The Bahia artist Thiago Borba portrays black beauty and seeks to deconstruct racism in his photographic project ‘Black is Beautiful’


Note from BW of Brazil: Stunning! Absolutely stunning! Since the beginning of this blog, one of the principal motives was to present opinions and experiences of the racial issue n Brazil as well as present black Brazilian representation that is sorely lacking in the country’s mainstream media. And today’s story and corresponding photos are a perfect example of this. When I stumbled across these photos over Revista Trip’s website, I immediately that I needed share the report with the readers of BW of Brazil. Rarely do we get to see black people featured in a leading role in which they are presented as naturally beautiful.

In the interview below, the photographer says that all of the models featured in the photos are either friends or friends of friends because restraining himself to choosing professional models would lead him to imposing another aesthetic standard. It is the one thing in the article below that made do a double take. Maybe the people he chose to photograph aren’t actually professional models, but they are all physically attractive and in good physical condition, which, one could argue, does represent compliance with an aesthetic standard. Oh well. I ain’t mad. The photos are wonderful and I hope to see similar images from Thiago Borba. Images are one of the best ways to change a perspective that a group of people that has of itself. Check the story and great pix below.


The Bahia artist Thiago Borba portrays black beauty and seeks to deconstruct racism in his photographic project Black is Beautiful

by Giulia Garcia; all photos by Thiago Borba


A coisa tá preta. Então a coisa está feia? Não. Se a coisa está preta, é porque a coisa está linda. (The thing is black. So, is the thing ugly? No. If it’s black, it’s because it’s beautiful). That is how Thiago Borba, a Bahian photographer who thinks of showing the beauty of blackness and deconstructing racism – daily and structural – from his art. His trajectory with lenses begins in 2006, when he decided to drop the marketing course and go to Spain to study photography.

Back in Brazil after a year, he didn’t find job opportunities in Salvador, his hometown. He then went to São Paulo, where he worked for 10 years. “More feeding the market than feeding photography,” says Thiago about this period, when he realized the need to reconnect with the feeling that had brought him to the art. “I didn’t choose photography to pay bills, I chose to express something,” he explains.


 Photo project Black is Beautiful

It was time to resume the work. He stopped, then looked at his own production and decided from it in which direction he would take his next steps. “It takes a lot of self-knowledge to understand what your role in the world is and what you want to defend,” he affirms. The son of a black father and a white mother, he realized that, throughout his entire trajectory, his eyes had turned to blackness. “I was able to look at where my lens was always pointed, even if it was in a timid, blurred and unconscious way. Then I decided to raise the flag,” he says.


At the end of 2016 he began the project Paraíso Oculto (Hidden Paradise), formed by images that combined beleza negra (black beauty) with nature, in a balance of protagonism. In April of 2017, he exhibited the works in the city of São Paulo and realized that his work generated identification and representativeness. “We live in such a tense moment that we can no longer be in this world for nothing. I think everyone has to have a reason to be here.” He found in photography the means of expressing his own why.


Knowing where he wanted to go with his photos, Thiago saw his work begin to become increasingly marked by a connection with his own roots. “The junction of nature and blackness refers me to ancestry, a place of origin, a pure place with a naked beauty stripped of social values,” he explains.

Thus, in 2017, Thiago returned to Bahia. He wanted to continue the project, but his eyes opened to other aspects. “I began to see that society tends to put o preto (the black person) in a single box. When you’re in a city where 76% of the population is black, you can open that box and understand the diversity within it,” reflects the photographer. From this perception came a small change in his work; for him, the focus had to be on the black, but not on anybody, but on the retinto. “Why the preto retinto (dark skinned black)? Our colorism in Brazil is very complex, in the sense that the quanto mais preto, mais preconceito sofre (black you are, the more prejudice you suffer),” he explains.


Thus, the Paraíso Oculto project gave way to the current work of Thiago, called Black is Beautiful (#BLVCKSBTFLL). “We maybe have few kind looks, egalitarian looks, looks free of prejudice. The idea of the project is to deconstruct these stigmas,” he explains. “It’s a choice I made for myself and the world. For me, to feel alive, and for the world because they are urgent issues. You cannot pass over it.”

People you meet on the street, on social networks, friends and friends of friends, these are usually the models of Thiago. He believes that restraining himself to professional models would lead him to impose another aesthetic standard, a situation contrary to what he proposes in his art.


The return to Salvador was a reconnection with his origin. In art, he found a way to reconcile with his hometown, extolling what, for him, is the best: nature and blackness. “What is spoken of the magic of Bahia comes originally from the black. This energy they say that Bahia has is black. It’s the black person who produces that song, it’s the black who has that smile and that way of talking that captivates you,” he says.

The photos gained visibility on Instagram and, in November of 2017, Black is Beautiful was one of the projects chosen to compose the campaign Novembro Negro (Black November) of the government of Bahia. One of Thiago’s photos of happened to occupy billboards, bus stops, subways, among several other public spaces. The opportunity widened the reach of the photographs, which thus achieved an important purpose: to broaden the representation of the black in society. Much is lacking, but Thiago doesn’t plan to stop.

Source: Revista Trip

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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