Hick Duarte uses his camera to document the plurality of Brazilian youth culture
Based in São Paulo, the photographer is committed to portraying the visual codes of Brazilian youth in all their complexity, through considered casting, experimentation across media, and collaboration.
- Ruby Boddington
- 11 December 2019
It was while studying journalism that Hick Duarte first picked up a camera. As a communication student and MTV enthusiast, he had always wanted to write about culture and he did so by covering music festivals and interviewing artists. “But I realised at one point that I didn’t like the photos that were made available by the press to illustrate the texts I had written,” he recalls. “The photos had no soul and made the whole piece uninteresting.” So, he took on the job himself and “discovered that I like taking photos more than writing.” The rest is history.
Hick was born and raised in Uberlândia, in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, but has been based in São Paulo since 2013. While Uberlândia has a bustling music scene, despite being a small town, his move to the city expanded his creative horizons. “The city stimulates you and challenges you all the time,” he says. “It’s a lively and very effervescent market, with people from all over Brazil struggling to express themselves and be heard, absorbing and adding cultural information to the project.” In turn, he discovered and began to experiment more with fashion photography and advertising, working with brands such as Mac Cosmetics, Red Bull and Adidas Originals. Today, it’s this kind of work that typifies his practice, focusing on youth, fashion and Brazilian visual culture.
Earlier this year, for example, Hick curated his fourth exhibition of Brazilian youth titled Limbo. The work focused on the transitional stage between shock and change. “This year has been a particularly tough one in Brazil considering all the setbacks to which we have been subjected by our new government and I believe that all this – coupled with a phase of extreme fragility, questions and discoveries – puts the youth in a state of suspension, paralysis,” he explains. After having conversations with young people in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, he produced a body of work encapsulating his findings in a short film, a book and two installations.
When we first stumbled upon Hick’s portfolio, it was the slick, clean and consistent way in which he photographs that caught our eye. Images are perfectly composed, and each series sees a concept executed within every inch of the frame. On how he would describe his visual style, he says: “My work ends up reconciling a cinematic and documentary approach to the most authentic representation possible of a Brazil in all its complexities. To analyse Brazilian youth culture by approaching its visual codes in a contemporary way, respecting history without falling into the trap of reinforcing stereotypes and cliches. And I believe that this way of thinking about photography can cross the borders of my country and guide my entire body of work out of it as well.”
It’s an answer which demonstrates Hick’s respect for the photographic medium, one he describes as a “profession of great sensitivity and humanitarian potential”. When working on projects, he therefore employs a collaborative process, seeing it as “an exercise in finding the intersection point between the views of all professionals involved in the process”, be they stylists, makeup artists, models, art directors or set designers. “Also, thinking of this process as something under construction is important so that you’re always updating yourself organically,” he continues. “And it’s not about the latest trend, but creating an environment in which you can take risks, make mistakes, and test formats, so that images can be generated with consistency and legitimacy.”
One example of Hick’s collaborative work is a series titled Hair Drawings, produced with friend Dindi Hojah back in November 2017. Together, they spray painted a line-up of models’ hair with elaborate artworks. “We did it as a free studio creation exercise and posted it on our personal Instagram accounts,” Hick explains. “In February of this year, Kanye West appeared with a hair styling identical to one of the ones we photographed for the series. Hours after the first paparazzi photos appeared, Dindi was invited to join his team in Calabasas and has been doing an amazing job out there, styling the hair for Sunday Service hairstyling, North and working alongside Kim Kardashian and Vanessa Beecroft.”
With further experiments with video under his belt, mainly in collaboration with emerging Brazilian artists, and a commitment to authentically celebrating the youth of his home country, Hick is a photographer whose portfolio is constantly evolving. Finally, he tells us about the importance of casting within his work: “All of my work is deeply driven by casting and the more control I have over it, the more confidence I have in the process and the stronger the final piece is. Photographing people and letting casting be ‘just another aesthetic detail’ makes no sense,” he continues. “I think this is also an important point for bringing diversity to and demystifying old concepts in the market I am in, especially considering the plurality of the population of the country I come from.”
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.