Photographers We Love: Mário Macilau

mário macilau
Telton Simbine (2), Faith series, 2017.

WORDS Lindi Brownell Meiring PHOTOS Mário Macilau / Courtesy of Ed Cross Fine Art

After seeing the work of Mozambican photographer Mário Macilau at the Investec Cape Town Art Fair 2018 we wanted to know more about this creative’s journey from humble beginnings to international acclaim.

Mário Macilau, who has exhibited at prestigious events and exhibitions across the globe, from the Venice Biennale to the Vitra Design Museum, views himself as a visual investigator of sorts, a documentarian who focuses on environmental and political matters, issues associated with identity, and the challenges faced by socially marginalised groups, “the ghosts of society”.

He explores the conditions associated with labour and cultural heritage, and how they affect the way people interact with their environment. Focusing on long-term projects helps him to build relationships and get a clear understanding of his photographic subjects’ lives, cultures and realities.

Untitled (4), from the series The Profit Corner, 2016: a boy playing on the Hulene dump site in Maputo.

When did you first know you wanted to be a photographer?

It would be a lie if I said it was a conscious decision. I first came into contact with photography when I traded my mother’s phone for my first camera. One of my young neighbours used to work for missionaries, and when they left the country it was custom to leave something meaningful behind; in this case it was a Nikon FM2. My friend didn’t know what to do with it, so he decided to sell it to me. I couldn’t afford it, so I traded my mother’s phone, a very valuable item in our house. I enjoyed playing with a camera, the film and the development process in a small improvised darkroom in my mother’s house. I had a lot of fun discovering the magic behind the chemical process.

Career highlights so far?

Photography has been much more than a personal thing. Through it, I have experienced fundamental moments in my life by constructing different meanings, telling real stories about people in time and space, and photographing not only with my camera but with my soul as well. There is a lot left to do, but I’m still young and I’m happy with what I have done so far.

Mário Macilau.

View more of Mário’s work at