Maysa is a project about race and gender in Brazil. I met Maysa during the final competition of the Young Miss Brazil Pageant in April 2014, as she was filling out her registration form. That day, I found out the pageant had two categories, one for young white women and one for young black women. Young Miss Brazil and Young Miss Brazil, Black Beauty had been created to encourage black girls to participate. Racism is unfortunately still commonplace in the country, although approximately fifty percent of Brazilians are black. The vast majority of them will have to deal with some form of long-term marginalization.
Months after the pageant, Maysa contacted me, asking me to take pictures of her for her portfolio, since she wanted to enter the 2015 pageant. What had been meant as a single photography session became a work in progress. We kept in touch and, over time, we developed a strong friendship, one that has made me more aware of my country’s harsh realities ―its racism, sexism, social exclusion, and people’s struggle to survive. In 2015, Maysa won the title of Young Miss Brazil, Black Beauty.
I watch Maysa and her family struggle to gain access to decent housing and to achieve a level of social recognition. But what I do find fulfilling is to see a wonderful human being come of age who represents many of the values that are slowly disappearing across Brazil.
The photographic work of Luisa Dörr focuses on women and their lives, from global leaders —the series of portraits entitled Firsts, produced especially to serve as twelve covers of Time magazine in 2017— to the sequence of photographs of a young beauty pageant contestant. At the age of twenty-two, Dörr discovered photography and decided to study at the Universidade Luterana do Brasil. In 2016 she was selected for the Joop Swart Masterclass of World Press Photo and in 2015 for LensCulture Emerging Talent and for the Emerging Photographer magazine of Photo District News (PDN). Her work has been published by CNN, Wired, The New Yorker, Vogue, Lens Culture, and Vice. In 2018 she was one of the winners of the Flash Forward competition of the Magenta Foundation, while Firsts was selected as the documentary project of the year by POYi.
Eu, mestiço takes as its starting point an anthropological study titled “Race and Class in Rural Brazil,” carried out by Columbia University in partnership with the UNESCO in the early 1950s. At a time when Brazil was seen as an epitome of racial democracy, the study aimed to establish racial typologies and to search for a possible structural genesis for racism in the country.
Local people across the country were shown portraits of black, white, and mixed-raced Brazilians and asked to qualify these people’s attractiveness, presumed wealth, intelligence, work ethic, and morality, among other attributes. The results of the analysis clearly presented racist stereotypes. And while the photographs used to conduct the questioning prompted the participants to manifest prejudice, the images themselves were not included in the resulting publication.
Juxtaposed to qualitative words taken directly from the UNESCO research, Andrade’s work produces a certain discomfort in viewers, inducing them to reflect on their own racial and class prejudices.
Printed on mass-produced material typical of signboards, the photographs recall both the visual aesthetics and stereotypical images of street advertising, bringing to light the ways in which photographic images continue to shape preconceptions about race and class.
By means of photography, installation, and video, Jonathas Andrade intertwines collective memory and history, combining hints of reality and artifice to create an ambivalent space in which he can explore the tensions of race, social class, and labor. Brazil is the focal point of his explorations. In 2014 he work was included in the exhibition Under the Same Sun: Art from Latin America Today, presented at the Guggenheim Museum in New York and then at the Museo Jumex in Mexico City. Andrade has participated in the triennial of the New Museum (2012) and in the biennials of Istanbul (2011), São Paulo (2010), and Mercosur (2009). In the exhibition Jonathan Andrades: One to One (2019), the artist presented his work for the first time at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.