Rafael Lopes was born in Lisbon in 1987, a time when Portugal was facing a great financial turning point. More job opportunities were available in the big cities and people had more money to spend in travel. The 1990s flooded Lisbon with new ideas and artistic concepts that had been commonplace in many of the other European capitals for some time. Unfortunately for him, Rafael's parents could not afford to live in such a place and were forced to move to the suburbs, in the south bank of the Tagus.
The neighborhood where Rafael was raised can be described as a concrete jungle. The new and fresh ideas were but a fleeting mirage heating the other side of the river. This lack of stimulus forced Rafael to look to his gray surroundings in a different way, motivating him to see beauty in ordinary walks of life. Observing people in their environment was one of his favorite hobbies, but that was it, nothing more than a hobby.
One of the first photos Rafael took while visiting Lisbon, age 15
He completed all of high school studies in sciences, achieving grades that allowed him to pursue Veterinary Medicine in Lisbon. Finally, his time to live on the other side of Tagus— a place full of history, museums, concerts, galleries and more— had arrived. It was also the time to have a small, compact camera and continue his hobby.
In reality the city turned out to be even bigger than he expected, with more stimulus he could ever handle. After completing his degree he decided to move to a small town on the countryside and start his career. Landscapes and small hidden villages were now his refuge. After two years, he had the opportunity to participate in his first photographic exhibition. Focusing the shapes and textures of rocks, he created visual stories and brought them back to the capital.
Unannounced to him, life was about to change, on one hand he begun to feel veterinary medicine was too constrictive, with no space for creativity, on the other, Portugal was becoming too small for his ambition, he needed to see the world and to photograph it as it was— or at least, as he wanted it to be. Armed with a backpack and a small digital camera, he begun his European journey and started his street photography portfolio.
Unfortunately, after just four months he was forced to return to Lisbon for the worst of reasons. Illness struck his family, and his mother was gravely ill. After her death he decided to abandon Lisbon, a city full of memories he once again couldn't handle, and accepted the challenge to be a veterinary surgeon in Macau.
On the run
When arriving in Macau one might be easily impressed by the great skyscrapers, the casinos, the expensive cars around every corner and especially by the luxurious lifestyle imposed. That is just a glimpse of the city. The cityscape seems to be familiar to Rafael, it is, after all, the concrete jungle he was brought up with.