Ricardo Gomes, The Playground of Life

Words: Patrícia Barnabé

Madonna’s tour photographer is Portuguese, a rock portrait artist who is passionate about fashion and documentaries and who is a citizen of the world. Remember this name: Ricardo Gomes.

“Fascinated by creativity” from a young age, he always sought “to create ways of observing through an object, with what I had at home”, he recalls. As soon as he left Madeira for the capital at the age of 17, he started studying visual arts, but quickly transferred to photography. He fell in love with Paris when he visited it, also because he knew people who could show him a “more intimate” city. “I thought: why don’t I go on this adventure and see what happens?” So he moved. The first three months were far from a dream as he had to adapt to the country and its codes while learning the language. But there is nothing quite like “leaving your comfort zone” and exploring “everything I felt would help get me through. And so it was…” He lived in the French capital for 8 years. “Being in Paris helped me get to know people who could introduce me to artists from the world of music who I respected and adored”, he said. “I think that if I was not a photographer I would work in music. I am fascinated by the power music brings to people”, bringing them closer, “the world together”.  The music of the 1960s, like the photography of the 1970s are what’s in his eye, as well as the free surf culture of the French and American west coast. He later got to know and work with rock musicians like Pete Doherty, Louis Bertignac, James Williamson, Glen Matlock, Wendy James, Marianne Faithfull, Patti Smith and Kim Gordon, among others, and started taking photographs for magazines: fashion, portraits and documentaries: “the three styles I most identify with”. The result is poetry that cannot be any more cool.

He published a book, Playground, in each of the years 2018 and 2019. In them [I] “talk of the years I lived in Paris, the trips, portraits, personal work in black and white, about the world in which I live and work. My real playground,” as it were. And the Lachowski Family Portrait Book, which is “a book about a family, models and friends of mine. Almost like a dedication to friendship, love and photography, and a look at the intimacy of a family, at home, travelling, etc.” Meanwhile, ever since I was a kid I have travelled to other cultures, which “has been an immense influence on how I look at everything around me.” According to Diana Vreeland, the former editor of American Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, the eye has to travel. “It is important to travel, to meet other people, to leave our comfort zone, to put ourselves to the test. Only then can we know who we are, what we want and what we really like.” He adds: “The internet can never take the place of journeys, meetings, of real connections. I feel privileged to have grown up without the internet. It taught me to see things in a much more ‘real’ way.”

He still has a home in Paris, but he is now a bit of a nomad travelling all over the place taking photographs on the road with the great diva of pop music, Madonna. He smiles as he admits it has been a “wonderful” experience. “It has been incredible. I have learned so much in terms of work and morally over this last year”, he says. “She is truly… perhaps the only artist out there with an incomparable work ethic. I have become a more tolerant person, and one with an eye for detail.”  A year with Madonna led to a show in Paris, where he was invited to exhibit his photos of the singer, “and to celebrate the end of the tour”. And from her he learned some life lessons: “I learned, again, that this world is not for everyone, but it is for me. And that 70% of the people who said “no” to me without reason in the past don’t know why they refused me. Because, unfortunately, they never had the opportunity to experience something so magical in their work or in their vision — if they ever had one. Words and work with a foundation and experience are all. My focus just now is to create and experience more.” So, now he is devoting himself to more colour and video, “something I haven’t done in recent years because I was afraid of leaving the comfort of a single image. But now I am ready to explore everything life has in store for me. And it might be worth it, because the soul is not small!”

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