A photographer who thought that one day he was going to be an agronomist, a hairstylist who thought that one day he was going to be an actor. This is an interview about two strangers who have become friends and celebrate 10 years of career together. By Mariana Nave and Rehana Nurali.
Determination and resilience are two aspects that best describe Frederico Martins. A self-taught photographer, that has only two courses of photojournalism on his curriculum. He was never an assistant or neither worked for anyone and took his first steps in the industry inspired by his grandparent’s National Geographic. Fashion appears latter, the passion for photography was what took him there. These are the same aspects that can be found in Rui Rocha. The determination of following his true vocation led him to gain courage to go to Miguel Viana (another hairstylist) and ask him if he could assist him at Portugal Fashion. This first step, the decision of taking chances and the team spirit made his career take off.
Even though they were both starting their careers, it was only in 2006 that Frederico and Rui met for the first time, due to an editorial they worked on.
When did you first met?
Frederico: In 2006, comes the first opportunity to photograph fashion. A friend of us created a fashion magazine, at the time it was called Night and Style and later it was changed to 'N Style. This magazine started with us, in Paços de Brandão. A very basic thing in the beginning, however it evolved and the magazine ended up working with Pedro Ferreira, Mário Príncipe, Gonçalo Claro and others.
Rui: It's funny because my first production was with Frederico. Not only was it the first time we worked together as it was the first time each of us worked for an editorial.
How is your dynamic working?
Frederico: There is an understanding between us, we have known each other for a long time and we have always reached consensus because this type of work is a team effort. Obviously, there must always be one that is more leader, but it is a team work and the work is as better as the worst element of the team. So, it’s very important to find someone who has the same level of quality. Rui and I have been friends since that time and still today he’s one of the great friends that I have met in this area.
What inspires you and what people have influenced you?
Rui: I entered this area through my drawing teacher who, during vacations, asked me if I would be interested in going to a salon because she felt that I had the potential for it, so this was a person who marked me. Beyond her, there are several people who have inspired me. Miguel is undoubtedly a great reference and many other colleagues with whom I keep working. I think it's essential to work as a team. I make a lot of it because I can share ideas and find inspiration through the work of my colleagues.
Frederico: There are several people who influenced me and still do. As I come from photojournalism, Peter Lindbergh is an obvious choice and I feel that I have some parallelism with him, the same happens with Dermachelier. There is also an older photographer, that people don’t know so well, Jeanloup Sieff. He was a huge influence for me as well, perhaps the closest one. Obviously, there are more recent photographers that I love for being so different from what I do. I tend to like photographers who are radically different from what I am. In Portugal, obviously Eduardo Gageiro from photojournalism and then are colleagues that I like to follow because there is a healthy competition between us.
But starting a career is not always easy, especially in the fashion industry. “At first I had the equipment issue. It’s always an obstacle, it’s really a big investment”, says Frederico. He also refers he had to manage his family's expectations about what photography was and what he was going to do about his future. Ends by saying that despite this, his biggest obstacle came later when he was already working. “Today I'm 38 years old and I’m doing this, but I could already be doing it with 32. It took me all these years to get here because I’m from Porto and that means we are far away and out of sight. The work had to be much better and the production. That means it wasn’t enough to just get to the shooting with a camera under my arm. I had to build a larger structure. I needed all this to make things move forward and part of the explanation is, undoubtedly, the fact that I'm based in Porto.” For Rui “the real obstacle was time, because things have evolved slowly but that also brought an advantage: consistency. I took a while to get where I am today, working in editorials, brand campaigns and so on. It was a path I had to go through and, besides having some luck, I also worked hard for it. The fact that I succeeded in achieving this consistency is something that makes me pretty happy and proud.”
What was the job that touched you the most?
Rui: To make the Portuguese brand’s campaigns, because having that opportunity was very good. Also, to do my first editorials for Elle, Máxima, Vogue and GQ. Another moment that marked me was to have my team in Portugal Fashion, this started a new stage for me and receiving Isabel Branco's invitation was a gesture of trust.
Frederico: I had several, but there are some jobs that were relevant because they represent career upgrades. I worked for many years with this team from Porto: Fernando Bastos Pereira, Patrícia Lima and Rui Rocha. The APPICAPS’s works that I made to promote Portuguese footwear abroad with Paulo Gonçalves were perhaps some of my biggest showcases. In the fashion industry, the difficulty is exactly this: to have stage or space to show what you do. And through these jobs, I managed to reach other customers in Lisbon and really stand out a bit. N 'Style was also really important in a earlier stage of my career, as other customers were important. At a later stage, Dsection was a very big leap in international terms.
Despite their obvious friendship and long years of work, they don’t always share the same opinion. And, as far as Portuguese fashion market’s is concerned, they couldn’t have a more different opinion. For Frederico, “competition is low, the level of exigency is also low, so it's easy to reach a very high level in Portugal. The difficulty begins when we want to reach international markets, the competitiveness is giant, the evaluation criteria too and, therefore, the segmentation is much narrower. The differences between colleagues are often small fundamental nuances, as there is a much more trained client with a completely different eye. I think that's what we don’t have here, not that we don’t have the talent because we have it. But in Portugal, there is not enough segmentation to filter people and help them grow.” While Rui thinks “we're on a good track, we have so many creative people and, in my area, there are so many talented colleagues too. Not only those who have already been doing this for a few years but also a new generation with great taste and a lot of potential. As at the beginning of my journey I learned by spending a great deal of time searching and being with other people, I value team spirit and the importance of sharing without being afraid that someone will “steal” your work. So, I think this is the path that we should follow regarding the growth of the national market.”
How do you describe 10 years of career?
Rui: This is an area that I really like and I do it with passion. I honestly look back and it seems it all started yesterday. I feel that everything is still so present and suddenly I realize it's already gone. It has been spectacular, especially the people I’ve worked with. Fantastic people and that really inspire me. Obviously, there are all kinds of people, but I'm lucky, I'm very lucky that this journey is being so good.
Frederico: This is only the beginning, I'm still warming up. I already have some recognition abroad but I can’t say that I am known. However, I think that I’m already a known name inside the niche that is men’s fashion. In the men’s fashion area but not in brands, my fellow photographers know who I am. I already know some of the greatest names like Mariano Vivanco or Matthew Brookes.
When they put into perspective everything they've done and what they intend to achieve in the next few years, they are in the same page. Both believe and want to prove that it is possible to work outside the country and still live in Portugal. “I still haven’t reached anything. What I got so far is just the first step to something bigger. I was once told that it was impossible to work abroad and live in Portugal, just as I was told that it was impossible to work at a high level in Portugal while being in Porto. I have already proven that this impossibility doesn’t exist and know I’m focused on proving that the other one doesn’t exist either”, says Frederico. Rui thinks the same way, “regarding my perspectives for the future, I would like to go abroad and rather than show it to someone else I would like to show myself that I can do it, it’s a personal fulfillment. Although I really like fashion shows, I identify myself more with the editorial side so I would like my international experience to be more related to photography. I also hope to continue working and doing what I like, because I really enjoy working with hair and, regardless of working with the same teams or different ones, I like to feel I am evolving. "
Nowadays, both Frederico and Rui have two consolidated careers. But it's their desire for constant evolution and ambition that ensures that many more things will happen. This will not be the first or the last time we will hear about them.