In recent years, all eyes have been on Rio de Janeiro. Yet beyond the World Cups and the Olympics, there’s a secret side to Brazil that won’t be gracing your TVs this summer. That’s where Santiago-born international photographer Futuro Berg comes in.
His recent project “Periferia SP” has increased relevance now, contrasting the glitz and glamour of Rio’s international Olympics with the suburban neighbourhoods (“Periferias”) of the country’s largest yet less visited city Sao Paulo. He describes these neighbourhoods as “where most people live and die, where most underserved communities exist, and where the state has least control over its population”.
Always On The Move
Since childhood, Futuro has been on the move. Born and raised in Santiago, Chile, he says he must have lived in “13 – 15 different neighbourhoods” while he was growing up. This behaviour carried on into his adult years. He kept changing jobs, cities and countries before finally ending up in Sweden, which now serves as his base.
Berg describes the beginning of his fascination with Brazil: around two years ago (the time of the World Cup), he hosted a pair of Brazilian artists for 2 months who’d been invited to a hip-hop school in Malmö. There, they built an exact replica of a favela over 2 weeks including decorations, a football field and authentic trash. Since then, he’s been back to the country 4 times to witness the real thing.
“Exploring is such a natural human behavior; we should let it work itself out, and help ourselves exploring the ins and outs of life, starting from within.”
The Truth in Black & White
Like all of Futuro’s works, Periferia SP is about people. It’s about a community that feels separated from public life and the mazes of informal construction, graffiti, hardship, hip-hop and religion that build up around them. People, he says, are more interesting to focus on because they live, move and react from moment to moment. A building could stick around for years, but living organisms are always expressing themselves in different ways.
Futuro chooses to shoot in monochrome because he feels colour would distract from the details he wants viewers to focus on, such as the architecture of a particular place or the expression on someone’s face. This also conveys a feeling of grit and “realness” appropriate for Berg’s own impression of the city. Brazil, after all, is going through troubling times, as he points out:
“The country is living a very unstable political and social moment, full of corruption scandals, massive deforestation, many cases of sexist violence, and at the same time spending million on the next Olympic Games. It’s a very important and strong moment in Brazilian history, therefore the photography becomes a reflection of that. ”
However, despite this (or perhaps because of it), Brazil’s photography scene is thriving. While staying with a media collective in Rio, Futuro found an underground scene that was political, capturing the social movements tackling the country’s endemic problems.
Brazil’s photographers aren’t the only ones inspired by social movements; among his own influences, Futuro lists the Black Panthers, the Campesino movement in South America and resistance movements in Africa. He avoids idolising individuals, but he admires war photographers for sacrificing their personal and mental wellbeing to show the world the state we’re in.
While Sao Paulo’s Periferia neighbourhoods do have some negative aspects, they also have their good points. He enjoys the feeling of freedom and community within them and their history; most were built up by villagers who had moved near the city for work, and they had to set up all the roads and amenities themselves. Because of this, these places share a common origin.
Although he spends his days travelling the globe, his feet are planted firmly on the ground. When asked who his role models in life were, Futuro tells us he is more inspired by interacting with ordinary people on the street. And of course, his biggest role model is still “my mother, always”.
Futuro is currently back in Sweden working with a collective called Kulturell Uppercut based in Malmö. He remained mysterious about his future projects, but you can follow his work on his personal site.