Fabrice Monteiro is an Agouda, the descendant of Brazilian slaves with Portuguese names. His background is multicultural: he was born in Belgium, grew up in Benin, and now lives and works in Dakar, Senegal. Monteiro worked as a model for around a decade before becoming a photographer himself in 2007, after meeting the New York based photographer Alfonse Pagano. Photography came naturally to him, first as a professional model, he became aware of the complexity of the composition, the lighting and the posture. Passed behind the lens, Fabrice Monteiro’s images are at the intersection between photojournalism and fashion photography. “The diversity of my origins is my first source of inspiration. Relations between African and Europe have constantly fluctuated between attraction and rejection, empowerment and denial, recognition and anger. They have never been indifferent. The history of the African-European people over the last centuries, that I have inherited the complexity, is my main source of inspiration” The photographic series The Prophecy was begun in 2013, when Monteiro returned to Africa after several years’ absence, and discovered the devastating pollution that had overtaken the continent. The series was based on nine different environmental problems in Senegal, including forest fires, plastic waste and oil spills, and was gradually expanded to address worldwide pollution. This theme is personified in the photos of various figures who were inspired by West African masquerades and animism. The beautiful and distressing figures were created in collaboration with the Senegalese fashion designer Doulsy, who devised couture-like costumes made of trash and natural materials.
Fabrice Monteiro’s latest works “8 Mile Wall” explore some of the stereotypical ways in which Africans were, and in some places continue to be, displayed. The series was inspired by a conversation he had with his father as a boy when he realized that, as a black man, the only way to be treated with consideration in Europe at the time was to wear a three-piece suit. Despite the rising brightness regarding Africa’s prospects Monteiro believes that, in a way, we are still trying to wear three-piece suits. Monteiro has a suggestion for those who may be interested in photography “I believe that you have to start looking into yourself, into what you are concerned with, your angers, your fears, the thing that you don’t understand in order to find the subjects you are interested in and to develop them.” The great thing about photography, he says, is that the medium is almost a therapy.
The Prophecy, 2013 – 2020
Artist Statement (short):
“The Prophecy project was born in Senegal in 2013 with the objective of contributing to the awakening of an ecological conscience in the new generation. I wanted to create a tale that would combine animism and ecology to better speak to hearts. Composite characters, inspired by masquerades in West Africa and elsewhere, emerge from oil slicks, garbage dumps, desiccated and burnt landscapes to deliver a message of warning and accountability to humans.
My goal is to create a global prophecy in which as many cultures and continents as possible are represented. Every scourge, every problem does not concern only the country where it is treated, but the whole of humanity. By drawing on each other’s beliefs and traditions, I seek to build bridges between all for a more comprehensive approach to this unprecedented challenge in the history of humanity.”
Born Namur, 1972
Lives and works in Senegal
Prix Pictet Fire
May 26 – October 15, 2023
Fotografiska Museum New York
281 Park Ave S, New York, NY 10010