On Saturday, March 3, the event ‘Favelas in Photo—Images for Rights‘ brought together residents of the Morro da Providência favela and photographers from the region to share their knowledge about the practice of photography and its role in forming stories about the first favela. Meeting in a church next to the deactivated cable car station, the participants used photos by professional photographers and historical records as a starting point for conversations about memory in Providência.
Residents shared diverse memories—some painful, some fond. Some images were old, reflecting the founding of the favela 120 years ago, whereas others were more recent, reflecting public policies, racism, soccer games, forced evictions, and memorable characters from the favela.
One of the participants, Diego Deus, reflected about how his experiences growing up in the favela led him to become a photographer.
Children also participated in all phases of the meeting. They observed the photos, shared their impressions, and even took pictures of the event.
Daniel Oliveira, a seven-year-old raised in the favela, documented various moments throughout the meeting, such as the smile of one of the participants.
In the afternoon the event involved talks by photographers from the region. Henrique Zizo presented the work of the Expanded Photo Collective (Coletivo Foto Expandida), which promotes photography workshops in Rio’s Port Zone. “It is a project about the process of creating the image,” he said. He explained that at the start of workshops, many participants were not interested in the finished pictures, which were normally taken with a pinhole camera. But after passing through all the steps of the creation process, which included developing photographs in a darkroom, the participants developed a greater appreciation for the photos.
Maurício Hora, a renowned photographer from Providência who is responsible for the Casa Amarela cultural center, reflected about his photography practice. He spoke about the focus of his art of documentation and the difficulties in photographing the favela due to the presence of armed groups (both parallel and State). He also reflected upon the inaccessibility of photography for residents: “The community barely participates. Photography is very philosophical and intellectual.”
Aline Mendes, another resident, spoke about her effort to reassemble the photo collection of Sebastião Pires, who she claims “photographed Providência’s golden age.” Better known as Tião, he recorded baptisms, first communions, socializing in bars, and every kind of daily event in the favela. “A large part of families’ histories in Providência were recorded by Tião,” she explained. The photographer’s collection was displayed in Rio’s Art Museum (MAR), in the exhibition Tião’s Constellation, and remains preserved in the museum. But Mendes made sure to emphasize: “The collection belongs here. It belongs to Providência.”
The exchanges that were initiated on Saturday will continue in Providência and other favelas across Rio de Janeiro. In Providência, the photographer Fábio Caffé will lead a photography workshop for residents in April. Those who are interested can register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Between April and May, the series of Favelas in Photo meetings will also take place in Vila Kennedy, Manguinhos, and Santa Marta. The final event will occur in June and will unite all of the content discussed in each favela to generate a general reflection. The meetings are organized by the Favela em Foco (Favela in Focus) collective and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.