At age 27, Guinean artist Abdel Queta Tavares opens this year's Lisbon Underdogs gallery with his first solo exhibition, "Nha Fala".
"This is me," says Abdel Queta Tavares with a shy smile, as he opens his arms toward the dozens of photographs he has selected for his first solo exhibition, which opens this Friday, March 1st, at the Underdogs gallery in Lisbon.
The chosen title, Nha Fala, that in Creole of Guinea-Bissau, where he was born 27 years ago, means "my voice" shows that. "These are the [photographs] I've always liked. That's why I have chosen them, "he told Plataforma. Quite different from the self-portraits he started taking in black and white in 2010, the works presented here were made between 2015 and 2018 and are in full color. Large format.
On the right wall, in an orange background, the portrait of an Angolan woman, taken at Parque das Nações in 2015 is the oldest photograph selected for the exhibition, with the help of the Frenchwoman Pauline Foessel, who together with Vhils founded the Underdogs plataforma.
Adding to the care in choosing the costumes of each person he portrays - many of the pieces used to belong to his very personal wardrobe - the photo shoots are always taken outside. "I need to be outdoors, close to nature to inspire me," he says. And in this photograph taken at Parque das Nações, he reminds us of the moment opportunity "When I was photographing, the wind blew and that piece of fabric flew off. It was really good. "
As with costumes, the choice of funds is also very careful. And the one in that photograph taken at the Parque das Nações had been kept in Abdel's head during a walk. When he chose the clothes that her Angolan friend was going to use for the photo shoot, he had no doubts about the place where he would photograph her.
Investiginf on his fashion career, and on and the decision to embark on this adventure in London, Abdel continued to photograph in the English capital. And that's where most of the photographs were exhibited. Some of them having with new friends as protagonists, others with people who approached him, even without knowing, asking them to photograph them.
"I do not choose people because they are beautiful. I choose people who send me a message, which when I see them, I think I have a story to tell, "he explains. The opposite has happened to him, too, asking to be photographed. A moment that turned out to be decisive for his still short career.
In 2016, when he was in a Shoreditch store he was approached by the British photographer David Cantor. "He told me that he liked my style and wanted to photograph me," he recalls. A style in which stands out his red hat, which he began wearing at a Carnival, still in Lisbon and never left again.
The hat that caught the look of Cantor was no longer the one used in Carnival. After searching unsuccessfully in the flee market, it was in a shop in Lisbon downtown, one of the few where hats were custom made, that Abdel Queta Tavares found the successor of this carnival prop. "Now I have ten hats," he says, holding the latest acquisition he picked up last week.
Cantor's lens, red hat and Abdel pose were worth the British's Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Award. And to the Guinean a popularity in the London scene that he never thought to achieve. It was exactly this popularity that led a dancer to approach him at a London subway station asking him to photograph him. And that photograph is also there, until March 30, in the old warehouse of Braço de Prata where Underdogs is installed.