In Boston’s thriving creative community, queer Brazilian photographer Kaio Cesar is establishing a name for themselves. Born and raised in the sunny state of Espírito Santo, Cesar’s love of art was nurtured from a young age, with pop culture serving as a constant source of inspiration.
It wasn’t until Cesar moved to the United States at the age of 19 that he began to seriously pursue photography, using his phone to snap pictures of friends and experimenting with editing techniques until finally investing in his own camera. Nonetheless, Cesar’s path as a photographer continued. Through a commitment to growth and change, the photographer honed their aesthetic over time, shifting away from their early look and aiming to produce something novel for each new project they take on.
Such dedication to development is what has established Kaio as a photographer to keep an eye on in the Greater Boston region. Cesar’s eye for detail and ability to bring out the beauty in the commonplace has made them a favorite among customers and other artists alike, whether capturing the vivacious energy of creatives alike or working on personal projects.
We had the pleasure of chatting with Kaio about some of his standout projects over the past year, gravitating towards photography as a craft, and his evolution among other topics. Keep scrolling to read our conversation.
To begin with, can you introduce yourself and what gravitated you towards photography?
My name is Kaio Cesar and I am a queer Brazilian photographer located in Boston. I was born and raised in Vitória, Espírito Santo. I moved to the US at the age of 19.
I have always loved and practiced all types of arts as a kid, but I had a soft spot for visuals. Pop culture was a big thing for me and it inspired me very much growing up. I would create images with The Sims because I didn’t have a camera at the time. Photography was never something I considered doing professionally until 2020 when I found myself taking pictures of friends on my phone until finally getting my first camera.
Over the past several years, your artistry as a photographer has certainly evolved and taken a life of its own. How would describe your work at this current stage in your career?
When I started photography I had no clear vision of what I wanted to do and the type of aesthetic I was looking for. I have always played with editing for hours until I got satisfying results. I would find different techniques to do things and evolve my style. I also tried to look for references within the type of photography I wanted to deliver. Having good references and developing a critical eye toward my own work definitely made me refine my images and that is what I aim to do with every project: to learn something new and elevate my game even more.
My style today is very different than what it was when I started and some people still link me to what I used to do, I loved it very much at the time but for me, it doesn’t make sense to deliver the same thing over and over, therefore I am always looking to elaborate and evolve as an artist.
How did you want your work to be perceived in the beginning—has anything changed in terms of what you want people to take away from it in the current day?
I remember only shooting black and white photos when I started and I thought that was going to be my mark, but I was very wrong. I wanted people to feel the drama and melancholy through those photos, but at a certain point, I realized that I needed colors and I needed other techniques to give people other types of feelings with my photos. I started creating small concepts and executing them with people I would meet along the way.
Nowadays I still want people to feel things when looking at my pictures. I want the models in it to exhale power, even if they don’t feel like they have any. I want them to feel fierce, and with that, I want the viewers to be impacted by that. The women in my family are very strong, they inspire me very much and I think that leaks in my photography style.
Moreover, the subjects and muses that you work with oftentimes blend seamlessly with your style of shooting. What compels you to work with certain subjects and environments?
I am very very picky when it comes to picking my models. I look for distinctiveness and peculiarities that only that person will have and I want to highlight that with my pictures, like a trophy. I also appreciate modeling skills, but I think I am a very specific director too and I follow a pattern when directing, so I can get every shot I need from a shoot.
I usually have a prior idea of what I want but they are never set in stone because I like to play with the images later and if that first concept doesn’t look compelling to me, I will change everything in post-production and make something I love with the images. I am very grateful for every artist I have worked with so far because they have always believed in me and in my vision, they let me be creative and I appreciate artistic freedom very much.
I remember a person told me that my photos were a movie and all models were characters in it. That stuck with me and ever since then I try to keep a level of consistency in everything I do so people can recognize my work when they first lay their eyes on it!
In regard to finding your voice in photography and creating a community around your work, what advice would you give to younger photographers and visual artists?
I am a firm believer that you do not need expensive equipment to create great images. I was struggling financially when I got my first camera and it was a semi-professional camera, cheap lighting, and cheap lenses. The thing I needed the most was my creativity, there was an urge in me to express myself through those images somehow and that drove me to where I am today artistically.
Meeting other artists and collaborating with them is also key to bringing concepts to life, you can’t do everything by yourself, trust me. It is also VERY important to surround yourself with references. Follow artists that make art similar to what you want to deliver, study specific techniques, and don’t be afraid to try and have fun creating and expressing yourself while shooting. Try different lighting setups, try different editing styles, and most of all, be consistent, because consistency is key if you want to be remembered.
1. Selly Antunes For LADYGUNN
This picture was shot for a magazine and it is an homage to one of my first photography styles. I used to shoot and edit my models in a way they would look tall and their feet would look huge like they were right in front of the camera. A lot of people still link me to that style because one of my first big shoots was like that. For this image, I used the same techniques I used in the past, but I was able to refine it and make it look fresh, merging it with my current aesthetics.
2. The Battle
This is the second image of four created for my first exhibit in Boston. The image was made to pass a sensation of freedom through the power of womanhood portrayed by the character I created for this series. This collection is called The Red Battle.
3. Dorian Electra
This image was made for Dorian Electra in February 2022 when they were in Boston for their world tour. We shot all tour looks that day. I am very grateful for Dorian letting me be creative for our shoots. I believe I was able to make their personality visible in my photos!