How Felipe made lifelong connections through photography

Felipe Augusto takes a photo
Felipe Augusto takes a self portrait.

Brazil-born Felipe Augusto, a recent graduate of the Wintec Master of Arts programme, has been on a journey exploring the human condition and discovering community through photography. 

Augusto and his family of three moved to Aoteraroa, New Zealand just over a year ago. Following a camping adventure around the country, the family found a home in Whaingaroa, Raglan. 

With a strong skillset in place from years working in advertising and commercial photography in Australia and Brazil, Augusto was looking to get a foot in New Zealand’s creative industry so cast his eye to several different postgraduate options. After encouragement from friends and Wintec tutors, Augusto applied for the project-based, one-year Master of Arts programme. 

Felip Augusto photography from Before My Eyes CloseImage: Felipe Augusto, Untitled, Before my eyes close, 20x30 inch colour photograph, 2020.

With industry experience and technical knowledge of photography, Augusto found guidance from Wintec tutor and artist Stefanie Young. Young helped Augusto develop a project synopsis that spoke about exploring the human condition through photography. 

Empathy, solidarity, and uncertainty were among the key concepts explored in Augusto’s Master’s work, and he looked to the US and Canada’s staged photography artists of the late 1970s and 1980s for inspiration.  

 “Drawing upon staged backgrounds to direct talent enabled me to face the ideas of change and death.”  

The location settings for the images were carefully scouted in his new Raglan community. 

“The location came first, then after talking to the owners, I'd ask them if they’d like to be in my photo,” he says. 

The work he submitted for his Master of Arts consisted of eight lightframe scale 20x30 inch colour photographs and a photobook, along with a 40-page dissertation titled "Does Contemporary Staged Photography Practice Deterritorialise in the Era of the Anthropocene?”.  

Felip Augusto photography from Before My Eyes Close
Image: Felipe Augusto, Untitled, Before my eyes close, 20x30 inch colour photograph, 2020.

By examining how the staged photography from the 1970s and 1980s can be revisited in the current era, he explored how the style can still be contemporary and modern. 

The icing on the cake was when Augusto’s photobook "Before my eyes close" was awarded second prize this year in the MIFA (Moscow International Foto Award) a longstanding and signification competition in contemporary photography. 

Felipe says, he was delighted to see several of the people who featured in his work attend his final master's critique. 

 “I was so grateful they made the effort to come all the way into Hamilton from Raglan,” he says.  

“The project helped me make real and authentic community connections.” 

 Augusto is currently working full-time as a portrait photographer while continuing to build connections with the creative community and build his art practice.  

“I’m looking out for opportunities to exhibit my master's work to new audiences,” he says. 

“I’m also looking at developing new work responding to what’s happening in the world right now.”  

When asked about his time at Wintec he says, “Studying at Wintec School of Media Arts has been great for me to help make my work visible in New Zealand, as well as opening up conversations between art and industry.”  

“But it’s not just been about making the work, it’s been about making connections.”