Photo London-Capital of Culture through the lens of twelve photographers
“Photo London is the culmination of an exciting series of new work from photographers as diverse as Juergen Teller, Elaine Constantine, Dorothy Bohm, Martin Parr, Greg Williams, John Riddy, Gavin Fernandes and Leticia Valverdes. They were asked to produce a single image of contemporary London, to reflect the rich cultural diversity of the city through the wealth of its heritage, arts, sports, education and the everyday idiosyncrasies of London life. The Photographers’ Gallery has been working on this project in consultation with the Greater London Authority (GLA) for the launch of their new Cultural Strategy. The Gallery appointed twelve photographers from very diverse backgrounds, at different stages in their careers and with very different relationships to personally respond to London’s status as a world-class city of culture”.
Photo by Leticia Valverdes
Evening Standard Magazine
What a difference a day makes
Refugees and Asylum seekers regularly make the headlines, but an exhibition of photographs for National Refugee Week, which starts on Monday, aims to make us aware of the human stories behind the statistics, Brazilian photographer Leticia Valverdes helped organize days out in London for refugees families and gave them disposable cameras to record their experiences. The families chose their own days out: some just wanted a picnic, others wanted to see some of the capital’s famous sights. Many of the people featured in the exhibition have had their applications for asylum turned down and face uncertain future. But for all the families it was a rare chance to forget the troubled life they left behind in Rwanda or Afghanistan, the Sudan or Albania, Poland or Angola. Just for a day. (Their photos and Leticia’s will be showing at the Riverside Studios)
Leticia Valverdes’ photographs of Brazilian Street Girls dressed up like starlets in faded, frivolous frocks are uncomplicatedly pretty until you consider the stories behind them. Forced to disguise themselves as boys to ensure their safety on the streets, the girls took a rare break from hiding their identities when Valverdes arrived with a mirror and dressing up box. Her series of gorgeous, powerful snaps, which she calls Invisible Lives, are wonderfully empowering and give a real insight into her subjects’ predicament.
What’s On magazine
There are some things you just don’t see even though they are right in front of you. Such is the case of the young and vulnerable girls who live on the streets of Brazil. They spend their lives disguised as boys to avoid sexual abuse, but still manage to get caught up in the seedy world of petty crime and drug abuse.
Photographer Leticia Valverdes found these girls dressed and made up for, in many cases, the first time in their lives, and enabled them to find their femininity and sensitivity sadly lacking in their harsh world.
The aim of this exhibition is essentially, to present these blighted lives in a more positive light and enable them to process a more positive self image. But it also achieves something else. It’s impossible to feel detachment when looking at these photographs, the images involve you I their world and you feel, in a strange sense, a part of their lives. It’s a peculiarly moving and not altogether pleasant experience. One girl holds her hands in front of her eyes, emphasising the tragic invisibility of the girls’ existence. Brazil is often described as a paradise, or conversely, a country of crime and brutality. But, as with most of things, the truth is somewhere in between. Many of the images look like happy family snaps of fun and dressing up, but there are others which show the real squalor and abjection behind this fantasy act, such as the family living under a viaduct. Valverdes uses her camera like a magic mirror, bringing the unseen to our attention.
Time Out – Brazil’s Street Girls at Play
You’ve seen pictures of Brazil’s street children a thousand times: the poverty, the glue-sniffing, the old-before-their-time little faces. So what’s with these exuberant photos of street girls twirling in pretty dresses or gazing astounded at the newly applied nail varnish?
“We’re all very numb when it comes to seeing shocking, gritty images of street children. We get compassion fatigue and prefer to buy Hello! Magazine,” says London-based, Brazilian photographer Leticia Valverdes. “I was very conscious of wanting to show some other sides-the love, the laughter and the occasional happiness-without editing out the brutality”.
Valverdes also wanted to offer her subjects the chance for self-expression, escape and dignity. “These children are very tired of being the subject of documentaries on drug addiction. Of being on the crime pages. My pictures are more about play and transformation-a little twist in reality that I find”.
Valverdes provided the girls with mirrors, frocks and make-up, allowing them to relax, experiment with their femininity and mess around like normal children. ”The girls have very little proof of identity. Birth certificates are rare, as are mirrors or photos”.
The girls normally dress down to look like boys to avoid abuse, so the photo sessions offered a rare release. While some girls could hardly bear to look at themselves in the mirror, for others the role-play was cathartic. “My fear was that people would think: How sweet, she’s dressing up common people as a fashion thing”, explains Valverdes. “There’s sexuality there too, so it has to be made clear that these girls are not prostitutes”.
She also gave the girls copies of their pictures to up their self-esteem. One girl, who had become wasted and lost some of teeth since the shoot, couldn’t believe how beautiful she looked before. “She stopped passers-by saying, ‘Look, this is me!’”
At first glance there is nothing remarkable about these photographs of young Brazilian girls. They are, checking their make-up or twirling their skirts, their pose perhaps a little self conscious, their clothes the familiar random assortment of Western colour and style to be seen on the streets of their country. Except these moments, essentially concerned with little more then merely being “female”, are rarities in their lives of these girls: these girls spend most of their time being boys. If you are young, female and alone on the streets of Brazil’s poorest districts, it is frequently safer to disguise yourself as a member of the opposite sex in order to avoid the ever-present threat of sexual abuse. It also makes a certain warped and simple sense: The harsh, impoverished environment that makes up their world offers little opportunity to delight in being a girl, to enjoy dressing up and wearing make up. Why celebrate being a women when it only invites violence and distress? Why bother taking pride in one’s identity at all when no one cares whether you live or die?
Photographer Leticia Valverdes – who grew up in Brazil – took something of a risk when she asked the street girls, on the cusp of adolescence, to relent and recognise their unfurling sexuality, giving them clothes and a mirror. Even if doing so she also provided them with a vital hot-wire to their own identity.
The resulting pictures are as much to do with discovery as they are with freedom; as much concerned with notions of looking at oneself as being looked at; and ultimately, of course, explicitly bound up in what it means to be female itself.
Durante quarto anos, Leticia fotografou meninas que moram nas ruas de quarto cidades brasileiras. Antes da apertar o botao da maquina, deixou que se maquiassem e vestissem roupas que levava numa mala. As imagens viraram livro na Inglaterra e exposicao no Brazil. E revelaram a feminilidade de adolescents que a sociedade insite em tornar invisivel.