Ever since photography was invented, or rather presented to the public in the first decades of the 19th century, it has become the representative or narrator of intimate life: portraits, parties, vacations, travel. Because it was born as a democratic expression, it was inserted in everyday life. The famous family albums.
Because it is considered a banal, day-to-day art, many of these photos, which filled archives, often ended up being forgotten in drawers or, worse, discarded.
And that's where the role of the researcher comes in, looking at fairs, flea markets, abandoned albums, solitary images, but waiting for someone to discover them to come back to life again and have space in the narrative of our passage through the world.
We are beings full of images. It is through them that we leave our mark on the world we pass through. And, since we have photography as a protagonist, our existence is as marked as the images in caves.
And it is because of these photographs, apparently thrown away or forgotten, that for years the researcher and curator Rubens Fernandes Junior has been going through secondhand stores, antique fairs and flea markets, in order to restore the visibility of people who were once portrayed by amateurs. or by studio photographers. Photographs now collected in a book, images he conceptualized as disowned photographs, a concept, incidentally, that gives title to the book released by Editor Tempo d'Image.
Images with no name, no data, no date, but which carry a whole history of representation. On the representativeness of a time, of a society, of important moments experienced: “I have been collecting anonymous photographs for years. Unknown people, rarely identified”, writes the author in the presentation of the book. And he continues: “The whole set of data, or rather the lack of them, was the strange attractor that aroused in me the desire to acquire and preserve these photographs that I found in second-hand stores, fairs, bric-à-brac, antique markets. , places that shelter everything that had its end determined by those who, in theory, were their owners”.
An image apparently without data opens the possibility for countless readings, decodings bringing to us the same astonishment that the philosopher Walter Benjamin felt when talking about the photograph of a fisherwoman in his text The little history of photography, of 1931: "The first people reproduced entered the photos without anything being known about their past life, without any written text that identified them".
That's why these images are fascinating. Many philosophers and researchers who wrote about photography, such as Alfredo de Paz or Roland Barthes, for example, already announced that the history of photography should be told through the images found in family albums or in the famous shoe boxes. These are indeed important for the representativeness of a given society. The sociologist Pierre Bordieu published, in 1965, a book together with his research team, called Un art moyen (not yet translated into Portuguese), in which he researched the family archives: “The family albums, the wedding and graduation portraits, among other rites of passage, had a tutorship that maintained an affective bond”, comments Rubens Fernandes Junior.
For this volume, the researcher selected only Brazilian images. To better organize the volume of photographs, he created chapters and a possible reading among many: accidental, couples, aesthetic coincidences, body and movement, children, mirror and shadow, estrangement, studios and settings, man and city, man and machine, landscape, portraits and simulations.
In an age of social media, and the ephemerality of the image, preservation is important. Disinherited images are canceled images if we want to use a contemporary vocabulary. Hence the need to preserve them, but, above all, to present them: “When thinking about the essentially digital contemporary image, and its material scarcity, the importance of preserving disinherited photographs becomes evident as, through them, , we concretely attest to the existence of a ritual that produced some meaning in the lives of ordinary people”, says Fernandes Junior.
By recovering disowned or abandoned images, we leave, for future generations, records of our passage through the world and how we would like to be seen and represented.