As the World Cup approaches in Brazil, Damiani has published Olympic Favela by German photographer Marc Ohrem-Leclef. This series of photographs documents the citizens of disadvantaged communities of Rio de Janeiro—the “favelas”—whose lives have been turned upside down by the renovations to prepare for both the World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.
The book is a compilation of portraits, landscapes and staged photographs, which includes one of the recurring image: Brazilians with their fist raised, brandishing an emergency flare like an Olympic torch. Behind this universal symbol is their fight against adversity for liberty and independence. The photographs are filled with warm smiles and generous faces. We never see them feel sorry for themselves, give any hint of sadness or hatred, or realize what misery the future might hold. What they showed to Marc Ohrem-Leclef is their neighborhood, the highlights of the city, the crumbling architecture lost in the countryside, the endangered colors of their life, all of which the photographer pays tribute to in his introduction. Just so we might take a look.
While Marc Ohrem-Leclef, whose aesthetic betrays his taste for lifestyle photography, may not be the best documentary photographer in the traditional sense, we can only praise his approach. Or perhaps we should accept that representing misfortune by kindness is a perfectly honest perspective to take. The one that emerges from many photographs here is the complicit relationship the photographer formed with his subjects, eschewing the ease of despair to pave the way for empathy through close contact. Olympic Favela is at once sad and joyful. It’s a real South American story.