Armed and Beautiful: What Is There to Love in One of the Most Dangerous Cities of the World
Salvador is the first capital of Brazil and the former center of the slave trade. Today it is called the ‘capital of happiness’ — because of the number of carnivals and parties held there. Despite this fact, according to the UN, Salvador ranks 14th on the list of the most dangerous cities in the world. Italian photographer Antonello Veneri explains how he got to love it.
Born in Italy, has lived and worked in Brazil since 2009. Worked for Italian newspaper La Repubblica, as well as National Geographic Italy. Worked for the Brazil’s Ministry of Healthcare.
— Salvador does not live in a relaxed way, despite the sea, music, and carnival. Beauty and misery, sacred and profane, all these extremes feed on their opposite. To know the real Salvador you have to be very curious and be willing to run some risks. If you can enter into the heart of the city, you will encounter something intense and so beautiful. I think I got it, in my pics and in my soul, especially with the help of some friends.
In my pictures there is everything — unknowable and people I know. There is religion and secularism, violence in the beauty and beauty in the violence. I photograph what I see and feel. Sometimes some people would like that I photograph only positive things but I cannot. It would not be right.
I photograph what I am presenting but I pay a great deal of attention to the people. I preserve their dignity and always think of the consequences that an image might have in their lives. Street photography, documentary photography has always been ‘aggressive’ (let us think of the photo of the little girl who runs nude and burned by napalm during the Vietnam War). However, I always say that we must be ethical and with compassion for the people.
Working and photographing in Salvador can be stressful and fun. It is risky to go into the city with equipment, all the photographers of Salvador are afraid because at any time and place their camera can be stolen. But if you can avoid this stuff, you find a beautiful world.
My project on the city of Salvador has had, and is still having, so much impact and exposure because it is rare. Almost nobody had done so much work before, except for Miguel Rio Branco nearly 30 years ago.
Ever since I was little, I wanted to know Brazil. Destiny or instinct brought me to Salvador, for which I will always be grateful to the city to have taught me so many things: especially not to worry about the unforeseeable and to live intensely in the present intense, because everything passes.