Aline Pimenta

Director NBS SoMa

According to IBGE data, Rio de Janeiro is the Brazilian city with the highest percentage of its population living in slums: 22.03%, which corresponds to more than 1.3 million people. Despite representing an expressive slice of the population, the favela is often associated with the place of the "other": a space of chaos, deprivation, precariousness and danger, social representation full of values that threaten peace in the city, intensified since the 1990s and summarized by journalist Zuenir Ventura in his book Cidade Partida.

According to Jailson de Souza e Silva, PhD in sociology and founder of the Observatory of Slums in Rio de Janeiro, the appreciation of supposed absences and the homogenizing image of slums have a fundamental presupposition in sociocentrism, when standards of living, values and beliefs of a given social group are taken as reference, placing other groups in a hierarchically inferior position. Thus, it was in the search for another possible type of representation for the favelas that the Favelagrafia project was born.

Launched in 2016, the Favelagrafia Project is made up of nine photographers from nine different favelas in Rio de Janeiro, who photograph their communities and, since then, post the images on an Instagram account (@favelagrafia), today with over 40,000 followers.

In the images produced by Favelagrafia, some themes appear more frequently, indicating a shared look by the project's photographers. Christ the Redeemer, Ipanema Beach and Pedra da Gávea are portrayed from the point of view of the favelas, not the "asphalt", which leads us to reflect on why such angles seem so "unusual" to us.

Frequent are also the images that portray the architectural horizon of the favelas, assuming as beautiful the spatial characteristics of these territories, generally represented by the media as "chaos" and lack of urban planning: a strategy of inversion of the look of absence to the look of power.

The daily life of the residents is also a strongly present inspiration: people circulating through the narrow and busy streets of the favelas, children releasing kites, playing soccer, riding bicycles, the color of the clotheslines full of clothes drying, the tranquility of cats sleeping on the doorstep, young musicians and dancers exhibiting their art. Records that lead us to think about the value of "ordinary" days, when life can simply unfold without the interruption of violence.

In the set of images, what strikes the eye is the multiplicity: of spaces, trajectories, ways of life, tastes and customs. Favelagrafia does not offer us an answer about what "the" favela is or who "the" favela resident is, because the use of the singular would be the product of a stereotyped and reductionist vision. Favelagrafia illuminates our gaze on the infinity of everyday life and possible lives, whether in the favelas or anywhere else. This is the beauty of the project.

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Image: Saulo Nicolai / Favelagrafia