Residence affected by bombing. Vila Mariana, São Paulo, 1924. Photo: Mons. Jamil Nassif Abib

The show that was at IMS until July 2018,  Conflicts: Photography and Political Violence in Brazil 1889-1964,  is a photography, politics and history class. Peremptorily denying the officialist thesis that Brazil is a peaceful nation, the exhibition brings together a wide range of images captured between two key moments: the proclamation of the Republic, in 1889, and the Military Coup of 1964. The idea of ​​“ gentle mother” proclaimed by the national anthem and school books quickly dissolves in the face of the succession of records of conflicts, civil wars, uprisings, insurrections and a lot of repression led by a violent state in that 75-year interval.

As political scientist Angela Alonso sums it up, in one of the introductory texts of the exhibition’s extensive catalogue, “armed confrontations between the government and the army embroider our history with high frequency and virulence”. Some of the conflicts represented are extremely well-known, such as the Canudos War, the 1930 Revolution and the suicide of Getúlio Vargas. Others go unnoticed in school books, like the Revolution of 1924, for example. The same occurs with selected images. From different authorships (signed by masters such as Marc Ferrez or by photographers whose identity has been lost in time), these images can be read in different and enriching ways.

Together, they talk about the brutality of a marked by violencecia, in which “a people that rebel and an elite that is not civilized” have their relationship always mediated by conflict. They also outline an interesting panel on the diversity and evolution of the photographic image in the country, from the oldest techniques, in practice in the XNUMXth century, to the massive use of images by the press, passing through different moments such as the recurrent use of the cart.postal service and the first experiences with photography in motion (precursors of cinema). In all cases, with greater or lesser intensity, the political use of the image as a weapon of persuasion and testimony is evident. As Heloisa Espada, curator of the exhibition and author of the catalog together with Angela Alonso, recalls, “every image created in a conflict is interested”.

In many cases, what these images record is not the action itself. We have before our eyes the stage of conflicts, their actors and the marks of destruction after the violence has taken place, which always places the constituted power on one side and the defeated ones on the other. From the first image, which records a group that poses before the beheading of an enemy in the Federalist Revolution of 1894, to the final record, which recalls the brutal repression and torture to which communist leader Gregório Bezerra was subjected in 1964, a very large number of questions arise, many of them dealt with in detail by a variety of essays gathered in the book/catthen.

From the point of view of image registration, it is possible to notice how the improvement of technical resources allows a more “realistic” capture of the scene. The pose gives way to an image captured in the heat of the moment, like the records made by Evandro Teixeira in the first hours of the military coup (1964). This does not necessarily translate into greater drama. DiffIt is difficult to overcome the tragic character of images such ass that show the body of the annihilated enemy, in a clear strategy of reaffirmation of power. It is worth mentioning, for example, the records of the decapitated heads of Lampião and other bandits (anonymous photo, 1938) or the dead and exhumed body of Antônio Conselheiro (Flávio de Barros, 1897). Nor that the speed of photojournalism has completely replaced the control of pose and composition by photographers, strategies of internal organization of the image that have been repeated over the decades.

Another aspect that stands out in this trajectory, at the same time historical and technical, it is how the way of recording conflicts and the way they are carried out evolve in an almost parallel way. In other words, the technological advance indoes not only have an impact on the ways of recording and distributing the images, but it also has its effects on the forms of combat. Conflict by conflict, the show reveals how little by little the knife gives way to the increasingly destructive power of cannons and bombs thrown from the air.

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