Gui Christ: Fissura
Hardcover, 200 x 280 mm, 112 pages
Initially successful in advertisement and commercial photography, Gui Christ (b. 1980, Brazil) later decided to pursue a career as a documentary photographer. Since 2015, he focuses mainly on pressing social issues in Brazil and other regions in South America. He recently self-published a book, ‘Fissura’, by which he explores an infamous region of São Paulo – ‘Cracolândia’ (The Crackland).
In the history of São Paulo, the area has been formerly called Campos Elíseios and was designated for influential coffee barons who turned it into one of the richest neighbourhoods in the city. However, due to the New York Stock Exchange crisis in 1929, Brazilian coffee exports languished and from that moment on, the district underwent a process of rapid urban decline. Turning into ‘Boca do Lixo’ (Garbage Mouth), as referred to by the locals. It then became a place infested with poverty, crime and prostitution. In the early 1990s, drug dealers started to settle and, as stated by Christ, they “transformed it into the largest open-air drug market in the world, a kind of drug ghetto, a place of confinement for all those who were unwanted by society.”
Christ photographically explores the area through a humanistic lens, shedding a new light on the neighbourhood – avoiding the cliches as widely circulating in the media. His journey started at an NGO where many people gathered to receive food and take a shower. Due to the heavy stigma of the residents, no one was willing to be photographed at first.
When Christ almost gave up, a man stopped him and asked to take his portrait so that he could search for a job. Then suddenly another woman requested a photograph too so that she can send it to her family as proof that she is alive. This inspired Christ to set up a mobile studio with a sign ‘Free 3x4s’. Throughout the process, he printed portraits for more than 2,000 people, allowing him to get to know the people from Cracolândia.
The backgrounds of Christ’s photographs are all set in a taupe colour. The choice of the colour scheme could be rooted in the origins of the French word ‘taupe’, which translates to ‘mole’. In line with how the animal oscillates underneath and above the earth’s surface, so too are the inhabitants of Cracolândia moving between an underground and the aboveground society – in which they exist without ever really becoming acknowledged.
Now turned into a book form, ‘Fissura’ challenges any simplistic understanding of the metropolitan drug crisis and resists the status quo. Christ gives voice to people who for years remained invisible to society. He shows the urgency of the situation and induces a sense of common responsibility and moral obligation in the viewers.
‘Fissura’ includes a text written by the author alongside an essay by Thiago Godoi Calil, a psychologist and doctoral candidate in global health and sustainability at the University of Sao Paulo Faculty of Public Health. The publication is available here.