Note from BW of Brazil: When black people have access to certain things, they make things happen. This is what comes to my mind when I think of all the moves black Brazilians have made over the past few decades, but most def at a more accelerated pace in specifically the past decade. And I said it before, social networks are a HUGE reason for this. I first started recognizing this desire…demand for representation and recognition in the now defunct social network known as Orkut.
Before Facebook, Twitter and now Instagram would come along and completely change and dominate the genre, I would spend hours reading some of the things Afro-Brazilians were writing on that network. Judging from what I was reading, a black revolution was coming to Brazil…soon.
In some ways, that revolution is still a ways away, but in others ways, it’s already here. Black Brazilians have been craving media representation ever since television became a major influential force in the country in the 1950s.
Back then, whiteness as the representation of humanity was the norm, as it still is today, but the difference is that in recent decades, larger percentages of black Brazilians began to perceive that their faces were rarely featured in Brazil’s media. And when they were, they were often relegated to laughable, forgettable, stereotypical representations.
In the 21st century, through means such Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, Afro-Brazilians have decided, if they want representation, THEY will have to be the ones to make this happen. And in many noteable ways, they have. The photographer I discuss today is yet another example of this making it happen.
Although I’ve seen more black faces featured on the covers of Brazil’s ultra-Eurocentric print media in the past five years, things still remain basically the same as when I reported on this ‘’dictatorship of whiteness’’ several years ago. Tom (see note one), a photographer from Bahia, is yet another black Brazilian who saw the need show the faces that Brazil tries so hard to hide. And when he got his hands on a decent câmera, dude started to create magic. After I saw just one of his striking images (featured below), I knew I needed to feature Tom’s work on a blog that presents the faces and experiences of the black Brazilian to the English speaking world (see note two). Hopefully, Tom doesn’t provoke fear in his neighbors because of his ‘suspicious’ behavior like 17-year Gabriel Souza did with his camera.
Check out a few of his shots below and see if you agree….
“We need to bring this militancy thing to Instagram,” says pop photographer on the networks
With photography, Tom Filho presents a world of diversity in unlikely settings
A pile of rubble down the street, a clothesline with an extended sheet, a backyard with some crops or even inside a refrigerator. The scenes don’t seem usual for an Instagram post, but Tom Filho, a 21-year-old Bahian who is a hit on the internet for his unusual portraits, wants to be recognized for being different. The more than 100,000 followers seem to point the right way.
The portraits, posted on Instagram and Twitter with thousands of shares, bring to light the dynamics of social networking for innovation in content creation. Tom, however, did not come to São Paulo in 2017 with his life made. He had his first job as a telemarketing advisor, still in Salvador, to be able to buy the first and only camera that, for him, was an instrument to regain self-esteem.
With it, she began photographing colleagues and shy first clients in the São Paulo state capital. The process, which began from within, had the effect of portraits that inspire the perception of beauty, especially in black people.
“Self-esteem is something we work on every day in ourselves. The point is to make them see each other with my eyes, not hers. There are a lot of people who see themselves in a very negative way because of many traumas and many things that happened in childhood, you know?”, he says.
In the universe of engagement, however, Tom realized that the likes of photos of black models had less repercussion than those of white characters. In one publication, he teased, “What do you call this in your city?”
“People don’t like it so much and comment so much, but I always post it on my profile because I want people to get used to it a lot. It is very common to see feeds from other photographers with only white, skinny, blond and blue-eyed people. I am a black person and I don’t feel represented always taking photos of white people”, says Tom.
Through photography, he himself said he cured himself of low self-esteem when, still in Bahia, he made did self-portraits. On the other side of the lens – the only new equipment, unlike the camera, to date, the first he’s bought – Tom says when people are confident they will exude a unique and particular beauty: theirs.
In a world of clicking and questioning the reach of social and racial issues, the influencer argues that networks are also a place for black militancy.
“Unfortunately, we are living at a time when we are not at the top of society, much remains to be done. We also need to take this militancy thing to Instagram, a place that is very hard to see yourself. What matters most is making people feel represented,” he says. From the photos below, the strategy seems to be working.
Courtesy of Planeta MG
- The only thing I wonder about ‘Tom’ is if his real name is Antônio. Seeing the name ‘Tom’ took me back to the year 2000 when I started to really get deep into learning about Brazil. For Americans, Bossa Nova legend Antônio Carlos Jobim is often our first introduction to Brazilian music. When I started learning about Jobim’s innovative mixture of Samba and Jazz, I soon discovered that there was another guy named Tom Jobim also involved in the music scene and he looked just like Antônio. Did Antônio have a brother that he collaborated with in the same way that George Gershwin had Ira? I soon learned that, in Brazil, ‘Tom’ was the Brazilian way of shortening the name Antônio, and it’s pronounced ‘tone’. Antônio Carlos and ‘Tom’ Jobim were one and same person. Duh….Brazilian lesson of the day.
- It’s funny, based on what Tom said in the article above, I expected to Tom’s Instagram page loaded with black faces. There are no doubt black faces there, but as you check out more images, it appears that Tom is actually promoting ‘diversity’ rather than purely blackness.