Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Brazil Initiative

Art at Watson Presents: Rio: A Visual Dialogue over One Hundred and Fifty Years

Wednesday, March 2 –
Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Watson Institute, 2nd floor. Viewable on weekdays from 8:30am-5:00pm.

Reception to follow the inauguration of the exhibit. The book Rio, upon which the exhibit is based and which features the photgraphy of both Marc Ferrez and Robert Polidori, will be on sale.

Photographs of Rio de Janeiro by Marc Ferrez and Robert Polidori

Exhibition organized by Instituto Moreira Salles, based on the publication Rio, by Marc Ferrez and Robert Polidori, published in 2015 by Steidl/IMS.

Curator: Sergio Burgi

Marc Ferrez (1843-1923) photographed Rio de Janeiro during the second half of the 19th century and in the first two decades of the 20th century. Robert Polidori (b. 1951) documented the city from 2002 to 2014.

Both photographers responded directly to the strong and majestic presence of nature that surrounds and shapes the ever expanding city urban space. Polidori, through the use of large format photography and panoramic views, registered Rio in a manner very similar to Marc Ferrez, who pursued this same objective over a century earlier.

Ferrez strongly contributed during his five decades career to the construction of the present iconicity of Rio de Janeiro. Like Eugène Atget and his search for the essence of the urban space in the parks and gardens of old Paris, Ferrez perused the city’s outskirts, the mountains and the bay area, constructing a personal and poetic vision of the urban space of Rio at the border where the natural and the manmade come together.

Polidori’s contemporary work, on the contrary, is primarily oriented to the direct documentation of the settlements on hills and slopes that form the “favelas”, self-constructed areas that have consistently expanded to incorporate increasing and steady urban population growth, largely due to both intense internal migration and lack of significant local investments in urban mobility and infrastructure throughout most of the 20th century. His eyes deliberately search for the non-iconic city, aiming for a more balanced representation of present day Rio.

The photographs of Ferrez and Polidori, when examined in relation to each other, thus bring to the forefront the present challenges faced by the city of Rio de Janeiro. Shaped and conditioned by the intense urban growth of the past 150 years, they reveal and expose the social and economic disparities that have become deeply ingrained in the city’s structure during this period of time.