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PORTFOLIO

27.03.2020

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London equals life. With the aim of capturing the unique social fabric of the multicultural metropolis, José Sarmento Matos shot more than 15,000 photos over the years, in the east part of the city. In times where things stand still, his pictures remind us of how important joint experiences can be.

LFI: How did you get into street photography?
José Sarmento Matos: I am moved by photography not only because of its aesthetic essence, but also as a tool to tell stories. And that is my passion: both being a voyeur and getting close to my subjects, understanding better other peoples' stories.
What I captured in the streets became part of my day-to-day life, of my commutes and travels, but it was also a break from my other documentary work and assignments. The Documenting East London series eventually became a personal photography perspective about this part of the city. But it is also a visual series, covering, indirectly, the different and important layers of social and cultural phenomena that occur in London.

What does the city of London mean for you?
For me London represents cultural diversity, vibrant colours and amazing light. When I think about London, I think about a canvas with beautiful light and with great colours – bright light contrasted with deep shadows, with a diversity of people walking around. It was in London that I became established as a photographer, and that has huge importance and meaning for me. Most of my inspiration in the past years, from good and bad experiences, came from my life and from the people I came across in London.

You took thousands of pictures in London over many years. How did you choose your images?
When I started shooting this series I was practising my craft, doing a Master in Arts and learning about the city. I knew so little about London before I moved there. My
camera was a reason to explore more, walk more, observe more, and learn more about the city. After some months I started understanding that there was something more consistent in East London, and I realised it could be a photography series. From then on, I start choosing my photos and composing through the viewfinder, according to a consistency of colour and a specific use of available light, but also with the intention of covering the different layers that I find important about East London and my own experience. Interview: Danilo Rößger

All images on this page: © José Sarmento Matos
Equipment: Leica M10-P and Leica M (Type 240) with Summilux-M 35 f/1.4 Asph and Summicron-M 50 f/2 Asph
© Joao Silva

José Sarmento Matos

José Sarmento Matos is a Lisbon and London-based documentary photographer. He focusses his independent photography work on long and medium-term projects, and is interested in analysing relevant contemporary world issues by focusing on people’s personal stories. He works for clients like The New York Times, Bloomberg and HUCK Magazine, among many others.

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