Eduardo Leal – Forcados

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“Portuguese forcados lie somewhere between the bullriders of the Americas and the bloodier bullfighters of Spain,” says Eduardo Leal,

Leal, who is graduating from the Photojournalism and Documentary Photography Masters at London College of Communication in 2014. “Unlike in Spain, where the bull is stabbed to death if the matador wins the contest, the forcados wrestle the animal (its horns are capped) with their bare hands as a display of determination and bravura.”

Leal embarked on the project in a bid to rediscover his country, he says. Having lived away from Portugal for some years, exploring its traditions would, he reasoned, allow him to get back to his roots. “I don’t support bullfighting, but Forcados have always captured my attention. I remember stopping in front of the television to look at these crazy men wrestling bulls and wondered what motivated them.”


Wanting to better understand this tradition, the 34-year-old set about fostering a relationship with a group of forcados; he was unable to take pictures straight away as it was necessary to spend time getting to know the group. They are like a family and it takes time to gain their trust, he explains. “Anyone from outside is seen as an intruder, especially when you have a camera with you… I hung out with them and barely took any pictures, but I always carried a camera. I went to every bullfight, meeting and dinner; slowly they started to see me as one of them. It was only then that the project really started to flow.”

Leal took a “storytelling” approach to the project, combining portraits and environmental shots that show the forcados before, during and after a fight. His images often get in close, homing in on details; bright colours and strong shapes feature often. “I learned a lot in terms of what you would like to do, and what you actually get in the end,” he says of the project. “I used to start photographing immediately [but] now understand the benefit of patience and taking time to find the photograph you really want.”