Vincent Catala - Photographe

An ongoing project about São Paulo during the Covid-19 lockdown

After I moved to São Paulo on 15 March 2020 (just before the quarantine measures) I walked through the city’s streets and neighbourhoods for hours each day, aimlessly but with my eyes wide open. I would stop whenever a detail attracted my attention. Without wanting to formalise anything at all, just keen to take a series of pictures that I might perhaps try to sort and decipher later on. I didn’t know the city very well and had no real points of reference and very few elements for comparison. Maybe this street had always been empty? And the silence, the birdsong perfectly audible in the trees, the sky empty of the roar of planes, seemed paradoxically natural.

In a city strangely closed in on itself, yet at the same time open for sightseeing and to walk around, I came across people wearing masks. These encounters were always brief, as though we were almost embarrassed to speak to each other, at a distance, in the silent and empty street. Pensive, friendly, hurried, sometimes wary, these Paulistas are a mirror for the infinite spectrum of human emotions and reactions. A mask can’t change that. To me, they are the sentries of the city.