Hunting, dialogue, coexistence, fight - the Januário Garcia photography

Roberto Conduru

As a natural characteristic of a photographic exhibition, Rio of all Africas is a collection of moments eternalized as images. Unique moments as those of a Folia de Reis at Cinelândia, a carnival parade at the Sambódromo, an offering to Yemanja in Guanabara Bay, a Night of Black Beauty in Madureira, a walk against religious intolerance at Atlantic Avenue, the Feast of Flags at Estacio de Sa samba school, any moment at Salgueiro hill. In this exhibition, there are many snapshots of life in Rio de Janeiro. They were captured by Januário Garcia.

This shows the photographer as a hunter. One who knows what he is looking for, prepares himself to conquer, observes, waits, reflects, plans, executes – he knows what to do and does it.

Januario Garcia hunted a lot. Acting for more than 40 years as a photographer, he produced a collection of images that he calls the Brazilian Documenta of African Matrices.

Starting in Rio de Janeiro, he travelled throughout Brazil, went over the Americas- South, Central and North-, reached Europe, and of course, Africa from where millions of people have been forced transposed to be enslaved, from the 16 century to the 19, but were able to resist, to regain freedom and fight for equality.

This exhibition focuses on exactly this process in Rio de Janeiro: Diasporas cariocas by Januario Garcia lenses. No one can equate him in the recording of this city blackness during the past five decades.

He has been the photographic chronicler of Rio’s black daily life, but also of exceptional moments, both party and shock. The moments captured by him are evidences of the black’s life in Rio, the black movement in its broadest sense.

However, the images of this exhibition, especially the pictures, also suggest us to think the photographer as an interlocutor. One who knows how to deal with people, talk, listen, wait, ask, captivating, suggest and even order. In short, interact to generate the picture. After all, although it is a target of the photographer, the image results from the relationship between the people involved in the photographic act.

Januario Garcia also became remarkable by making “negritude” icons. Among many other artists, it is worth noting the wonderful portrait of Lady of Macuco, which brings to us, in her first pose for the camera, the ancient times. Also, his enigmatic Mona Lisa; or the conscious pride of the ‘Xango do Salgueiro’; Lelia Gonzalez and other black leaders as well as Antonio Pompeo. He also brought images of so many women, men, couples, children, adults and the elderly.

Alone, in pairs or in groups, people are considered the main focus of Januario Garcia. In his photos, things, landscapes and other beings are considered of less importance; appear touted by other people, once persons are his only interest, their lives, desires, actions, achievements , accomplishments. These images are the result of dialogues records people he met and the events he witnessed. But in this case, the photographer is much more than a witness. He is not absent, out of the picture, even if he does not appear. Januario Garcia is not out of the scenes he shows – he belongs to the scenes, he is one of them. His images are images of a time that he lived in. Derive from his intimacy with people in their world. This gives him the ability, through his camera, to reach their truth and what happens around them. It is recommended to perceive the photographer as a companion.

More than being a person who belongs to a group, he has an attentive gaze to those that are near, contiguous, fraternized. It is a glance of a partner in life, either regarding the intensity of conflicts and celebrations, or in calm ordinary days. So, it is also a self glance. Therefore, his images go far beyond the record; they are expressions, that is, they are ‘self-expressions’.

Januario Garcia is a unique member of the Black Movement. With his images, his writings and speeches, his books and exhibitions, he fights the daily war against the black population in Rio de Janeiro, as well as in all parts of Brazil. This suggests seeing the photographer as a warrior; as the one that, more than the camera, engages his gaze and therefore his body in the fight for freedom, equality and justice.

Following the dispersive logic of Diaspora and the widespread way of the Brazilian racism practice, counter-hegemonic struggle has no special time and place to happen. It takes place on a daily basis, here, there and anywhere. If the picture can be understood as a constant translation of the elusive, it there is also no place and time selected in advance. This helps to understand why Januario Garcia sacrifices sometimes some techniques and compositional characteristics on behalf of what he considers the greatest mission of his work - the protection and preservation of black people’s life in the diaspora. That is because he chooses those moments in which the photographic operation overlaps the anti-racist, anti-colonial and egalitarian struggles. Therefore, he produces images that are dense moments by keeping the integrity of resistance, fighting and transformation processes. Colloquially, his photos transmute indexes and icons into symbols of black dynamism: from the most obvious battles as rallies, marches and political assemblies, even the most unsuspected, though no less profound, untill the celebrations, the games of children and resistance in the not peaceful Brazilian day by day.