Known for his work on the civil war in Algeria and Sudan, his street installation for his
series on drug in Switzerland and the city of Varanasi in India, and more recently for his
series on the Oktoberfest in Munich (published as Bierfest by Steidl editions), Michael
von Graffenried had traveled all around the world with the exception of South America.
The Swiss photographer recently discovered this continent and this visual portrait of
Rio de Janeiro is the result of several stays in the metropolis during the last two years.
As Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s second city with its 12 million inhabitants, is now preparing
to welcome the Olympic Games this summer after hosting the World Cup two years
ago, and whereas the country is suffering from a political crisis linked to an important
corruption scandal, the photographer captures the transformation of the metropolis and
its population within its diversity. Construction workers hurrying to build the Olympic
city – but also new highways and subway lines – children playing in the favelas (where
nearly a third of the population lives), forceful interventions by the police and soldiers
or cariocas enjoying the beach, as usual the photographer places the people at the
center of his pictures. He describes a city of contrasts, melting pot and social stratas, a
city firmly committed to modernity, where festivals and religion play a major role, where
lush nature is never far from concrete. The young population is dominant, violence is
common but the beach and carnival always manage to bring together a fragmented
society. The city is supposed to radiate a bit of its old power and beauty, just like back
then, when it had been Brazil’s capital until 1960. A policy of pacification has been
introduced to the favelas in order to finally shake off the reputation of a city that is
separated into rich and poor: the «Cidade Partida». For quite some time now, Rio has
been the negative example of social inequality. Will this city of millions end up as
a modernized and peaceful winner after the Olympic Games? Or will one only have
memories of a big international event ? Will nothing have otherwise changed ?
The photographer Michael von Graffenried has used these transformations as a point of
departure for his concentrated view on a metropolitan area with millions of inhabitants.
The fascinating result ? Large-format, double-page panorama photographs from a Rio
de Janeiro in the zero hour.
This exhibition is accompanied by the publication of the book Changing Rio by Slatkine
editions. A book signing will be held at the opening reception.
36 rue Falguière
75015 Paris – France
© Michael von Graffenried, Courtesy Galerie Esther Woerdehoff