Emmanuelle Bernard: Contemporary Flânerie in Rio de Janeiro

samba arte contemporanea
May 7, 2019 5:38PM

by Ana Dantas

Rampa, Pedra Bonita, 2008

Emmanuelle Bernard was born in France, and as a child she moved to Brazil. She grew up in Rio de Janeiro and found in photography a way to capture the moments of beauty and joy that this city, considered by many as "marvelous", guarded in its urban chaos. And the wonder of Rio is precisely in this mixture, in the carioca way of balancing (and swaying) between the difficulties of the big city and the beauties that it contains.

It was in this quest for the beauties of Rio de Janeiro that Emmanuelle developed and organized her first series of photographs. She went through several areas of the city, registering typical Carioca characters and scenes that, in their local ordinariness, reveal the extraordinary Carioca traditions and the natural beauties of the city. This series, which the photographer named Carioca, gave rise to her first authorial book, published in 2010.

During these walks through the city, a recurring element connected to the beauty of Rio appears on her work: dance. Emmanuelle realized that this characteristic of the people of Rio de Janeiro was pulsating, and presented itself in different forms, deserving, therefore, to be treated in a separate chapter. That's where a new series came out, accompanied by a second book: Ginga, released in 2013.

Garoto, Passinho, Morro do Salgueiro, 2013

Ginga means the movement of the body from side to side. It is also the name given to one of the basic movements of Capoeira, a Brazilian cultural expression that mixes martial art, popular culture, dance and music. In a broad sense, ginga can be understood as an almost involuntary movement of the body that becomes available to dance. And in Rio de Janeiro, ginga is present - and often necessary - to face the day-to-day with more joy and lightness.

In the photographs of the Ginga series, Emmanuelle explored the various rhythms present in the city, recording the different facets that dance and music take in places such as the Viaduto de Madureira or the Clube Renascença, sites marked by the Baile Charme and the samba de raiz respectively. This series still has a decisive peculiarity: the black-and-white photographs were made with her remaining stocks of TMAX 3200 ASA films, which Kodak stopped producing. This film gives these photos a special texture due the accentuate grainy and high contrast.

Delegado da Mangueira, Centro Cultural Cartola, 2013

After years of research and contact with the pulsating side of the city, Emmanuelle starts to dedicate herself to another striking energy of Rio: the encounter with the sea. In this series of photographs, which gave rise to her third book, Mar, of 2015, the photographer portrays the relationship of the inhabitants of the city with the ocean. In a more poetic, idyllic or ethereal photographs, she records the beauty that comes from this encounter.

With a coastline of more than 70 km of beaches, only in the state of Rio de Janeiro, the importance of the sea for the cariocas is undeniable. Even for those who are not enthusiasts of the sun and the heat, the sea remains as a place of respite, of seeking of a certain balance. In her photos, Emmanuelle manages to capture this atmosphere. The beauty and strength that the sea offers both those to whom the beach is the "office" or a "second home", as well as those who seek it in moments of escape.

Veleiro, Joatinga, 2015

With a studio in Joatinga, Rio de Janeiro, Emmanuelle is currently working on a new series of photographs, which she also intends to publish in a new book, to be released on 2020.

samba arte contemporanea