“I want the photos to be as close to what I saw on the day as possible”: Francis Augusto on authenticity and imperfection
Aiming to create opportunities in a homogenous industry, the artist tells us about his rocky creative beginnings and how to tell human stories through still images.
- Jyni Ong
- 7 December 2021
Meet the London-based photographer making waves in the industry, Francis Augusto. Driven by a love of telling stories through imagery, Francis has a knack for capturing a singular emotion or feeling through his energetic photography. His images hold up a mirror to society or to a person, and with this in mind, he’s been commissioned by a range of clients where he exercises this versatility. To name a few, his clients include the likes of Adidas, Canon, Crack Magazine, Getty Images, Google and Red Bull Music UK.
Born in Angola, Francis came to the UK with his mum as asylum seekers fleeing the civil war which would last 26 long years. Starting from 1975, when Angola became independent from Portugal, a power struggle ensued between two former anti-colonial guerrilla movements; a struggle that would last til 2002. “It’s fair to say that I cherish my mum,” he tells us of how she single handedly raised him in a new country. Looking back, he describes his younger self as a “mid-level delinquent” having fallen in with the wrong crowd. But what stopped him from going all the way was the reminder of history. “There’s a bar in Dave’s new album about how families in Somalia would escape the war to see their son get into another war in London and to me, that rings true,” Francis tells us.
At the age of 13, on the precipice of going down “a bad route”, Francis started working with a youth worker who changed his life. He went to college and then to uni, which is around the time he started to develop an interest in photography. At first, the medium was all about having fun; he turned his lens on his friends, documenting everything from eating to hanging out. Throughout uni, he took photos every day which allowed him to meet new people (which is coincidentally how he met his best friend, Chloe). And fast forward a few more years, after a few epiphanies and inspiring encounters along the way, he went freelance in 2017.
“I never thought I’d be an artist or anything creative,” he adds. That being said, he’s always had an infinite appreciation for visual stimulus, whether that’s a cartoon or a stain glass window. For Francis, part of the beauty of photography comes with understanding the correlation between image and maker. This means his work doesn’t have an overall visual signature that can be pigeon holed in one way or another, instead, he explores the expansiveness of humanity: “human beings being human beings,” as Francis puts it, “just doing shit, the every day stuff.”
Threads of mundanity and joy are woven in and out of his portraits. Whatever the commission, the viewer gets a sense of the person’s character through the naturalness of the shot. Interaction and intimacy are also key to Francis’ practice where, in all his work, he tries to get under the skin of the atmosphere and capture it through beautifully lit photography. “I’m realising that I’m really enjoying getting into the nuance of the work,” he says, reflecting on his career to date. “Now I want to tell the stories but also have a bit more of my philosophy on life included too.” Pouring in more of himself, what he’s been through, and what he’s learnt into the photographs, Francis’ imagery has gone from being purely reportage to the work of an artist. This can be seen astutely in his personal projects, which reveal how he looks at life and, in turn, tell stories. “I want someone to be able to look at my photos and feel like they could be in that frame,” he continues.
With an ever-evolving practice, Francis hopes his photography is on a path of limitless artistry, “until one day I die and I can’t take photos anymore,” he jokes. He talks us through his process which generally starts off with choosing a background. Secondly, he considers the light, which he maximises or minimises depending on the story. Then, when actually taking the photos, Francis likes to simply “hang out” with the subjects, making them feel comfortable and taking a couple of test shots to get a feel for the shoot. “I like it to be as normal and natural as possible,” he adds. The light, the metering and positioning merge together in Francis’ photography to create an image which bears the marks of imperfection in the style of the Japanese aesthetic philosophy wabi-sabi. “I want the photos to be as close to what I saw on the day as possible,” says Francis, “that’s really important to me.”
Getting to the root of the feeling in his photography, Francis immerses himself in whatever atmosphere he's in to bring that feeling to the viewer. “I want people to find resonance with all the people I’m working with,” he says, nodding to the crew, the assistants, the stylists and so on who all have a part in building the final shot. As for what’s next in the future, well, that’s a question Francis has been pondering quite a lot recently. Apart from “smashing every project that comes up”, he hopes to push himself further, measuring his success against his prior self with the hopes of each photograph being better than the last one.
Speaking of the future, there’s one very exciting personal project that he has in mind which will hopefully come to a screen near you. And on top of that, he finally goes on to say, “I want to find a way to bring more people on to set who aren’t white men. I just want to be able to diversify the crews that I work with. For me, it’s beyond just taking the photos, it’s realising that there’s so much more to what I can do as a human being. There’s opportunities and friendships I can make.”
GalleryCopyright © Francis Augusto, 2021
Copyright © Francis Augusto, 2021
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.