Brazil’s protests, on and off the wall

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Not long after 2 a.m. last Sunday, some 30 photographers and friends swept the downtown dust off two walls that closed in a small but busy street near São Paulo’s Luz subway station. They had just slathered glue onto several large photos and were about to paste them onto the walls when the police showed up and asked what they were doing.

“We’re putting up photographs,” the photographer Mauricio Lima said to the two officers. “Photography is not a crime.”

No, but it is complicated. A group called FotoProtestoSP was posting the images publicly, scenes from the demonstrations and clashes that swept through Brazil earlier this year. They wanted to make sure the protests would not be forgotten as people went about their daily, and rushed, routine.

Sunday’s installation of 26 4-by-5-foot images was halted after two hours of negotiations — and a side trip to the local precinct headquarters — when the police couldn’t figure out which of their divisions had to grant the group permission. Though the photographers’ work is not confrontational, it is an occupation — of public space and, more important, people’s minds. In a city where people stop for little, the group wants people to slow down and think about where they — as a nation — are going.

“It was a process of occupying the city with photography,” said Mr. Lima, a freelance photographer for The New York Times. “And, because it is an artistic intervention, it didn’t even come to mind for us that getting permission would be necessary for this to happen.”

Read the entire story on The New York Times Lens Blog.

By Jill Langlois

Originally published on The New York Times Lens Blog [with photos] on October 17, 2013.

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