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“Anyone from outside is seen as an intruder, especially when you have a camera with you…”

  • The 'jaqueta' distinguishes each group from a another because of the different fabrics and patterns. It is also extremely important for the forcados since it passes from generation to generation. From the series, The Bullwrestlers of Portugal © Eduardo Leal/Polaris

    The 'jaqueta' distinguishes each group from a another because of the different fabrics and patterns. It is also extremely important for the forcados since it passes from generation to generation. From the series, The Bullwrestlers of Portugal © Eduardo Leal/Polaris

Class of 2014: London College of Communication graduate Eduardo Leal's project on Portugese bullfighters

“Portuguese forcados lie somewhere between the bullriders of the Americas and the bloodier bullfighters of Spain,” says Eduardo Leal, who is graduating this year with a Masters degree in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography from the London College of Communication. “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 he had 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, and slowly they started to see me as one of them. It was only then that the project really started to flow.”