High fashion meets urban culture in Leo Faria's printed work

The Brazilian fashion and street photographer on how he shoots his bold images and why he believes a photo only truly exists when it's been printed.
A fashion model in a bright yellow skirt and a fluorescent pink jacket poses at a busy market, while an open-mouthed man walks alongside her.

Fashion and street photographer Leo Faria captured this striking image during an editorial shoot in Hong Kong. "Out of nowhere a local man pulled this incredible expression and I said, 'we have this photo, let's go to the next one'. He prints all of his final images because he believes they have to exist in a physical form, and chose Canson® Infinity Edition Etching Rag for this shot. "The paper is capable of reproducing the dozens of textures and colours in this image and intensifying the depth of field," he says. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS R with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 65mm, 1/250 sec, f/4 and ISO400. © Leo Faria

One of the greatest names in Brazilian fashion and street photography, Leo Faria has merged the two genres into an art form. His eye-catching images juxtapose catwalk models and high fashion with gritty urban settings and his use of colour, mood and movement has earned him worldwide acclaim and magazine assignments all over the globe.

The Canson® Infinity Ambassador has recently completed a personal project, exploring how people from different cultures use clothes as a form of expression and how that differs – or not – across our interconnected world. Here, Leo discusses his work and why he believes the printed image is so important.

A woman in a burka sits at a beachside café, looking out to sea.

Leo has travelled the world capturing ordinary people going about their lives. "I took this photo in Abu Dhabi," he explains. "This woman was sat alone having a juice in front of a deserted beach in the devastating heat." Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV) with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L II USM lens (now succeeded by the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L III USM) at 135mm, 1/800 sec, f/6.3 and ISO100. © Leo Faria

How and why did you develop your style of combining fashion and street photography?

"Some people travel to discover remote places or for gastronomic experiences, but I travel to meet and understand new people, and that includes how they express themselves through clothing. Fashion is a huge part of it, but my main focus is people. Street photography is fundamental to my work. It's the area where I feel free to capture what really touches me. I've developed a style of shooting on the street in different combinations of light and shadow, capturing the natural attitudes and expressions of people going about their lives. It has enabled me to photograph fashion from my perspective, in a way that's rooted in a wider environment."

Do you own Canon kit?

Do you own Canon kit?

Register your kit to access free expert advice, equipment servicing, inspirational events and exclusive special offers with Canon Professional Services.

What inspired your latest personal project?

"I have a profound interest in human nature and a deep desire to get to know people from different cultures. I hope that my images help to broaden tolerance and to dispel misconceptions about ethnicity, religion, gender and sexual orientation. I want to help people see that a destination goes far beyond incredible sights, exotic food or shopping. A destination is also an encounter with a people and culture. I believe there is much more to life than one's personal experiences and beliefs. There's a world of possibilities, and that's what makes us so interesting. I'm trying to capture the differences and similarities between cultures and the ways they interconnect."

A fashion model in a cowboy hat walking down a crowded New York street.

An image from an editorial shoot in Times Square, New York, USA, inspired by the movie Crocodile Dundee. Leo printed the shot for his personal collection on Canson® Infinity Photo HighGloss Premium RC. "It's an incomparable paper, which sets the right tone for this country-style story showing a girl discovering the great metropolis," explains Leo. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS R with a Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM lens at 1/400 sec, f/2.8 and ISO640. © Leo Faria

Why is printing your images such an important part of your process?

"What drives me to print a photo is wanting to create something 'real' from something digital. Printing enables physical contact with an image. I feel as though a photo only really exists once it has been printed. It's the crucial final step of the process, and the one I have the greatest emotional attachment to."

What printers and papers do you use?

"I have a Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-4000 and a imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 in my studio. The 12-ink system provides rich colours and deep blacks and combines beautifully with the textures, weights and white tones of the Canson® Infinity range of digital fine art and photo papers. I have dozens of options in the printing process, so I'm able to get the best results imaginable. What's more, the fidelity and consistency is exceptional on a print by print basis, and the archival life is excellent."

A beach seller walks across the sand carrying bags and accessories and wearing a pile of straw hats.

Leo printed the images for his latest exhibition on Canson® Infinity Museum Pro Canvas Matte. "It's a paper with a very sharp texture capable of revealing skin textures and woven fabrics in an exquisite way," he explains. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 120mm, 1/8000 sec, f/2.8 and ISO250. © Leo Faria

A man in a blue shirt and trousers and a woman in a green top stand talking over a food cart in a busy market square.

Another image from Leo's 'At the meeting of' exhibition. Colourfully dressed locals chat over a food cart in a square filled with street traders in the Brazilian municipality of Uberlândia where Leo was born. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 102mm, 1/500 sec, f/2.8 and ISO500. © Leo Faria

Which Canson® Infinity papers do you use most often?

"I don't have a favourite – I like to make use of everything that's available in the range. I printed more than 270 images for an exhibition on Canson® Infinity Museum Pro Canvas Matte. Entitled 'At the meeting of', the exhibition took place at the Centro Municipal de Cultura in Uberlândia, Brazil, and featured documentary photos I took all over the world during a six-year period researching different cultures.

"In two previous projects I used matte Canson® Infinity Rag Photographique and PhotoSatin Premium RC paper. As these papers are very different, they enabled entirely different techniques and effects, from the assembly stage to the final result. These are just my most recent projects: I've used all of Canson® Infinity's papers at one time or another."

A sheet of Canson® Infinity fine art paper emerges from a Canon PIXMA PRO-200 printer. The print of a woman's face is cropped just above the mouth and she is wearing long diamond earrings and a diamond ring

Canson® Infinity paper is ideal for use with Canon's range of professional photo printers. "Print speeds are impressive and the fidelity between one print and another is impeccable," says Leo.

You were recently invited to test four new papers in Canson® Infinity's ARCHES® range? What benefits might they bring to your prints?

"The papers were created at the Arches paper mill, which has been making top-quality art paper for more than 500 years. The mill uses a traditional cylinder mould for fine art papers, which means more time is spent on production, giving the paper a more authentic handmade look and feel. ARCHES® papers have an incredibly pure, bright-white finish without the use of optical brighteners, meaning no chemicals are added to the paper. They achieve the whitest white I've ever seen in fine art media and, because optical brighteners aren't used, that colour won't fade or yellow over time. Colour reproduction is fabulous, and the blacks are deep and intense. In terms of retaining the sharpness and texture of a digital image, it's revolutionary. It's like the difference between HD and 4K video – immediately obvious to the untrained eye."

Do you prefer glossy, lustre or matte papers for your prints?

"I always choose the paper that works best for a particular image. I think it's wrong to have a default preference. I've found it necessary to experiment and try out all the variations over time. With experience, the choice becomes intuitive. I'm now able to decide on the ideal paper for an image even at the shooting stage, but I'm always keen to experiment and try new things. The choice of printer and paper is absolutely critical to the final result. Using an incredible printer and choosing the perfect paper is every bit as important as the initial capture of the photo or the post-production stage."

A woman in a colourful dress dancing in a field under blue skies.

Leo printed this fashion shot on Canson® Infinity Baryta Photographique II paper. "It gives a light shine that highlights the luminosity of the sky and of skin tones in front of light, creating a nostalgic analogue aesthetic," says Leo. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens (now succeeded by the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM) at 16mm, 1/200 sec, f/16 and ISO200. © Leo Faria

A woman in a red jumper with a long braid wrapped several times around her neck and head.

Part of a personal project, this image was captured in an open-air studio in Brazil and printed on ARCHES® BFK Rives®, one of the papers in the new Canson® Infinity ARCHES® portfolio that Leo was invited to test before its release. "This is a pure-white paper with natural grains that accentuates the pores and texture of the skin and hair," says Leo. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 160mm, 1/200 sec, f/4.5 and ISO200. © Leo Faria

How does your choice of paper add value to your work?

"Certain papers can simulate the results of the chemical printing process in analogue photography. For example, Canson® Infinity Baryta Prestige has a barium sulphate coating which offers an appearance and aesthetic similar to traditional photographic papers but with very high-quality colour reproduction and chromatic spectrum. The wide range of textures, weights and styles of Canson® Infinity papers gives me full creative freedom when making prints."

How useful is Canson® Infinity's certification printer system for creating limited edition runs of your prints?

"There are many demands made by Canson® Infinity in order for a printing studio to be certified as part of the programme. For example, the studio has to have a regulated environment with controlled lighting, and the walls must be a specific, standardised colour. Humidity and temperature must also be controlled, and there are procedures for handling the papers. From a photographer's perspective, having a print from a Certified Printer makes all the difference and brings added peace of mind because you're guaranteed the best possible quality and consistency, for prints that will last a lifetime."

Matthew Richards

Leo Faria's kitbag

The key kit the pros use to take their photographs


Canon EOS 5DS R

Designed to deliver the ultimate in DSLR image quality, the Canon EOS 5DS R boasts 50.6MP resolution and a low-pass cancellation filter that maximises the sharpness of the camera's sensor.


Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM

Favoured by many, this new version of the classic wide zoom that Leo uses offers stunning sharpness throughout the zoom range. "I find zoom lenses more dynamic when working with people on the street," says Leo.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM

With its incredible f/1.2 maximum aperture, the super fast EF 50mm f/1.2L USM is a consummate low-light performer. A lens that allows fine creative control over focusing and depth of field.

Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

A professional short-telephoto lens, precision-made for low-light shooting and those situations where extremely shallow depth of field is required. Perfect for creative portraiture. Leo says: "I usually use prime lenses for editorial fashion shoots in the studio."


Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000

Print in stunning quality with a 12-ink system up to A2. Leo says: "The 12-ink system provides rich colours and deep blacks and combines beautifully with the textures, weights and white tones of the Canson® Infinity range of digital fine art and photo papers."

Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-4000

The ultimate large-format printer for photographic and fine art printing – with unparalleled 44-inch production output and reliability. "The fidelity and consistency is exceptional on a print by print basis," Leo says.

Related articles

Get the newsletter

Click here to get inspiring stories and exciting news from Canon Europe Pro