Model on Duty: Gustavo Lopes

Polaroid images of Gustavo in Swim Brief

Sean & Val recently sat down with Brooklyn-based model/photographer/restaurant GM, Gustavo Lopes. Gustavo modeled for Sean & Val alongside Nico Brown for Clifton Mooney - the full photo story is featured in The Zine Vol. 2 - and he also published his own photo zine entitled "Riis is Burning" in 2020. You can view his work on his website here.

 Polaroid images of models in swim briefs

Sean & Val: Tell us about yourself.

Gustavo: I’m born and raised in Brazil and I’ve been living in Brooklyn for the past six years. I guess like everybody else here, I do a lot: I’m a freelance photographer/model and a General Manager at a cool restaurant in Bushwick – Sally Roots.  

Sean & Val: Tell us about the day of the shoot with Clifton. 

Gustavo: Personally, there was a lot of first times for me. I haven’t worked with Clifton and Nico before and although I’m always taking pictures of myself in speedos on my IG – sorry not sorry – this was the first time I did it in front of a professional camera.  

Most of my experience is being behind the camera so Clifton was super helpful in guiding me through the whole process. Then, when Nico joined us, it all became easier and, of course, hotter.  

Polaroid images of models in swim briefs

Sean & Val: We love your "Riis is Burning" photo zine. Can you tell us how that came about? 

Riis is Burning is the outcome of my love for Jacob Riis. Being from Brazil I feel like I have a lot to say when it comes to going to the beach and having a good time. Although we look very progressive to the rest of the world, it’s relevant to say here, that my home country kills more trans and gender diverse people than any other in the world for the past 13 years running (Trans Murder Monitoring Project). 

Riis always felt different from everything else I’ve experienced. I’ve never been surrounded by so many trans and gay people of color in my life! It’s a sacred place; it’s home for a lot of us marginalized by society in our day-to-day life. I always wonder why I am not seeing the same level of diversity when I take the train, go to work or even when I go to parties. It’s clear to me that there’s a lot to be done in terms of building safe spaces for the LGBTQIA community in New York.  

Sean & Val: What inspires you? 

Gustavo: I’m a very passionate person (read: I’m Brazilian). So much inspires me: people, food, places, paintings, music. I’m constantly engaged in activities where I get to explore my interests and what inspires me. When I look at my Instagram feed, it’s clear what are the things that I’m obsessed with. It’s translated not only in film photography but also in the subject being photographed.  

Sean & Val: Sean & Val is inspired by the sense of friendship within the gay community. What does friendship mean to you? 

Gustavo: Friendship is such an ever-changing thing in life. I can see how the concept has changed over the years. It went from this selected group of people that I’m obsessed with and will always have in my life to a sort of support system group of people that is always there for me in different ways. The gay people I have met in my life have taught me so much about myself and ultimately helped me to express my own unique gay self.