The pleasure of revisiting: The harvesters (men and women) and me.

I’m starting to revisit my collection of photographs of rural workers handling different types of crops across the country. And I do so, inspired and deeply moved after watching a few times the documentary that competed for the prize at the 2000 Cannes Festival (and of great international recognition in the following years) by the great filmmaker Agnès Varda called ‘Les glaneurs et la glaneuse’ (* )(The collectors and I). Varda considers herself, in this documentary, a ‘glaneuse’, not of harvest remains, but a ‘glaneuse’ of information, images, and stories. (*)(https://mubi.com/pt/films/the-gleaners-i).

Varda very appropriately quotes, comments and shows two large paintings on the theme of Jean-François Millet (1814-1875) “Les glaneus” (The scavengers) (1857) and “Le rappel des glaneus” (The remembrance of the scavengers) (1859) by Jules Breton (1827-1906). The criticism of these great works of art comments, among other aspects, on things that are very typical and known to rural workers who, in these activities, show themselves with their ‘broken backs, eyes fixed on the ground’ in ‘repetitive and exhausting movements imposed by this hard work: get down, pick up, get up’.

Jean-François Millet (1814-1875) “Les glaneus” (1857).
“Le rappel des glaneus” (1859) by Jules Breton (1827-1906).

‘The harvesters’ (of normal harvests), in a lot, resemble the ‘pickers’ who were poor workers, but worthy like any other rural workers who were authorized by the owners or tenants of different plantations to ‘pick up’ the leftovers after the realization of the main crops to guarantee their sustenance.

The context of my photos of rural workers harvesting in the interior of Brazil is quite different from the collectors of the classic paintings shown in the documentary by Agnès Varda, but even so I decided to make comparisons since I find similarities between these images because these rural workers repeat, daily, during the harvest period, the same scenes of having their ‘backs broken, eyes fixed on the ground’ in ‘repetitive and exhausting movements imposed by this hard work: lowering , pick up, lift’ being ‘supervised’, or controlled, also, as in Millet’s work, by one or more ‘inspectors’ of the bosses.

I can say that I am also part of this story because in my childhood – along with my brothers/sisters and cousins ​​– I was a collector. My paternal grandfather and my father allowed (and encouraged) us to ‘pick up’ coffee after the normal period of the annual harvest in their small plantations. The product of this activity was sold, which yielded some money that was shared between us. It is even said that one of the cousins ​​’hidden’, surreptitiously, under the ‘skirt’ of some coffee trees, during normal harvests (in which we also actively participated), some good amounts of coffee which, later at the time of ‘ scavenger hunt’ was gallantly collected by all of us. Everything leads to the belief that both the grandfather and the father pretended that they did not know about this illicit maneuver.

Me and Mr. Strand.

In the book “To understand a photograph” by John Berger (organized and introduced by Geoff Dyer and translated by Paulo Geiger) (in Brasil: Cia das Letras. São Paulo. 2017) (an authentic treatise on photography) I read and reread for some times (good things have to be tasted homeopathically) the ‘reading’ of the photo on the left from 1944 (taken three years before this scribe was born) by Paul Strand in Vermont, New England-USA, and what you can read there with all the lyrics impress me, move me a lot.

Says Berger of Strand’s work: “His best photographs are unusually dense – not in the sense of being overloaded or obscured, but in the sense of being filled with an unusual amount of substance per square centimeter. And all this substance becomes the essence of the object’s life. Take the famous portrait of Mr. Bennett. His jacket, his shirt, the beard on his chin, the wood of the house behind him, the air around him become, in this image, the very face of his life, of which his facial expression is the concentrated spirit.

left: Mr. Bennett (Vermont, New England) (1944) (by Paul Strand) — right: Onion picker (Casa Branca, SP, Brasil) (2019) (by Antonio Mozeto)

The photo on the right that I took in 2019 of an onion picker in Casa Branca (SP) has a much more explicit surface given that the worker is in his own work environment. And, without due permission, but with due daring, ‘reading’ my photo, I make my own Berger’s words about Paul Strand’s photo in vogue: all the substance of the photo is in the expressive look of the worker, in a marked face by the hardships of hard work and in the properties of his surroundings: the harsh and striking light of the day in the middle of the day, the onion harvesting bucket, the bags of onions lined up behind him, two fellow workers and the bus that brings him very early for the harvest and takes him back home at the end of another day of this person’s hard day’s work.

As well said by Berger (opera citato) “in the relationship between photography and words, the former craves an interpretation, and words usually supply it. Photography, irrefutable as evidence but weak in meaning, gains meaning from words.

[hitting the road again]

…back on the road…the longing was immense…this time through the interior of northeastern Argentina in a region that I knew little about…

New topographics – Corbélia, PR-Brasil.
Portrait of a typical Gaucho – Ituzaingó, Corrientes- Argentina.
Top: result of intense forest fires ocurred in 2021 in Corrientes Province, Northeast Argentina. Bottom: Hydroelectric Itaipu, PR-Brasil.

Abandoned gas station, Posadas, Misiones, Argentina.

{self-portraits?}

Why do we do so many self-portraits? Are we photographing who we are, who we were or who we want to be? Would these photographic images that we generate be, nothing more, and for one or several reasons, the specters of the people we were, who we are or who we will be one day be? Maybe self-portraits represent more ‘the other side of the coin’ or how authentic or inauthentic we are… how mutants we are… or how nomadic we are… how wanderers we were, are and will be?