‘Obrigado’ off the Coast of Central Africa

Artur Cabral 

Although Artur has a degree in artur-cabral-1 architecture, he left that world to pursue his true passion: photography. He has been a professional photographer for the past 6 years with his work appearing in high-end magazines and publications around the world. In 2014 Artur traveled to the island nation of  São Tomé and Príncipe, a former Portuguese colony, located off the coast of Central Africa. With the help of a company sponsorship, he started a project to give photos mainly to Island elders called ‘Obrigado’ (‘Thank You’ in Portuguese). Artur’s striking large format prints made quite an impression in a country where 66% of the people live below the poverty line.

Follow Artur on Instagram @arturcabral and find more of his stunning work at www.arturcabral.com

When did you start giving photos?

Every time I go back to a place where I’ve been before, I try to print some of the photos I took to give back to people. It started a few years ago in Mozambique, but it’s been mainly in the last two years on my trips to São Tomé and Príncipe (Islands in the Gulf of Guinea, off the coast of Central Africa) where I went several times for work.



By the end of 2014 I started project OBRIGADO (Thank You) in Príncipe Island with a sponsorship from HBD (a South African company which is in the tourism business but with great concern and cooperation with local communities). With the help of an anthropologist, I met with many different communities and talked to “young people from the past” as we fondly called them. Those moments of lively conversation were key to getting people to smile. Sometimes, their smiles were hidden by the fatigue of a difficult life. But it was nothing that a good and cherished conversation couldn’t overcome. I returned in February 2015 to continue the project, with an exhibition in the main square of St. Antonio, the capitol of the island country. Large format prints were placed so everyone could see and read about these amazing elderly people who helped make Príncipe. There were about 90 people portrayed and honored in this project.

Obrigado Exhibit in St. Antonio (capitol of Sao Tome and Principe)

Meanwhile, parallel to the exhibition, we offered the people a printed photo so they could keep it like a souvenir or pass it on to the next generation.


What motivated you to do it?

A print is something so simple and basic for all of us that sometimes we don’t realize what it can do for someone that never had one. The joy that a simple portrait brings to people when you give it is amazing, and that simple act can make a big impact in somebody else’s life.


What equipment do you use and why?

I normally travel with my Canon 5D Mark III, a 24-70 f2.8 II and the 70-200 f2.8 IS. Recently I bought a mirrorless Sony a7 rII, to try something different with a smaller camera I can be less intrusive and cause less discomfort to the people I photograph.


Can you share one memorable story with us about your experience sharing photos?

In Príncipe it was fantastic to see people’s reactions to the Obrigado Exhibit — they wanted to see the photos up close, read the stories, recognize the faces. Children and adults, everyone wanted to come, some to find themselves, others to see their friends, others just with natural curiosity to learn something new. There were some school children who came as part of a field trip and wrote essays about the exhibit and, more importantly, about the people in the photos!


But if I had to pick the most profound moment that I had giving photos, I have to choose one in Mozambique where a boy didn’t recognize himself in the picture and told me in all innocence, “That boy has a toy like mine”.

Do you have any suggestions for people who would like to give photos?

Just do it! It doesn’t matter if you are giving back a small polaroid instant picture or a big print, just do it! The joy that it brings to the person receiving it is priceless!


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