, which he defines as oppressive. “There are no more houses, and everything is getting torn down to make way for buildings. This is a city that hasn’t had any real urban planning in a century.”
When it comes to his art, Flavio hasn’t lost the same self-criticism that once depreciated his skateboarding skills. “I don’t know how to photograph as I’d like, I don’t know how to paint or film. What I do care about though, is bringing the vision in my head to life, somehow, in whatever way possible. For me, an artist’s work is an extension of his or her life. My work is totally an extension of what I see and the places I go.”