One of the most important and influential contemporary Brazilian photographers, the late Cravo Neto (b. 1947 – d. 2009) originally trained as a sculptor and only took up photography seriously after a car accident in 1975 left him bedridden for a year. Throughout his photographic career, Cravo Neto was fascinated by the complex cultural heritage of Bahia in the northeast of Brazil, the point of entry for millions of African slaves between the 16th and 19th century.
His imagery is deeply steeped in the religion of Candomblé – an Afro-Brazilian form of worship practiced by Cravo Neto – which finds its origins in traditional West African Yoruba culture.
‘My idea from now on is to develop that transition between the inert object and the sacred object. It is simply a religious position in photography that I wish to adopt.’
– Mario Cravo Neto
The exhibition comprises two series of photographs: twenty black and white studio portraits from The Eternal Now series produced during the 1980s and 1990s, and twenty colour prints from the Laróyè series produced in the 2000s, during the latter part of his career before his untimely death in 2009.
The large-scale black and white photographs are characterised by the use of inanimate objects and animals in conjunction with human bodies, giving the images a sculptural and tactile quality reminiscent of European still life paintings from the 17th and 18th century, with symbolic meanings derived from Candomblé. In contrast, Cravo Neto’s later colour works depict urban life in Salvador. Rather than provide a documentary account of the city and its people, Cravo Neto pays homage to Èsù, a trickster divinity and overseer of the cross roads between the material and spiritual world.
The exhibition is the outcome of a dialogue between the artist and Mark Sealy MBE, Director of Autograph ABP, which began in 1992 at Houston FotoFest, Texas.