Promoting ethical lifestyle via compelling images: Hugo Santarem Rodrigues, Winner of Spotlight Awards Portraiture & Celebrity Category


Hugo Santarem Rodrigues, Brazilian-born international award-winning photographer, and winner of the Portraiture & Celebrity Category of the Spotlight Awards 2019, took time to talk to us about his travels which inspired the winning photo as well as his path towards getting behind the lens.

“Chin Village” – The winning image of the Portraiture & Celebrity Category Spotlight Awards 2019. Photographer: Hugo Santarem Rodrigues

Production Paradise: Tell us about the winning image – the idea behind it, how was it shot?

Hugo Santarem Rodrigues: I traveled through Southeast Asia and I fell in love with Myanmar. I wanted to know more about the culture, history, and people. I researched for some traditional cultures and discovered the tattoed faced women from Chin Village. I was already in Thailand and decided to go back to Myanmar. I had to travel for two days to get there, I took two flights and two boats to find them. The tattoed face is a tradition that was interrupted 60 years ago. I portrayed some of these ladies and among them, there were three sisters, two of them have tattooed faces and the third doesn’t have, this sister was three years old when the tradition was banned. These are some of the last women with the tattooed face of Chin Village.

Production Paradise: How do you feel about winning the Category Prize of Spotlight Awards 2019?

Hugo Santarem Rodrigues: I felt really honored to be chosen for this award among so many great photographers from around the world. It’s a great moment in my career.

Production Paradise: How would you describe your style?

Hugo Santarem Rodrigues: I’m a commercial and fine art photographer, working on projects that help to promote an ethical and socially responsible lifestyle, respect and good values, through creativity and aesthetics.

Production Paradise: Name three photographers that have inspired you.

Hugo Santarem Rodrigues: Steve McCurry, Annie Leibovitz, Sebastião Salgado.

Production Paradise: How did you end up behind the lens? Tell us about your career path.

Hugo Santarem Rodrigues: I worked on movie sets doing still movie photography, I also worked as a creative art director in ad agencies. But my motivation to be a photographer came from great documentary photographers like Sebastião Salgado and Steve McCurry. For many years I did this kind of photography only to myself and in 2008 I started to mix my passion for documentary photography with my knowledge of commercial lighting to put more truth and humanity on my commissioned works.

Production Paradise: What do you think is necessary to become a successful commercial photographer?

Hugo Santarem Rodrigues: Persistence. There are so many great photographers doing a lot of great things. It’s hard to be noticed some times. So, it is important to be honest with yourself and do what you think you’ll be proud of when you look back.

Production Paradise: If you weren’t a photographer, what would be your alternate career path?

Hugo Santarem Rodrigues: Probably a social worker.

Production Paradise: We believe you are not resting on your laurels – what are you working on now?

Hugo Santarem Rodrigues: I’m afraid of the word “style”. I don’t want to repeat a formula. I want to be consistent but always looking at how to improve myself in the process. I cannot say exactly what I’m doing right now but involves worldwide travel.

Production Paradise: The Spotlight awards had a judge’s panel composed of potential clients for commercial photographers – did that influence your choice of image(s) selected for your entry?

Hugo Santarem Rodrigues: Instead of selecting what the jury could like, I choose what I like the most about my work, and I was anxious to see what the jury will pick. They curated my work.

Production Paradise: What made you want to participate in these Awards?

Hugo Santarem Rodrigues: I want to connect my work with creatives that think like me. It’s a chance to create a dialogue with people from all over the world. I think this is the greatest thing about our time.

We would like to thank Hugo for taking the time to share his experience with us! If you want to see more of his work, visit his member page or his website.

Want to see all of the winning images from this year’s Spotlight Awards and learn more about them? Check out our special digital issue here.

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