Our current photography exhibition, Favela: joy and pain in the city, is a collaboration with the Observatory of the Favelas – a social organisation based in Maré, the largest complex of favelas in Rio de Janeiro.
Jailson de Souza e Silva, Founder and Director of the Observatory of the Favelas, spoke to us about the three photographers who trained with the Observatory of the Favelas and are exhibiting here this summer.
When thinking about peripheral spaces, such as favelas, there are many prejudices. They are seen as places characterised by absence and deprivation deficient in decent facilities, services, order, education, culture and civic values. They are believed to be lawless and overrun by violence, representing the height of urban chaos.
These photographs allow us to judge favelas according to what they actually have: intense joy, pain, life, death, respect, violence, struggle, celebration, games, play, work, intimacy, complicity, complexity, simplicity and sociability among many other expressions of life.
Bira Carvalho, Elisângela Leite and AF (Adriano) Rodrigues all come from the favela of Maré – an important point of reference in their artistic work. They are all members of a vast contingent of young people from favelas and the peripheries of Brazil who refuse to be categorised as the “beneficiaries of social projects”, or mere documenters of their own daily lives.
We train the photographers to have excellent technique and an anthropological outlook. This seeks to recognise life where many see only death, invention where many see only deficit, beauty where many see only aesthetic compromise, and violence where many see only the inequality that has been normalised by the social system.
The work of these photographers allows the fluidity, richness and density of the life that is present in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas – and in all peripheral communities the world over – flow past your eyes.
Every day, by exercising their profession and their art, they show people can reinvent themselves, no matter where they come from or where they live. Because, for the person who sets out to find it, the world is never too far away, and life is never small.