Photographer Mario Masilau uses the “language” of his craft to question the public.

Written Jackie Prager, CNN

Surrounded by his images in his studio in Maputo, Mozambique, photographer Mario Masilau adjusts the contrast of a recent shot he took. The simple yet striking image shows a powdered boy participating in a traditional religious ceremony. Makilau strikes a delicate balance between black and white in photography, shedding light on people living in the shadows of society.

The visual artist travels around his home country photographing social and environmental issues. For Masilau, photography is “a very important tool for making a positive impact on the world,” he said, adding that it is about “how people think, how people see each other, how people judge, how people stereotype certain cultures.” ”

Machilau, 38, uses his skill to question every aspect of society. The focus of his long-term projects ranges from depicting how colonialism affected Mozambican architecture to preserving the country’s ancient religious ceremonies and the raw realities of marginalized groups.

“We need to archive the social values ​​that we have,” he said. “The rising generation needs to know where they came from in order to know where they are going.”

Masilau’s art has been shown around the world, including group and solo exhibitions in Lisbon, London and New York. As a child, he lived on the streets for several years in the Mozambican capital of Maputo, where he worked to financially support his family before becoming an award-winning photographer.

Behind the lens with Mozambican photographer Mario Masilau

He says he discovered his passion for photography when he was 14: “For me, photography was a toy. That’s what made me happy.” It wasn’t until McIlaue decided to trade his mother’s cell phone for a camera that he began pursuing art as a profession.

“Raising in Darkness”

The experience of being a photographer on the fringes of society led him to create one of his most exciting series “Growing up in darkness“For several years, Masilau has been documenting the conditions of street children in Maputo, a harsh reality faced by many Mozambican children. UNICEF report, 74% of children in the South African country do not have adequate access to basic infrastructure, including sewerage and electricity.

“My idea was to show them (from) different perspectives… how they live, where they live, where they sleep,” Machilau said.

Mario Masilau (right) talks to a man he photographed while riding a motorcycle in Mozambique.

Mario Masilau (right) talks to a man he photographed while riding a motorcycle in Mozambique. Credit: CNN

Before filming the series, he spent time getting to know the kids. He says he won their trust to become “invisible” and capture their real daily life.

“You need to build trust with people,” he added. “You have to tell them why: why are you filming them, why is this project important to you, to your creativity, and what will you do with this project?”

The series was presented on 2015 Venice Biennale. All photographs were printed in black and white, a style Macchilau continues to use. This motif can be seen in his other long series, Profit Corner, which humanizes the people who work and live in the local dump.

“I want people to look at my work and the first thing they should find in it is beauty,” he said, explaining how he thinks using the sharp contrast of black and white in his photographs helps people “ it’s easier to understand.” and… don’t forget about the photo.”

Inspired by his Mozambican heritage and personal experience, Masilau says he feels responsible to use his photographs to show the problems of our society and help make the world a better place.

“I’m trying to show people around me that there’s room for everyone,” he said.

Watch the full episode of “African Voices” featuring Masilau here.