A record of dignity
On July 20, at 8 p.m., Galpão VB holds the exhibition of the documentary No Flash: Homage to Ricardo Rangel (1925–2009), by Z’Graggen and Angelo Sansone, on the life and work of the pioneer Mozambican photographer. Released in 2012, the film is the result of over a decade of research by Z’Graggen.
This will be the second meeting of the series of events Transatlantic Relations: public moments from the curator Bruno Z’Graggen’s research in the Videobrasil Collection. The project is a partnership between Videobrasil and the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, part of the Pro Helvetia in South America 2017–2020 exchange program, which seeks to promote cultural exchange and spark partnerships between Switzerland and South American countries.
Read below an interview with Bruno Z’Graggen about his film, his research in Brazil, and the work of Rangel.
Still from No Flash: Homage to Ricardo Rangel (1924–2009)
How did you come across Ricardo Rangel’s work?
It was almost by chance. A friend who had emigrated to Mozambique drew my attention to Ricardo Rangel’s work and his place in the Mozambican photography tradition. I had already been in Paris, studying for my doctorate research in social history, and there African art is very present. This sparked my interest in African photography, so I proposed a research project for a program of the Swiss government in cooperation with developing countries. I spent three weeks in Maputo, where I met with Ricardo and visited the Centro de Formação Fotográfica [Center for Photographic Training], where he worked as director.
After this contact, I considered the possibility of a larger project, and then the exhibition Iluminando vidas [Illuminating Lives] emerged, resulting in the catalogue, workshops, and other developments.
How did the idea of making the film come about?
The film has a very special story. The exhibition opened in Switzerland, with the presence of Ricardo Rangel and other photographers. In 2003 it was taken to Maputo, and my friend Angelo Sansone accompanied me, because we wanted to make a big film on Ricardo. Angelo took all of his shooting equipment so we could later have enough raw material to present to Swiss producers.
We shoot around five hours of interviews with Ricardo, visiting several places in Maputo, including revisiting places he had photographed in the 1960s and 1970s. Ricardo really enjoyed talking. We were very happy with the material, and he agreed to be the object of a documentary. So we set off to produce it, raised funds and two years later we got in touch with Ricardo, at this moment with a more polished film. But he was very busy then, with several simultaneous projects, and he said he couldn’t take part in the film any longer. To us, it was a little bit of a shock. We were convinced of the importance of this work, because there were no films about him, who was such a fascinating character—as you will see in the documentary.
In 2009 he died. It was a major loss, so we decided to resume the material filmed in 2003, because it was such a shame just abandoning it. The film is a mix of this material with more recent interviews, with the Portuguese art critic Alexandre Pomar and the Mozambican photographer Sérgio Santimano, who had been Ricardo Rangel’s pupil. Both were very important to tell this story. The idea was to actually pay tribute.
During your research in Brazil, what did you find that referred to Rangel’s work?
My research is in the Videobrasil Historical Collection, and there are several works in direct connection with Ricardo’s work. The theme of racism, for instance, is very present in his work, especially before the Revolution, in 1975. He worked as a photographer in newspapers and magazines, and made several pieces in which he observed colonial society and the racism of the white Portuguese. He actually struggled with censorship back then. Here in Brazil racism is very noxious, although it not always takes the forefront in debates.
Other similarity I find in works in the Collection is an attention to human dignity—in the case of portraits, for instance. This regard is very present in Ricardo’s work, which in a way followed a form of direct, street photography school, which came from the US. This language for accessing people makes up a very human tradition, present in Ricardo’s works and in several of the Collection’s videos.
Photos by Ricardo Rangel, from the catalogue Iluminando vidas
WHAT: Exhibition of the 2012 documentary No Flash: Homage to Ricardo Rangel (1925–2009), by Bruno Z’Graggen e Angelo Sansone
WHEN: July 20, Thursday, at 8pm
WHERE: Galpão VB (Av. Imperatriz Leopoldina, 1150, São Paulo)
In this date, exceptionally, the exhibition Nada levarei quando morrer, aqueles que me devem cobrarei no inferno will remain open to visitation until 7:45 p.m.
In Galpão VB’s Reading Room, we make available to the public the catalogue for the exhibition Iluminando vidas. Fotografia moçambicana 1950–2001 [Illuminating Lives. Mozambican Photography 1950–2001]. Ricardo Rangel & the Next Generation (Photoforum, Bienna, Switzerland, 2002), curated by Z’Graggen and Grant Lee Neuenberg, American photographer based in Maputo.