“An exhibit in tribute to black women, showing all their strength and beauty.”
This is the definition of the show “Beleza Afro-Brasileira (Afro-Brazilian Beauty)”, of Italian photographer Giancarlo Mecarelli, which is on display at the headquarters of the Secretariat of Culture of Paraty (state of Rio de Janeiro). 12 young women were portrayed by the photographer, representing the beauty of black women in Brazil. The girls, who are not professional models, posed for the first time for a photographer, mostly in artistic nude photos.
“I can say that this work happened by chance. A friend of mine who lives in Italy, asked me to portray a black woman and to send the photo to him. I began to look for some girls who could serve as models for the photos. I was inviting some women from here in Paraty. They are ordinary women who had never posed for professional photos. One was a waitress, another works in a bakery, another is cleaning woman. I started taking pictures and then the work was expanding, I ended up doing more pictures than was originally planned and then decided to mount the exhibition”, explains Giancarlo.
The photographer says that the production work of the photographs unfolded according to the cooperation of the models, which were not used to being portrayed that way.
“I saw the girls in the city and began to imagine how they could be photographed. Some were ashamed to take the pictures because they had never done anything like this before. I tried to portray them showing a certain sensuality, but always seeking to avoid any kind of pornographic connotation. My intention was to show the natural beauty of these women, with sensitivity, without exposing their intimacy”, he points out.
Plastic artist Renata Felinto
This whole process took place in 2006 and the exhibition was inaugurated during the Flip (Festa Literária Internacional de Paraty or International Literary Festival of Paraty) that year. As the theme of the Flip was famed Brazilian writer Jorge Amado, the photographer decided to associate his photos with the author’s works, including excerpts of the texts in his exhibition.
“As I was putting the exhibition together, I contacted the writer Ovídio Poli Júnior, who also lives in Paraty. As the exhibition would be inaugurated during the Flip, we decided to create this dialogue between the show and the event, including some texts by Jorge Amado in the exhibition. So I showed the pictures to Ovid and he made the choice of the texts, using the great knowledge that he has about the work of the author. I really liked the result and for me it was an honor to have as a ‘partner’ that great Brazilian writer”, he says.
After the inauguration, the exhibition was displayed in Paraty and also in Rio de Janeiro, and now returns to his hometown.
“I received the invitation of the Secretariat of Culture to exhibit the photos. They have been there from the beginning of the month as well as in other places in which they were exhibited and they are finding great success with the public.”
For the photographer, the exhibition was not only a way of showing the beauty of women to other people, but also to make themselves appreciate their own beauty.
“A black woman has a different beauty, with a strong physique and face with striking features. I tried to show the particular beauty of each girl who posed for photos. Many of them would hardly have had an opportunity like this to be photographed in a professional manner and be able to be seen in this way and I wanted to bring that experience to them” explains the photographer.
About the photographer
Giancarlo Mecarelli was born in Italy and raised in São Paulo from the age of 5 to 21. He began his career as an illustrator for advertising agencies in Brazil. Throughout his career, Giancarlo came to act as art director for several major advertising agencies in countries like Portugal, Spain and Italy.
In the 1980s, Giancarlo also began to devote himself to photography and since then started to have his photos published in important Italian journals, binders and catalogs.
In 2004, during a business trip, Giancarlo visited the city of Paraty and was enchanted by the natural beauty of the city. The photographer then decided to leave Italy, settling in the Historic Center of Paraty, where he founded the Galeria Zoom de Fotografia (Photo Gallery Zoom). Currently, the photographer is dedicated to the activities of the gallery and the ‘Paraty in Focus’ photo event that he created and is promoting.
The “Beleza Afro-Brasileira” show is featured in the headquarters of the Secretariat of Culture of Paraty and can be seen there until the 27th of August, Monday through Friday, from 10am to 5pm. Starting August 14th “Beleza Afro-Brasileira” will be exhibited at the Escola Panamericana de Arte e Design (Pan-American School of Art and Design) in the Higienópolis region of the city of São Paulo.
As a mixed heritage woman I appreciate this, thank you for doing us justice. As a bisexual woman, I did not find these photographs arousing, I think they are just gorgeous. There is a difference between art and porn, if you don't get it maybe you should educate yourselves. It's sad that in western culture any nudity is automatically considered pornographic. For those who are saying these women are being fetishised, please do some research on both Brazilian culture and the photographer himself. Many of his photographs are nudes/semi-nudes and not just of women. I commend these women for being confident enough in themselves that they volunteered to do this, judging by some of the comments they have a better self esteem than others.