“The tenderness of a traveler”

“In this various and paradoxical country, how many Brazils do you need to make one Brazil?” asks the famous brazilian singer Lenine; Country at the same time extremely violent and full of gentleness, Xavier Roy has chosen his own Brasil. It is not the one of crime, injustice and misery. It may be sometimes needy or even barren, but it is never a desperate Brazil! Under the gaze of the photographer appears a Brazil of infinite tenderness, and this tenderness you may read on the faces you see, is primarily the eye of Xavier Roy. He loves the ones he sees and in return they give him the best of themselves. Looking through “Viva o’ Brazil” we know from which family belongs Xavier Roy: Cartier Bresson, Boubat, Plossu… “the street photographers”, the ones who go walking through all the cities of the world so that they can meet people… Like Cartier Bresson, Xavier Roy is careful with the setting and he captures the decisive moment; They divide the image as the panels of an altar piece or the rungs of a ladder, the lines organize the composition, they order the chaos. As the space is  cut up this way, everything seems in place.
In Brazil, however, the lines look softer: they are curved, they undulate; They are the lines of the sidewalk of Rio de Janeiro, the ones that trace the meander of a river, the contour of an avenue or the crest of a dune. They are the round back of the sugar loaf, that a fisherman reproduces just as he throws his net. But to capture the decisive moment, in Brazil, it is not to set the evanescence of a gesture or the fleetingness of a reflection; it is not only capturing funny or unusual moments, which for instance show two cyclists ready to fly with their swarm of balloons, or this other character that scares a flock of birds on the wall. In Brazil, capturing the moment is seizing the religious intrusion in everyday life: an angel with black curls in the street, a young mother who turns her baby in her arms and gives the photographer the peaceful and enlightened face of a Madonna. Here Christ is everywhere: though he is absent of the cross under which a boy makes a somersault, he comes back in the mist- the image that gives the Redeemeer, photographed a thousand times, all the beauty and strangeness of an appearance- or, in the shadow of a church, behind a glass booth, fragile presence who watches quietly the street you can see through the open door.
It is also the “saudade” that you can see in the eye of Xavier Roy, this peculiar Brazilian feeling. You can read it on the dreaming faces leaning on their arm, but it is mostly in the style of the photographer, who sees Brazil – and shows it – as we did not see it anymore. In the midst of brutal images that the media swamps us with, Xavier Roy talks about a country almost forgotten full of humanity and gentleness. We hope that he will go on a long time, watching these men and women with the tenderness of the traveler.

Sébastien Roy

Publisher : “Impressa Oficial do Estado de Sao Paulo/Instituto Totem Cultural) 2009

86 black and white photographs