Presents Well is a photographic series based on posters that were printed when slavery still existed in Brazil and that advertised the fact that a slave had run away. They included a description of the slave under the title “Presents well.”
I compare these texts to classified ads for jobs published in contemporary newspapers ―which still used this expression even recently― in order to reconsider its meanings and scope. Paradoxically, in many of these ads, blacks are discriminated against, since the underlying meaning of “must present well” is that the ad is directed at Caucasians.
Letters to the Sea is a series that I worked on for about a year, in 2016, and that was based on texts related to the Valongo wharf in Rio de Janeiro. I compiled accounts by local residents and shopkeepers on my visits to the port area. This research led to a series of twelve images made using different techniques, such as photographic emulsion on cotton paper or Kodalith film with acrylic paint.
We know that about sixty percent of the people who were enslaved and brought over from Africa to the Americas passed through Rio de Janeiro’s ports. The Valongo Wharf was built specifically for this purpose: as a debarkation point for enslaved men and women ―waves of them. While this was their point of arrival, it was also a graveyard of sorts for those who had died or had become seriously ill during the arduous crossing of the Atlantic in the holds of slave ships.
This project attempts to recover some of this history for future generations, but also to discuss the issue of resistance. The work in the darkroom and the incorporation of postage stamps and texts into the images’ postproduction refer to notions of time, memory, and documentation, including, for instance, letters thrown overboard in bottles with the hope that future generations might find them. The images featured in Letters to the Sea were made with self-portraits of mine as well as photographs from the collections of friends and family.
An industrial chemist by training, Eustáquio Neves began to experiment with photography and to develop alternative multidisciplinary techniques, manipulating negatives and prints. Later, in 2006, he began to explore electronic media, focusing on experimentation with sequencing and video. His work deals from a critical and social perspective with issues of memory and identity in Afrodescendant culture in Brazil. Among other distinctions, he has received the Prêmio J.P. Morgan de Fotografia in 1999, the Prêmio Nacional de Fotografia in 1997, and the Prêmio FUNARTE Marc Ferrez de Fotografia in 1994. In 2005 the publishing house Cosac Naify included a volume of his work in its Portátil collection.
This work directly addresses processes of colonization and slavery in Brazil in order to understand the legacy of colonialism and the current construction of racial identity. Tropical Paradise also challenges the discourse of domination normalized by scientific theories over the nineteenth century and examines the notion of Brazil as a paradise: a paradise for whom? The country was and is still seen by domestic and foreign elites as an immense reservoir where the people, animals and plants exist merely to be exploited.
In her work, Rosana Paulino addresses social, ethnic, and gender issues, with a special focus on the role of black women in Brazilian society and the violence they suffer as a result of racism and the lingering stigmas of slavery. Paulino was awarded a research grant by the Bellagio Center of the Rockefeller Foundation in 2014 and an international fellowship by the Ford Foundation in 2006. In 2017 she received the award of the Associação Brasileira de Criticos de Arte in the contemporary artist category. Her work has received scholarly critical attention in specialized publications such as the Journal of Black Studies. With Rosana Paulino: A Costura da Memória, the artist presented her first major exhibition at the Pinacoteca de São Paulo in December of 2018.