Walter Firmo was born in 1937 in Rio de Janeiro, the city where he currently lives and works. He got his start in photography in 1957 as a press photographer for the newspaper Última Hora. His colorful portraits helped bring fame to Afro-Brazilian musicians, particularly samba artists like Cartola and Clementina de Jesus. In the 1970s, he began to study popular festivals and Brazilian folklore, yielding works such as the “Festa do Maracatu-Rural” series (1997). He was awarded the Nikon International Photography Prize seven times (1973-1982). From 1986 to 1991 he was director of the National Photography Institute at Brazil’s National Art Foundation (Funarte).
Today, his photos can be found in the collections of the Museu Afro Brasil, the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art and the Pirelli/Masp photography collection, among others. They also appear in books such Walter Firmo – Antologia Fotográfica (Photo Anthology, 1989), Cores e Sentimentos (Colors and Feelings, 2002) and Firmo (2005). In May 2018, the Instituto Moreira Salles received Walter Firmo’s collection on loan for preservation and dissemination, with over 100,000 images. One thousand of them were acquired and are now part of the institution’s permanent collection.