Researcher AND DocumentarIST
Interview Discovering my Brazil
Being a Researcher and Documentarist
What are your skills relevant to be a Researcher and Documentarist ?
I enjoy researching, writing, taking pictures and filming. If I can, I avoid video editing. I speak fluent Italian, German, French, English, Portuguese, Spanish and I also speak some Rumanian. As a consequence, most of the time I do not need a translator. In addition, with the help of an editor I can write texts in all languages. I would only avoid writing in German and Rumanian because I would need too much help for the grammatical part.
What kind of projects do you accept working on?
I mostly work on my own projects, but would engage in any work related to culture, ideas, justice, violence, and religion.
Do you prefer working by yourself or in a group?
Due to my previous job, I am accustomed to working with a team of people. However, in my current personal projects I mostly prefer working alone because this helps me to better relate to the people I am confronted with. In addition, my projects in many ways stem from my own intimate questions and I want to learn as much as I can from the experience I decide to go after.
Where are you currently based?
I am based in Rio de Janeiro and could easily move within the region until September. After September, I should be moving back to Ecuador.
Picture taken by Camo
What was his life like prior to photography/videography?
Born in Brazil to a Swiss father and a Brazilian mother, Henry grew up in the Italian part of Switzerland speaking Portuguese at home and French with his father’ s family. His talent as a young footballer gave him the opportunity at the age of 15 to be recruited for the Swiss Youth National Football Team. Henry’s professional soccer career lasted more than ten years during which time he was able to travel around the world, live in different countries, relate to people from different nationalities and also polish a few more languages.
How and when did he begin taking pictures? What motivated Henry’s approach to photography?
Given his bi-cultural upbringing and multicultural trajectory, Henry’s sensitivity to cultural issues was always present but after a year of living and playing football in Romania at the age of 20, existentialist doubts became relevant in his thoughts. He took up photography around the same time as a means to combat his originally shy nature by asking strangers in Rio de Janeiro if he could take their photos. His natural inquisitiveness translated into a critical questioning of his own beliefs, and more extensive reading in the areas of philosophy, sociology, and anthropology helped him to acquire more self-awareness. As a result, Henry began to travel on his own, making of photography the instrument to aid him in his existentialist quests. Through it he went on to live other people’s lives, to some extent, as a way to transcend his own life and therefore, come closer to comprehending the meaning of human experience as a whole.
How did he become a Researcher and Documentarist?
While still playing football professionally, his enthusiasm led him to enroll into a flexible British online university to get a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies. He also took a post-graduate summer course at the London School of Economics in qualitative research methods and attended a few workshops in documentary making. One year after a trip to West Africa in which he lived with and documented a tribe that practices Scarification, the Spanish newspaper El País contacted him wanting to buy and publish his piece. Since then, Henry realized that he could make a living out of the pursuit of his interests and he has done numerous pieces for Brazilian media companies, Swiss television, and for El País, all with a focus on important yet often overlooked social issues. At 27, he decided definitively to give up his professional soccer career and moved to Colombia in order to learn his seventh language and study the Colombian conflict. While in Colombia, he changed his focus to other areas of the Colombian culture and took on several projects, including researching and accompanying the recyclers community in the capital city of Bogotá and living with Wayuu families in the Colombian Guajira peninsula region.
What kind of projects does he take on? What are his future plans?
In collaboration with the media or Non-governmental organizations, Henry is interested in raising awareness about topics related to justice and social inequalities. However, as an inquisitive and disciplined professional he is mostly committed to his own long term projects which involve immersing himself in communities that challenge his own beliefs, paradigms and worldview and allow him to experience life from completely different perspectives than his own.
His latest project aimed to understand how indigenous people who in the Amazon have trans-dimensional relations with spirits and animals, alter this set of relations when moving to a metropolis. This project became part of his MSc's dissertation in Social Anthropology that he just concluded at the London School of Economics. His passion for in-depth fieldwork is what made him realize that he could pursue anthropology as a profession. Indeed, he is currently finalizing details to pursue Doctoral studies.
Henry believes that anthropology should complement photography/videography and vice versa in order to make the insights of anthropology accessible to a lay public. Accordingly, Henry wishes to pursue an academic trajectory that does not exclude publications suitable for a greater public. In line with this thought, his current project arises from a collaboration with Dr. Kohn and the willingness to do a documentary about his Anthropology of Life.
*Written in collaboration with Alma Quiroga