Vincent Catala – Rio, An Inner Shore



Vincent Catala

Rio, An Inner Shore

For the last three years I have been focusing on the middle-class area in which I live in Rio de Janeiro. In a city that often summons the same repetitive figures, this is hard to locate mentally. There is a succession of residential blocks, office buildings and huge expanses of wastelands, open outlooks onto emptiness and silence, the ocean that is never far from sight and lone people passing by. Favelas are few and far between; renowned tourist areas are distant. In fact, where are we exactly? And when? And there is almost always a humid and milky light creating vagueness and obscuring benchmarks.Yet there is nothing peripheral about this urban fabric, it amounts to 2/3 of the total area of the city and 70% of the Cariocas reside there. This is where, but by default, the turbulent state that has rocked Brazil for the last years resounds most distinctly: an economic crisis that is increasingly becoming an existential one.

There is unspoken correspondence between the locations and the individuals. Against this uncertain urban setting solitary figures appear momentarily suspended in anticipation of an imminent downturn, as if searching for a balance located somewhere between a fading order and its resurgence.

The project is ongoing.




Vincent Catala lives and works in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), where he settled in 2013, coming from France. He became a photographer in 2006 after having experienced various trades. Specializing in long-term, in depth projects, Vincent discusses and contextualizes the bonds between the individual and his space, and their subjective representations: loneliness, freedom, place in the world. His work has appeared in Le Monde, Télérama, The Sunday Times Magazine, The National Geographic, Revista ZUM, among other publications. He has also been exhibited in numerous shows and festivals including Nuit de l’année, RIP Arles (France, 2011 and 2014), Galerie Dupon (France, 2011), Encontros da Imagem (Portugal, 2011), Festival Circulation(s) (France, 2012), Gallery Dar Al Anda (Jordan, 2013 and 2014), Musée André Villers (France, 2015). Since 2015 his work is held in the permanent collection of Gilberto Chateaubriand (Museum of Modern Art / Rio de Janeiro).

He is a member of Paris based Agence VU’.


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Vincent Catala

10 Responses to “Vincent Catala – Rio, An Inner Shore”

  • Vincent – perhaps it’s best to use the Portuguese word, “ótimo” for this essay. Beautiful light and color. Feels very much like the light of Rio on such days. I would guess that these are shot on large format film, perhaps Portra?

  • It’s good to see the nice range of contrast here, often times overdone these days.

  • Mitch, obrigado for the comment ! Your guess is correct :-)

  • There is a lot that I inherently don’t like about this the muted pallet the vacant looks on people face but it so very beautiful that none of that matters a bit.

  • Never been to Rio, doubt I ever will go there. I agree with Harry’s statement – there is so much in this essay I inherently don’t like and if I had the chance to go to Rio it comes across as such a joyless place populated by dour, unhappy, people I might think twice. No, not really. I would go without a second thought. Yet, there is both beauty and craftsmanship in the photos. The photographer shows us a slice of Rio I don’t recall seeing before. A thin slice, I hope, narrow – but maybe a broader, deeper, slice than other essays would lead me to believe.

    There are a lot of Rios like there are a lot of Bangkoks, or almost anywhere else that is not, say, Geneva or Singapore; but even the latter two largely sterile and boring cities can be portrayed many ways. Unfortunately, I haven’t been to Brazil since 1991-95 — in one of those years I went for a weekend to Salvador de Bahia, the heart of black culture in Brazil. I was walking with a camera in a square in the old town when someone threw a stone at me: I noticed I was the only white person in the square. I asked a bystander why the stone and he said, “on Sunday this square belongs to us.” That was during a time when white Brazilians would tell you that, unlike in the U.S., “there is no racial problem in Brazil.” While Vincent’s essay is not about race, I think my anecdote is relevant.

    Vincent’s text makes it clear the area that he is photographing and that it isn’t Copacabana or the colorful favelas; but he explains that this area holds 90% of Rio’s population. Clearly, he is not photographing for the Brazilian tourism authority, if there is such a thing — there is a reason for the joylessness. Critic Jörg Colberg wrote an article on his blog about photojournalists often “helicoptering” in. Again, that is not what Vincent is doing.

  • Sorry, the “90%” should have been “70%.”

  • At first glance, I had a similar reaction to Bill about the dour visages staring hopelessly off into the distance, which is not unusual as I often agree with Bill, especially on the rare occasions he goes negative, and dour visages staring off into the distance are practically de rigueur in this late stage of documentary photography.

    And, again, at first glance, I was bothered by the MFA vibe of the intro.

    “Against this uncertain urban setting solitary figures appear momentarily suspended in anticipation of an imminent downturn, as if searching for a balance located somewhere between a fading order and its resurgence.”

    Seriously? Can anyone translate that gibberish?

    But other than that unfortunate stretch, I found the intro very well-written and interesting. The first graph is one of the better ones I recall. It goes deep into otherwise unexplored territory, one I’d like to see explored. It’s a very good story.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think the essay illustrates the vibe depicted in that paragraph. And here, as happens constantly, I miss the old slideshow format here on burn, as it’s difficult to identify specific photos. In general, I think the distant ones best convey the story and that the people ones don’t work. Perhaps one person staring lugubriously off in the distance would be okay, but beyond that, I think it would be a good idea to rethink how to photograph people to convey the author’s intent.

  • I miss the old slideshow format here on burn ….. this new format is a bit lame

    Against this uncertain urban setting solitary figures appear momentarily suspended in anticipation of an imminent downturn, as if searching for a balance located somewhere between a fading order and its resurgence.”……… maybe the solitary figure has indigestion ……. breakfast just didn’t go down well

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