The first research workshop Fast Forward2: Women in Photography, funded with The Leverhulme Trust International Network Grant, took place at Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte, Brazil on July 24th and 25th 2017, hosted by Dr. Patricia Azevedo.
Presentations and open discussion took place over the two-day workshop around ideas and themes concerned with the work and position of women photographers today. The summaries of presentations (part one) are below.
ROSANGELA RENNÓ, Artist (Brazil)
Rosangela Rennó spoke about how and why her interest in using photography developed in her work. She referred to the difficulties of engaging an audience in the subject matter of her work and how she disturbed many people in the production of her politically sensitive projects that deal with both social and political issues in contemporary Brazilian society. The significance of this presentation was concerned with how Rennó negotiated her way around and inside particular institutions that did not have a history of being interested in the exposure and discussion of issues related to archives, collections and histories. As well the presentation foregrounded Rennó’s persistence in following up the issues that she considers significant to be remembered through the making of her work despite resistance that she frequently encountered. Rennó benefits from relationships with organisations outside of Brazil such as the Goethe Institute to help fund her projects.
Claudia Andujar, In the Place of the Other
“After three years of research in the photographer’s archives, I have put together the first retrospective exhibition dedicated to the work preceding Claudia Andujar’s world famous Yanomami Indians’ photographs. Andujar arrived in São Paulo in 1955 at age 24, after fleeing Hungary with her mother during World War II. Her father’s family was killed in concentration camps. With little knowledge of the Portuguese language, she found in photography an instrument for work and contact with the country. From the 1950s to ’70s, she contributed to magazines in Brazil and abroad, participated in art exhibitions and traveled Brazil from north to south.
Focusing on the early decades of her production, this research presents different perspectives through which she explored photography and the country: the relationship with nature, anthropological immersion, graphic experimentation and photojournalistic work. With a humanist outlook, she used photography to understand the country that she adopted as her home and to find herself. Throughout her career, she has made a point to get closer to, and put herself in the place of others. This displacement also manifested in the realm of geography, as she was forced to rebuild her life in a new country.
The research focuses on a largely unseen and unstudied period of her career. It helps us understand the originality and the complexity of the work of one of Brazil’s most important photographers.”
MARIA ANGELICA MELENDI, Historian and Art Critic, Professor at PG in Arts, UFMG (Argentina/Brazil)
Maria Angelica Melendi discussed the work of women artists in the period of dictatorship 1968 – 1985. It is a research that she has conducted for the curation of the exhibition project titled “Radical Woman” for the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles (opening late 2018). 1975 was defined, by the UN, as the international year of the woman and (in the same year) the feminist movement for Amnesty was initiated in Brazil. This point in time marks a significant influence for the artist’s included in this exhibition. In the 1960s, over 100 years after the end of colonization, was an important time for Brazil and artists and intellectuals were linked to the liberal movement against dictatorship. Artists were building an allegra of Brazil and from within the dynamics of this different protests would arise yet also remain hidden. She described the censorship and closure of exhibitions in the late 1960s and the difficulties in particular for women artists. The spine of feminine artistic production in Brazil dates back to the last decades of the 19th century and in the 1960s this production became more aware of its identity. In the 1970’s many questions about sexuality, family and political participation were raised by women artists. Feminism had to fight with other important needs of the society and was often thought of as a bourgeois occupation. Melendi talked about the disposability of the female body and how women that resisted the traditional framework (for behavior) could easily become victims of violence as they could be considered as degenerate beings for their transgression – the artists she has researched have made responses to this situation. The repression of the dictatorship haunted and terrified people and these artists were working in the frontier between reason and affection, pleasure and pain. The women artists that were introduced in this presentation were Sônia Andrade, Lenora de Barros, Regina Vater.
SUNIL GUPTA, Artist / Educator / Curator / PhD candidate at University of Westminster (India/UK)
Suni Gupta introduced to the AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia , New Delhi, India on behalf of Professor Sabeena Gadhioke. Illustration was a portrait of Homai Vyarawallah with Professor Sabeena Gadhioke. (Vyarawallah was India’s leading woman press photographer particularly active in the 1940s and 1950s documenting India’s independence from the UK and the birth of Nehru’s vision of India as a modern Republic. She was the subject of a book, film and exhibition produced by Professor Gadhioke.). Then, Gupta presented ‘Some Women Photographers of Indian Origin’ inclduing Sheba Chhachhi, (Delhi, b. 1958), Indu Anthony (Bangalore, b. 1982), Anita Khemka, ( Delhi, b. 1972) & Imran Kokiloo, Mohini Chandra (Plymouth, b. 1964) and Pushpamala N. (Bangalore, b. 1956).
HELENA MARTINS COSTA, Artist (Brazil)
Helena Martins Costa presented about the codes of construction of identity of women on portraiture and images of the body. She noted that In Brazil history is built and then erased. All institutions present one difficulty or another for developing research.
MAUREEN BISILLIAT, Artist (Brazil)
“As you will probably remember, having forgotten my pen-drive (a most embarrassing moment!), was a direct hindrance to my participation your seminary. I’ll try to better this unfortunate neglect by answering your questionnaire, mixing moments of my life story and my work in Brazil to where (born in England in 1931 and a much- travelled daughter of a diplomat) I first came in 1952, having lived here ever after!
Starting my studies in the visual arts with André Lhote (Paris, 1953) and at the Art Students’ League (NYC, 1955), I turned to photography in 1962, working for almost ten years as a photojournalist in two prominent Brazilian magazines (REALIDADE and 4RODAS). Constant travel during these years of professional activity led to a familiarity with far distant regions of the country and a starting point from which to better understand the worlds of Euclides da Cunha, Guimarães Rosa, Ariano Suassuna, Jorge Amado, Mário de Andrade and João Cabral de Melo Neto. The tracing of graphic equivalents to the words of these extraordinary Brazilian authors resulted in and a series of books (A João Guimarães Rosa, BahiaAmadaAmado, Sertões Luz e Trevas, Caranguejeiras and O Turista Aprendiz Revisitado, among others, printed over the years. A comprehensive selection of these equivalents can be seen in FOTOGRAFIAS/Maureen Bisilliat, a book published by the Instituto Moreira Salles (IMS) in 2009.
This re-discovery by the Instituto – guardians of my photographs since 1993 – revived my interest in a long-forgotten profession, stimulating what would now be a return to many of the places visited 50 YEARS AFTER, a project upon which I have been working on for almost 7 years:
EQUIVALENTS / LEARN THROUGH LIVING. An autobiographical documentary by MAUREEN BISILLIAT”
ERIKA ZEWES, Art Historian, MAC USP Museum of Contemporary Art in Sao Paulo (Brazil)
This presentation’s goal was to discuss some of the conceptual aspects as well as the elaboration process of the International Seminar Women Photographers / Women Photographed. Photography and gender in Latin America, which was organised by Dr. Helouise Costa and me, within the scope of my Post Doctoral research currently being developed at the University of São Paulo’s Museum of Contemporary Arts.
Held at this public, university museum in the second half of 2017, the seminar will bring together invited Latin American scholars as well as junior researchers selected through an international open call for papers. Our aim is to discuss a history of photography that does not yet have great visibility or a large bibliography available in Latin America.