Meet Brazilian Photographer Edgar Azevedo Documenting Novos Quilombos

Afro LGBT Spaces in Salvador da Bahia

Written by: Rafael Zu and Jessica Alvarenga
Translated by: Jessica Alvarenga

In colonial Brazil, a quilombo was a place where runaway slaves would take refuge and be free. Novos quilombos, that is, contemporary quilombos, have emerged in response to the continued structural anti-black violence in Brazil. Novos quilombos are black spaces, parties, outings and events where the modern black person can take refuge and truly feel free. 

Edgar Azevedo is a 22 year old self-taught photographer that has been documenting the Afro LGBT novos quilombos in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. His work is everything about #blackexcellence. Through the use of different photography methods, such as high end beauty and fashion, portraiture and documentary style photography, he is able to capture the diversity of Afro Brazilian beauty particularly in the Afro LGBT community.

How do you identify?
My pronouns are he/him as the masculine gender, but I prefer to be called Edgar Azevedo.

What was your journey like in photographing only black people in your personal editorial work?
My work in photographing black people began after my empowerment and my acceptance of being black in a capitalist, racist and not egalitarian society. Since then, I began to see that my identity was not being represented in a positive way. I saw photography as a tool to represent what is also beautiful, what is also cool, what is also handsome.

Why is it important for you to document the Afro LGBT scene in Salvador da Bahia?
Because I am part of it as well and I saw that Afro LGBT had no representation. I want to represent another LGBT aesthetic and politic.
Beginning with the novos quilombos that were the parties, the events, the outings, you could see a lot of LGBT representation within the black community. We began to realize that Afro LGBT also needed a space to communicate, to have fun, and moreover to occupy our own spaces as well. And now that these new spaces are being created inside the Black Power movement, we can discuss over LGBT phobia in relation to to black LGBT people and it is increasing more and more because the black community has accepted us in attempts to unify everyone.

What is it like being Afro LGBT in the periphery?
Being black is one thing. Being black and gay is another thing. Being black, gay and feminine is another, it’s worse. For me, there is not that stereotype so I’m chill but you run risks inside and outside the periphery. If you see trans people in the street it is because they’ve conquered a lot. It is with a lot of effort and they have to go through so many things, so much bias and prejudice, so much racism to get there.

Where is the violence harsher? The periphery or in mainstream society?
Everywhere. Imagine, you are born black, poor and you’re LGBT as well? It is not a question of whether you will be oppressed or not. You will be because we are born in an oppressive society. However, there are some differences. I think that an LGBT person from the periphery suffers more when they leave the periphery because they are subject to other types of social classes that will judge them the entire time.

For example, in a favela where there is traffic, there is only peace. There is peace because it maintains order so there is no need for thieves because the drugs are theirs. So if someone needs money, they ask the drug dealer for something to sell, the dealer gives it to them and the deal is done, regardless if they are LGBT or not. So the people in the periphery aren’t scared of drug dealers. In fact, they are beloved. I’m scared of the police that come into my community already shooting. I’m scared of their stray bullets, I’m scared how they invade houses without the minimum respect

Yet, that does not diminish the amount of suffering in the periphery especially for femme gays and trans people. The condition of LGBT people has only worsened. There are still many prejudices against us. For example, because I can’t donate blood because I’m gay.

Why do you think it is important to teach classes on how to photograph black people?
Because a black person should be represented accurately the entire time. And it is something that does not happen.

If people knew how to photograph a black person in a beautiful way, imagine how beautiful, how marvelous we would be portrayed. Imagine if the world had more black photographers taking pictures of various tones of black people imagine all the spaces we could occupy spaces and show our talents and aesthetics.

What is your biggest obstacle as a black photographer?
My biggest challenge is being a photographer. Being a black photographer from the periphery is already a difficult thing to be. Now, being a black photographer, from the periphery, only photographing black people, is even more difficult because my work is seen as biased. My challenge is to show myself as a black person and speak about the black experience and represent my black community. It would be easier if I were a white person speaking about the black experience.
And finding work as well. There is this certain perception of what a good photographer looks like. I have friends that are able to get photography gigs simply because they are white even though I may have a higher skill set. It comes down to the question of skin color. There are many things I do not have access to because I am black.

Check out more of Edgar’s work on Facebook and Instagram at @oedgaraz!

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