I have been following photographer Ricardo Gomes' work for a while and I am intrigued by his personal way of understanding photography. He grew up in an island which is at the top of a massive volcano placed in the Atlantic Ocean, and decided to leave everything behind at a very young age, determined to pursue an adventure. One that continues today side by side with Madonna, as he met the artist in 2019 and has been involved on her latest project Madame X.
He has also collaborated with other remarkable artists, his featured work includes Sex Pistols, Glen Matlock, The Stooges, James Williamson and Pete Doherty. His photographs seem to shape a timeless universe which is somehow familiar to the viewer, with a great ability to capture the instant as it was a fantasy or a recurrent dream.

Back in the seventies, the American writer and philosopher Susan Sontag argued that the proliferation of photographic images had begun to establish within people a “chronic voyeuristic relation” to the world around them. Sontag defended that “there is something predatory in the act of taking a picture.” For her, “to photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them that they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed.” One may wonder what she would add to this nowadays… Sontag was sure that photographs cannot create a moral position, but they can reinforce one and can help build a nascent one. Hopefully, Ricardo’s eye will contribute to define what is to come out of these turbulent times.
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When did you realise that a camera would be a long-term companion in your life and by what means?
When I was 17, I decided to leave everything behind and follow my passion in a different city, out of the island I was born, Madeira. It was too small for me. I wanted to take a risk and be able to express myself. It happened very quickly. I was finishing high school and one day I arrived home and had an open conversation with my parents about wanting to move on and do what I really wanted: ohotography. My thoughts were deep, and my parents supported me! To me, that was super important, and I realise more and more that I don’t regret any decision back then.
Do you remember your first impression when you arrived in Lisbon?
I was thrilled and happy to be in a big city, new life, a fresh start. I was excited to study and move on with my life. It all made me very positive, and positivity can only lead to success. There was a youth movement happening in Lisbon back then. It was fun to go out and do things. Also, social media started appearing and somehow it connected me to the rest of the world. I started getting inspiration and trying to understand and follow the steps of the photographer David Armstrong that I believe it plays a big part in my work.
How would you describe your imaginary when you were a teenager? What kind of films did you watch? What books were important to you? Who were your idols?
I was always obsessed with horror and thriller movies. Michael Myers was always fascinating to me and I don’t know why. I would watch horror and thriller movies away from my parents. I love all of Fran Lebowitz's books and the way she expresses herself and says whatever she wants. In music I love Bob Dylan, he’s a genius and truly an inspiration.
What is your relationship with pop icons? Who are you a big fan of?
I didn’t really grow with pop music. I was always fascinated with rock and roll, indie and psychedelic music from the sixties and seventies... Like space rock. I love Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Nick Cave, Lou Reed, Sonic Youth, The Stooges... and many, many others!
Music has been around forever. My family is so connected to it in every aspect, teaching, playing instruments. We would have always living room sessions on Sundays after family lunch. It really plays an important role in my life.
Did you collect any magazines or books?
I remember one of the first times I visited London I bought this whole collection of Dazed and Confused magazines from the nineties in Portobello Market. It really turned my brain on! I also have almost every Nan Goldin book. She is a big reference for me, and she lived the life she photographs. Goldin also focuses on the relationship between the artistic side, more than the technical. I believe that any technical side of your work, whatever you do, should come along with the artistic vision, that is the only way it shows some type of truth in it.
How do you relate to fashion and music on a personal basis?
Music comes first, and fashion goes along. They can complete each other in their own way. Both can be dreamy, expressive, movement, fantasies and can be interpreted in different ways. They also bring people together. Fashion and style are very different things.
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What is the most important memory you keep from your childhood? 
Dreaming big and being loved. I was always hungry for more and felt the love and support from my parents that pushed me and respected what I wanted and didn’t want to do.
In 2018 you published the photography book Playground with the purpose that it remained timeless. How do you see it now?
I love looking at it. Looking back makes you learn, and most likely be grateful. The book remains timeless, every single page relates to things that I deeply love. It’s really my playground. It could have been published yesterday.
How could you describe the emotions you go through during a photo shoot?
I try to keep it fun. I like to joke and make my point of view clear. I try to keep a small team whenever I can. Being more natural and organic is the key to a good workflow.
Portrait and documentary photography seem to be your major influences. Why is that?
I believe they are very connected; one follows the other somehow. Portrait creates a relationship with the subject you’re photographing. Documentary makes you live the moment and place you are photographing. In a way, they both live and understand the moment and subject in front of you. I’ve been merging into video and directing, creative directing too. Portrait, documentary and fashion are a true passion, but there is so much more that I am open to. I am not attached to any style. I like to stay busy and creative.
What is reality for you?
Reality is what you believe and fight for. That’s my reality. Understanding we can all do something better to the world with our art, words, and acts.
Do you take a political position towards our social system?
Yes, I believe we are all manipulated somehow. That’s the way it goes. Most of us accept it and go along, but I want to believe that each person can make a difference and I believe that we can all make a better world.
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Your agent is based in Paris and you live in Los Angeles right now, although you travel most of the time around the globe. How does it feel to have this nomadic life and what lessons has it taught you recently?
I just got representation in New York City, which is exciting. I have always loved travelling; I’ve been doing it since a very young age. Moving around a lot can be really great but exhausting too. I love being based in LA right now. The weather is incredible. Being able to work and be surrounded by nature at the same time is life changing.
What is your actual project? Could you share one in the near future?
I have a few tricks up my sleeves for the future months and the future in general. I am happy with where I am now. Working with Madonna for 2 years has been life changing! I’ve been learning a lot, but you always have to want more. The world keeps moving!
Picturing the daily life of a family must mean that you are completely integrated with them. How does it feel to be part of such an extraordinary group of people?
I love documenting everything happening around me. It makes you observe, look into detail, and get more creative. Right now, my life with Madonna is fun. I get to experience everything full on. Again, a great experience!
We all have someone who believed in us more than anyone ells. Who is that person for you and how do you relate to them?
I wouldn’t say it's just one person. It’s definitely my parents, as I mentioned before. They support me and are always curious to know what I’m doing, my projects, my day to day, since the day I left Madeira Island.
Rimbaud once said: “The most important resentment in life is meeting with oneself.” Would you agree?
For sure, even though I believe it’s important to always keep moving and to not get stuck with any frustration. It’s important to always find balance and feel happy, or at least happier than the day before.
Creation is a way of resistance. What is your top priority in that respect?
Creation is definitely a way to feel free, released and battle with your own 'demons.' Creating with no limits and rules is the best feeling, I feel that a lot of people are still very judgmental when it comes to others, even creative people I know. It’s sad… They will never understand what being full-on creative and understanding means. Even though I always try to keep my work timeless and classic, I respect people with an open mind who have no limits when it comes to creativity.
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The use of black and white, the textures of the shadows, saturated colours, and the straight look into the spectator’s eyes from your models, are a few characteristics of your work. You do have the ability to bring us to the place where the action is happening with no filters. Isn’t that what photography is all about?
Looking around, observing all details is incredible. When you develop the ability to look at something with the photography perspective and see it before you have the camera in your hands is amazing. Then you believe on the subject. Look for it and be obsessed about it. I believe taking a photograph and having people reading it in their own ways is so magic. Having a conversation with the subject you’re photographing is definitely important, being curious... That’s the essence of photography.
I have read that Vogue Paris commented that you have a unique way at immortalising youth. Isn’t that way too limited to describe your work?
I believe that is a nice way to describe one side of my work. Youth is in your soul, so if you see it that way, it makes complete sense. Vogue Paris mentioned that for my first publication –Playground – which is a timeless book with a mixture of trips and portraits, creating different points of view on every subject photographed.
Do you easily accept the conditions imposed by the magazines you work for?
I am flexible to discuss anything and I’m not stubborn about my ego. But, of course, I have my own point of view and a concept that is very important to follow through. I never do anything just because, and I love working with people that trust me and also have trust in themselves. Generally, I discuss with the magazine what we could work on, and then I put a mood board together and connect back with them. I am very easy going. I love when everything feels organic.
What’s your main purpose when capturing the moment?
I read the eyes and body expression, and then I literally go for it. Sometimes I like to change the person and the way I see them. It’s amazing when you have a great face that comes with a great personality and someone that is adaptable and confident.
The philosopher Byung-Chul Han states that Covid-19 has reduced us to a “society of survival.” The rich are richer and the poor are poorer. What have you personally learned out of this pandemic time?
We can’t take anything for granted and we have to be more grateful with what we have. It made me realise that we are all controlled by media and government, which in a way is sad. I feel sorry to everyone that lost their jobs and loved ones, to the artists that couldn’t create or were not supported. I am ready for everyone to be healthy body and mind and out of this.
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