Imagine walking down the street and finding yourself gazing at a gigantic, wrinkled face that seems to be holding up the elevated highway above you.
And then another, and another. The whole highway supported by the older people of your city.
That’s what you’d see if you were in Sao Paulo, Brazil right now.
Since 2008, artist-photographer Raquel Brust has been pasting her enormous images of regular people on the physical structures of Sao Paolo. She shoots black-and-white portraits, blows them up and uses the city’s streets as an exhibition space for her project, Giganto.
In her most recent work, many of the people Brust photographs are older residents; people whose aged faces, she says, contrast with the modern metropolis that she finds so anonymous. The portraits are an attempt to give it humanity. “People are seen as sculptures worked by time, and each stroke expresses what is most precious in their souls,” Brust writes on her website.
“In the era of the cult of beauty at any cost and the search for eternal youth,” she says, the project replaces the perfect models you see in advertising images with real people who exhibit their impermanence.
Older people can be faceless to the rest of the world; their enormous portraits alert passersby that “there is complexity in each person… that each one is unique and deserves attention.”
The process of transforming ordinary people into Gigantos is an intimate one – Brust says she gets to know her subjects and develops an appreciation of each individual’s identity. That, and being portrayed as a Giganto, has changed people’s self-perceptions; the person in the picture is able to see him or herself as unique.
Brust’s work is supported by the city of Sao Paolo and last month was included in the city’s International Festival of Photography and Visual Art.