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Daily Helping for September 15th, 2021 – Rodrigo Oliveira – Carioca, Negro & Queer

A photo from the series Carioca, Negro & Queer by Rodrigo Oliveira. The photo centres on a Black, LGBTQ individual sitting with their eyes closed. Three other Black, LGBTQ individuals sit around them with their faces out of frame.

I stumbled upon this photography series while researching an entirely different subject, and it stopped me in my tracks. Rodrigo Oliveira is a Brazilian photographer, and Carioca, Negro & Queer is a series of photographs that showcase the lives of Black, LGBTQ people living in the peripheries of Rio de Janeiro. Not only did these photos stop me in my tracks with their beauty, but they also led me down a rabbit hole of research into Brazil’s history of LGBTQ oppression and discrimination. For example, I didn’t know that Brazil was the most dangerous country in the world to be transgender. I didn’t know that several prominent activists have been assassinated in recent years, including openly gay Congresswoman Marielle Franco. I did know that current Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is basically Trump on steroids. But I had no idea how systematic the state’s campaign against marginalized groups has become.

And yet knowing all this somehow makes these photographs even more beautiful. There is a subversive and defiant joy to them. A confidence that these people will continue to take up space in this world, regardless of the world’s desire to erase them. And beyond all that, these photos are just simply beautiful. How people can look at these gorgeous individuals and feel hate instead of love is beyond me. But it happens. All the time. And Carioca, Negro & Queer is part of an artistic movement trying to deconstruct those narratives.

I can only hope that some day soon the world will collectively figure out that love is love. Until then, I will find hope in artists like Rodrigo Oliveira who capture the beauty and resistance of that love.

Suggestions for artists I should check out? Please contact me with your ideas. I hope you enjoyed your daily helping of art!