At Paris Photo 2016, I was fortunate to see quite a large exhibition of the work of Mario Cravo Neto. I first came across his photos in the British Journal of Photography and found them to be quite eye-catching and unusual. Each one seemed to tell a story, but I was not lucky enough to know what it was about.
Mario Cravo Neto was born in the city of Salvador, Bahia in 1947. According to the BJP article by Sritharan (2016) written to introduce the exhibition A Serene Expectation of Light, Cravo Neto was the son of acclaimed sculptor Mario Cravo and he originally planned on following his father’s path. In 1964, the family moved to Germany to participate in an artist-in-residence program, and it was there that the teenage Cravo Neto discovered the joys of photography.
The photos reproduced in the magazine were in black & white and to the usual BJP high production standards, but it was clear even from the magazine that there was a lot more to see.The print quality was obvious at Paris Photo. Many of the prints were large – a metre or more on the long edge. The dynamic range from inky blacks, through carefully separated mid-tones and to brilliant whites was something special and can’t even be approximated on a screen.
This quality of light and shade is mentioned in the BJP article:
“The monochrome images play with light and shade to tremendous effect; when describing Cravo Neto’s photographs, famed Brazilian composer, poet and political activist Caetano Veloso said that his subjects seemed to be ‘caressed by the serene expectation of light’ – the source of the exhibition’s title.” (Sritharan 2016)
The subjects of Cravo Neto’s work are clearly unconventional, but are drawn from the world around him in Brazil. Sritharan (2016) quotes the curator of the exhibition, Gabriela Salgado, as stating that “all the elements in the pictures have a symbolic meaning. Cravo Neto frequently would incorporate birds – roosters, doves, swans, guinea fowls – into his photos, not as mere props, each laden with their own meaning and used for certain rituals.”
In the context of the current subject, Context & Narrative, it seems to me that the work of Mario Cravo Neto is important as the context (his cultural background and experience with sculpture) as well as his desire to communicate a story via the meanings in the photos are all relevant.
Sritharan, B. (2016) Finding transcendence through the image: the work of Mario Cravo Neto. At: http://www.bjp-online.com/2016/01/mario-cravo-neto/ (Accessed 26 Nov 2016)