This work directly addresses processes of colonization and slavery in Brazil in order to understand the legacy of colonialism and the current construction of racial identity. Tropical Paradise also challenges the discourse of domination normalized by scientific theories over the nineteenth century and examines the notion of Brazil as a paradise: a paradise for whom? The country was and is still seen by domestic and foreign elites as an immense reservoir where the people, animals and plants exist merely to be exploited.
In her work, Rosana Paulino addresses social, ethnic, and gender issues, with a special focus on the role of black women in Brazilian society and the violence they suffer as a result of racism and the lingering stigmas of slavery. Paulino was awarded a research grant by the Bellagio Center of the Rockefeller Foundation in 2014 and an international fellowship by the Ford Foundation in 2006. In 2017 she received the award of the Associação Brasileira de Criticos de Arte in the contemporary artist category. Her work has received scholarly critical attention in specialized publications such as the Journal of Black Studies. With Rosana Paulino: A Costura da Memória, the artist presented her first major exhibition at the Pinacoteca de São Paulo in December of 2018.
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.