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Mariana: Christian Cravo

Named for the book Mariana by Christian Cravo, a photographer from the state of Bahia, this show curated by Adriana Cravo is now being presented in São Paulo after touring Caixa Cultural venues in Salvador and Fortaleza. This is Cravo’s second solo exhibition to be held at Instituto Tomie Ohtake; the first was Nos Jardins do Éden [In the Gardens of Eden], in 2011. It consists of 26 fine-art printed photographs featuring people’s memories of the Fundão dam collapse in 2015. At the time the collapse ranked as Brazil’s worst environmental tragedy:  19 people died and hundreds of homes were destroyed in the area around the city of Mariana, in the state of Minas Gerais. “These images and their titles were chosen to promote viewer empathy with the population of Mariana, to get a feel of people’s everyday lives that were snatched away when the dam burst," the curator stated.


Christian Cravo spent three days in the Bento Rodrigues and Paracatu de Baixo districts of Mariana, shooting images of the destruction caused by the 2.5-meter-high wave of mud and ore tailings that devastated the region. Mud-caked objects, clothes and shoes, portraits, and wrecked houses bear witness to tragedy. The photographer sought to show iconographic memory frozen in time, he says. “These objects were stilled when the mud rolled in. An eternal instant that meant a doomsday for that society.”


Commenting on Cravo’s images, Bené Fonteles (artist and coordinator of a movement called ‘Artists for Nature’) noted that “he bears witness not only to grief, but also to transcendence between aesthetic beauty imprinted in tragedy and art that cannot do without the overpowering poetic truth ... not just photographs of vestiges and rubble ... but also the almost mystically extraordinary nature of pieces tucked away in local people’s houses that seemed to be awaiting imminent tragedy ... rather than images of loss, indices of a huge sense of abandonment that was 'hidden and concealed from mystery' (Caetano Veloso) .... portraits of a state of Minas Gerais that is not only grieving but also posing disturbing issues in this broken portrait from which more than mud and chaos are oozing ... there is an immense, despondent loneliness also oozing…”


After 27 years of building his career, Christian Cravo is currently one of the most celebrated names in contemporary Brazilian photography. His work has earned international recognition at solo exhibitions held in world-renowned venues. His production includes the books Irredentos (2000); Roma noire, ville métisse (2005); In the Gardens of Eden (2010); Exú Iluminado (2012); CHRISTIAN CRAVO (2014), released by the prestigious publishing house Cosac & Naify, and MARIANA (2016). Cravo has been awarded at the Museu de Arte Moderna da Bahia; the Mother Jones International Fund for Documentary Photography; the São Paulo Association of Art Critics (APCA), for best exhibition of photography (2015), and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation for his research on water and faith (2001).



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