The Camera is a Bridge, Not a Barrier

Tui Anandi, Photographer.

This week we’re introducing Tui Anandi, a Brazilian photographer currently based in Peru. He works on freelance jobs and is dedicated to the Xapiri project. Xapiri is an art gallery / shop / cultural project supporting indigenous communities in the Amazon through fair trade art, collaborative exhibition and educational media.

Tui was studying environmental science at first, when he realised that the way university is directed towards commercial enterprise was not in alignment with how he wanted to live. So, instead he started working in São Paulo producing documentaries and met Jack Wheeler who he partnered with in the creation of Xapiri, eventually ending up in Cuzco where they’ve been for 2 years!

What is the purpose of the work you do?

In an altruist way my purpose is to shine a light on these cultures, share them with others, and support them. I’m not just taking photos, these photos have a specific objective of making our whole fair trade project possible. The photos are there to show the indigenous people making their art in the jungle to share their way of life so that it can be appreciated by others who will be inspired to support their work.

Egocentrically the purpose of my work is because in the jungle, I feel better than anywhere else, I love connecting with the people there. I think the best quality photos that I’ve taken, are when I’m photographing people and capturing their emotions because I truly love them! I love using the camera as a way to connect with them. A lot of people say the camera creates a barrier, but for me, if I do it in the right way, the camera is a bridge. It makes me connect with these people.

What book, film, YouTube video, radio program or podcast has most inspired you recently and how?

It’s funny but nowadays what’s really inspiring me and making me want to improve the quality of my own work is instagram. I use it to see other photographers, there’s a lot of Brazilian photographers that inspire me, there’s this whole new generation of photojournalists. One guy from Brazil who is a bad ass photographer is Franciso Proner, he’s 19 years old and is a true story teller. He’s impressive! Also other photographers that bring a critical eye and are activists inspire me.

I listen to a lot of podcasts about politics too and for books, Mia Couto from Mozambique inspires me. I am transported by his books. I’d like to make photos that are as descriptive as his words.

When you feel a resistance to work or a bit down/tired, what helps you to renew your focus?

This is a good question because in my path I’m always passing through these ups and downs. Sometimes I feel really shit and I just want to stop and go work in a bar and make money. Sometimes I feel I shouldn’t be doing this, that I’m not good enough. What makes me renew my focus is connecting with people and projects

I was struggling last year and got energy back after finding out about the new Chinchero airport being built which will have a hugely problematic cultural, social, economic and environmental impact. I feel on a mission to document that. This is what brings me inspiration and makes me focus on what’s important. Stories like this need to be documented and shown to the world.

Who do you go to for advice or to help you talk over your business/creative plans and ideas?

Jaaaaack! Always Jack. He’s my business partner and best friend. He’s an amazing person. He has the ability to see things objectively at the same time as being sensitive enough to go deep and see the little details. He is systematic and has the ability of making things happen. I really admire him. And my grandpa too.

As a freelancer what do you struggle with the most and how do you manage that?

Money! I struggle because I don’t know what to charge and if something inspires me I just do it for free because I’m passionate about it. I don’t care much about money, I care about the passion. I’m now trying to get myself rooted and sorted with money.

What is your greatest joy about the work you do?

There are two moments in my work that bring me joy, when I’m on the ground connecting with people and when the work is shown. I got tears in my eyes when we did our first exhibition with the Matses people. It was the first time my pictures had been printed so huge, like 1 metre by 2 and I was touched to see this.

We had two representatives of the Matses tribe come to cuzco for this exhibition and when I saw them seeing themselves photographed, I thought that’s why I’m doing this, to show how important they are to the world.

If money were no obstacle and you could invest as much as you need into your business, what’s the biggest dream you have for your project?

I would set up a better base, studio, a place to be inspired everyday. Before, I thought I’d be happy travelling forever but I think it’s important to have time to process experiences. So I’d want a better structure for processing. I have big dreams for gear as well and big photography projects.

Can you tell us 3 main values that you live your life by and that inform how you work?

Intuition. Society tries to put us in boxes. I’m not made for that kind of structure. I work best when I’m just going with the flow. When I let life make choices for me but I’m open to putting myself in the right place at the right moment. Intuition is really important to me for everything. There’s no set formula, I need to use my instinct.

Ethics. So many people ask me about how they can visit the Amazon etc but I’m afraid about sending anyone there because I don’t know what their understanding is or their ethics. The smallest things can make such an impact. As an outsider I will have an impact there but I try to reduce it as much as possible so I don’t impact on the indigenous people’s lives negatively.

Transparency. Someone once told me that one of the things that makes me get such good portraits that really express emotions is because I am completely open and transparent with the people I’m photographing so that is reflected in how they react to me.

What kind of positive change are you aiming to make in the world through the work you do?

We have lost so many ancient cultures, I don’t want them to die because of our societies issues. I want them to be able to have a sustainable life, co existing, I don’t want to lose them. They have such a deep understanding about life and knowledge, with their knowledge we can be better as a society. I want to give more voice and exposure to their wisdom, they are the only ones able to keep the jungle alive, we need them! They are our guardians protecting the jungle.

What does the word “creativity” mean to you?

Connection. Creativity to me means when you find the flow. I am creative when I don’t think, when I am inspired, connected to both my roots and to the flow, letting the universe guide me in what I should be doing.

Do you have any lessons to share that you’ve learnt about being a freelancer / creative / small business owner that might help someone thinking of pursuing their own project?

I don’t feel comfortable about being seen as someone who can teach something, I am the one that needs to learn! I think that I spoke a lot about going with the flow but it’s really important to find balance in being able to plan ahead and go with the flow. E.g. as a photographer I have to make sure I don’t lose material, I charge my batteries, I have to think about the practicals. You can’t just be a cloud going with the flow, it’s important having balance between planning and spontaneous adventure. Adventure is not just going and seeing what happens, you need to be prepared.

You can follow Tui on instagram @tui_anandi and the xapiri project @xapiri or visit their website here.

One of our core values is collaboration over competition. We encourage a culture of lifting each other up, of delighting in each other’s unique skills and offerings. So we run an interview series to introduce some of the freelancers, creatives and small business owners that inspire us! They’re an incredible bunch each with their own unique words of wisdom to motivate and inspire our readers. Interested in being featured? We’d love to hear from you! Just send an email introducing yourself to contactus.ardea@gmail.com

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