THERE’S SOMETHING UNDENIABLY charming about Manuel Pita’s lonely houses. His Instagram is full of colorful structures that stand alone against a big, blue sky. It’s fun to imagine who lives in them, and what they think about it. “Each house has a little story,” Pita says.
Pita, who goes by moniker Sejkko, lives in Lisbon, Portugal. He began photographing the houses two years ago while visiting Cacilhas, a small district in the city of Almada with a scenic view of Lisbon over the Tagus River. There he saw a red house that resembled an “architectural strawberry” with a pale blue sky behind it. He was fascinated and had to snap a photo. “Something clicked in me, and the click was transferred to the camera in my phone,” he says.
Pita now has more than 50 photos in the series. He finds most of his houses in a region of central Portugal called Alentejo, but has also photographed in France, Turkey, Spain, and Croatia. He discovers many houses during road trips, and stops whenever something catches his eye. He also likes to scope out the local houses wherever he’s traveling. “I feel they say a lot about a town’s character, and about its people,” Pita says.
He gravitates toward older houses that look like they might have a story to tell, especially ones with a traditional gable roof like his grandparents’ house in Madeira. Pita’s also drawn to bright, bold colors and unique details like a rooster weather vane. “The typical old Portuguese home really gets me every single time,” he says. “If one day I make my own house, I will use the old designs for sure.”
The photos almost look like illustrations, with symmetry and colors perfect for a Wes Anderson tableau. Pita seeks out houses that stand alone or have very little around them, but about half the time relies on Photoshop (or the Photoshop Mix app when he’s mobile) to remove extraneous items like lampposts or trashcans from the frame. Beyond that, he adds a filter (Instagram’s Clarendon is his filter of choice lately) and tweaks colors and contrast a bit to make his pictures pop before uploading to Instagram, where he currently has 195,000 followers.
While he originally shot everything on his iPhone, Pita upgraded to a Nikon D600 and a Mamiya 7 last summer. He says the bigger cameras allow him to “go deeper” with his photography and capture better light, texture, and tonal range. However, he still has a soft spot for mobile photography. “My houses were born in Instagram,” he says. “Doing something emotional and authentic using a tool that many people had in their hands and that could be so easily shared was super exciting and appealing to me.”