Flanares, The Real Road to Rio

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Electric Kiss, Gustavo Minas

On the “Road to Rio,” there is a good deal of international rubbernecking.

As Brazil sits in headlights of pre-Olympic buzz, the media flashes its headlines at the nation. And yet, despite political changes and a looming epidemic, the country keeps an admirable optimism.

Happiness and buoyancy is a condition that seems to pervade deeply through the nation – that is, beyond the country’s media-projected front end.

It is art – infinitely more so than the news – that gives us glimpses into what is really going on a country.

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Clowns Presentation, Rio de Janeiro., Marcelo Argolo

At UGallery, we feature eight members of the Brazilian street photography collective, Flanares, they capture Real Life images of Brazilian cities.

The brilliant lineup includes: Gustavo Minas, Arnon Gonçalves, Fabio Costa, Guilherme Botelho, Kelson Fontinele, Marcelo Argolo, Ricardo Perini, and Weslei Barba.

The group’s name, “Flanares” strolled into Brazil as a form of the French word “Flâneur,” associated with the observant idler or open-eyed wanderer. Popularized by Baudelaire, the Flâneur is an typified figure – a strolling male, top hat often included –artistic culture of Nineteenth century France. They observe the bustle of urban life.

A street photographer is a 21st century Flâneur – with a camera instead of a top hat.

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9 de Julho Avenue, Gustavo Minas 

“Street Photography is examined in less obvious ways,” says collective member Weslei Barba.

The group’s modes of photography are constantly morphing, intensifying, and evolving, to adapt to the hot and rhythmic samba that is urban life.

“Street photography isn’t properly valued today,” says Gustavo Minas. “We’re dealing with very ordinary things. For a large audience, it can be hard to get what we are seeing or why we’re photographing such trivial happenings.”

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Rue Bouchardon, Paris, Fabio Costa

In essence, Flanares rushes in where the media fears to tread. They show us a Brazilian’s Brazil: daily work commutes, festive amusement parks, kissing couples, dodging the rain, etc.

Minas continues, “But despite of pleasing ourselves, we are also collecting documents of today’s life for the future, through a very personal point of view.”

Minas is the kind of person who can find calmness in a crowd; he becomes the environment.

“Being in a crowd I can almost completely forget about myself, it’s a bit like meditation, it feels great,” says Minas.

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Girl in the Mirror, Gustavo Minas

This vantage point of unbiased, literal selflessness he becomes the environment, suggesting that the places he captures are the genuine, unglossed essence of the Brazil.

For Minas, the term “snap decision” has never before been more pun-y or accurate. Taking the pictures is a gut triggered, near-psychic experience.

“I’m very attracted by light, color, shadows, and geometry. Besides this, I think that, in my stronger photographs, the characters show certain feelings that I unconsciously relate to…this is what makes me want to photograph them,” says Minas.

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The Old Woman and the Time, Weslei Barba

Other members of the group share this dynamism and documentarian impulse.

When Weslei Barba explores Brazil’s cities, like São Paulo, with the ring and rigor of an intellectual pursuit; he “reads” the city.  

“I’m challenged by rules and omissions, acceptance and rejection, attracting and being attracted, like a round where we photographed and are usually drawn in an addictive cycle,” he says.

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Brazilian Bus Stop, Ricardo Perini 

Because the group spans an entire country, the artists remain connected through the internet.

When collective member Ricardo Perini first encountered Minas’ work in 2014 when he went to New York to study photography.

“I met Gustavo’s work and I felt connected to it instantly” he said.

When Perini returned to Brazil he reached out to Gustavo to receive career advice and tips.

Ocean Love, Arnon Gonçalves

From this back-and-fourth cybernetic volley of emails, the concept of Flanares precipitated: a Brazilian street photography collective.

At the time, Gustavo surpassed Perini in experience; Gustavo was already a member of an established and famous collective in Brazil, called Selva SP.

Because of pre-established groups like Selva SP. The earliest founders of Flanares realized that they needed to find their own new visual voice.

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Playing in the River, Kelson Fontinele

While the group shares this collective retainer, each street photographer has his own approach and distinct aesthetic.

“Some are more concerned about content or social issues, others care more about form or color; but what binds us is that we’re all doing it for fun, for love or maybe obsession,” says Minas.  


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