I am a diasporic Brazilian visual anthropologist, born in Rio de Janeiro and living in the UK. I did my undergraduate degree in Social Sciences and Masters programme in Social Anthropology at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. My personal path took me to England and to a PhD in Social Anthropology with Visual Media at the University of Manchester. Almost a decade later, having lived in Lisbon, New York and Los Angeles, I returned to Manchester as a lecturer.
I arrived at visual anthropology not out of an epistemological discomfort with the written word, but with a curiosity to explore what I could know differently or better with a camera. I worked with photography during my research on processes of ethnogenesis among indigenous people in the Northeast region of Brazil and when I researched how the experience of international migration affected the identity of young Brazilian immigrants in London. Although the subject matter could not have been more distinct, the question on how social and political contexts interact with subjective experiences of identity formation was similar. Photography gave a glimpse of the materiality of specific bodies in specific geographies, but it excluded the sounds of their oral testimonies and the spatial context. With video, I feel I can access the best of visual, sensorial and textual worlds. Moreover, audio-visual media yields itself to projects of collaboration more easily than text. I think that doing anthropology in the world in which we live today only makes sense if we engage in collaborative projects; if our academic interests are in sync with the interests of those with whom we collaborate. This is never a simple task, but it is one that guides my practice as a visual anthropologist.
My latest work with video, Views of Vidigal, is displayed in the following pages. It is an example of what can be done with simple, light and user-friendly technology: a small camera without any extra equipment (no tripod, external microphone, extra light), used in collaboration with the people I worked with in a favela in Rio de Janeiro. I plan to take this collaborative approach further into co-authorship in my next audiovisual projects. Shared authorship in processes of knowing presupposes the recognition of people’s autonomy and creative potential, and requires shared accountability towards the outcomes. Visual anthropology is well positioned to engage with co-creation of knowledge that can be widely shared beyond the walls of the university.