After a popular tour throughout the country, everything was ready for the opening of the photo exhibition Heróis (Heroes) by Luiz Garrido, in Brasília, capital of Brazil. This time, the 24 black and white pictures of famous Brazilians were to be shown at the Chamber of Deputies, as part of Festival FOTO ARTE 2007  [pt], the biggest photographic event in the country.
Heróis showcases, among others, portraits of the President Lula , the congressman Fernando Gabeira , the sociologist Betinho , the internationally acclaimed architect Oscar Niemeyer  and the transsexual actress Rogéria, an icon of LGBT rights in Brazil. That was where the problem started: some members of the parliament deemed her picture, a semi nude artistic photo where the actress is dressed only in a shirt-tie-socks-trainers outfit, to be offensive to children and inappropriate for a public exhibition.
After much discussion among curators and hosts, the photo was then hidden behind a screen for the opening night. A note placed by the curators next to it let visitors know the reasons: “By a decision of the Deputy Chamber, this section holds Rogéria's photography, whose public exhibition has not been allowed”. Of course, this only added insult to injury and resulted in the Chamber of Deputies deciding to cancel the exhibition overnight and taking all the photos down, without consulting the curators, the festival organizers or the photographer.
Bloggers quickly picked up the story and spread the polemic photo more publicly than ever. Most of them published it, regardless of being for or against the decision, with arguments evolving around the legality of the decision, censorship, homophobia, morality of politicians and society's hypocrisy.
The controversial photo labeled as “frontal nude”, Rogéria, actress, by Luiz Garrido
Mesquita finds the decision a little bit contraditory  [pt]:
Parece até que não estamos no país do carnaval, das bundas e dos peitos. Fica a impressão, que a bancada evangélica na Câmara formou fileira junto aos parlamentares homófobos, na, aprentemente nada sutil, exteriorização de preconceito contra os homossexuais ou, pela arcaica e medieval vergonha ante a nudez – aliás, no caso, nem tão explícita assim.
It even seems that we are not in the ‘Country of Carnival’, of bottoms and bosoms. It leaves the impression that the Chamber's Evangelic clique queued up with the homophobic members of parliament in an apparently open demonstration of prejudice against homosexuals, or was it because of the archaic and medieval embarrassment in the face of a nude – which, in this case, wasn't even that explicit.
Hebert de Souza , Sociologist, by Luiz Garrido
afinsophia thinks that the Chamber's position was beyond homophobia  [pt]:
Com a censura a Câmara deixou vazar seu ranço homofóbico: o olhar alucinado. O pecado para a fenomenologia é não conseguir abstrair objeto, o senso comum da percepção visual, o olhar embotado, cristalizado.
With this censorship, the Chamber let out its homophobic rancidity: the hallucinated view. According to phenomenology, sinning is not being able to abstract oneself from the object, the common sense of visual perception, the dull, crystallized glance.
Rachel Dionizio remembers a Playboy magazine featuring a senator's lover  [pt] going around parliament:
Argumento: isso atingiria os bons constumes da família brasileira. ..”e a putaria que rola naquela casa com aqueles senhores eleitos por nós…não atinge não ??? e os comentários que rolaram naquela casa sobre a nudez de uma certa jornalista…até deputado na internet vendo as fotos rolou…e ai ?? “
Argument: this would be an affront to good moral conduct of Brazilian families. …”what about all the obscenity that goes on in that House, among those sirs who were elected by us… isn't it an affront too? what about the comments that went on in the same house about a certain journalist's nude… there were even congressmen looking at the pictures on the Internet… so what? “
Darcy Ribeiro , Antrophologist, by Luiz Garrido
Gilson, from defenestrado leaves a message for the country's polititians  [pt]:
Senhores deputados, afronta a moral e aos bons costumes da família brasileira é a péssima educação nas escolas, o atendimento desumanos nos hospitais públicos, o salário miserável do brasileiro, a falta de segurança em qualquer lugar do território nacional, a perpetuação da CPMF e todo o dinheiro que Vossas Excelências roubam de projetos e obras que deveriam beneficiar a população. Pensem nisso.
Dear parliamentarians, it is the low level of education in the schools, the inhuman treatment in the public hospitals, the Brazilian people's miserable salary, the lack of security in any part of the Brazilian territory, the continuation of CPMF [Provisional Contribution on Financial Activities] and all the money that your right honorablenesses steal from projects and works that should benefit the population that are, indeed, an insult to the Brazilian family's ethics and moralistic principles. Think about it.
Lula , current president of Brazil, by Luiz Garrido
Tales Faria also publishes the polemic picture, but he thinks that the congressman might have had a point  [pt]:
Agora me diga: você acha que em algum Congresso do mundo iam deixar essa foto exposta?
Now, tell me: do you think that any Parliament in the world would let this photo be exposed?
Also backing the Congress, Luiz Eduardo believes  [pt] that the censorship came in good time:
O fotógrafo Garrido insiste que a foto foi vetada por causa do homossexualismo de Rogéria. Não é o caso. O Congresso Nacional é diariamente visitado por crianças em excursões escolares. Não se pode mostrar tudo. Imagens eróticas não devem ser exibidas mesmo.
Garrido, the photographer, insists that the photo was vetted because of Rogéria's homosexuality. This was not the case. The National Congress is visited daily by children on school trips. Not everything can be shown. Erotic images should not be displayed at all.
Fernando Collor , former president of Brazil, by Luiz Garrido
Regarding this point, here is a question  [pt] by Isabela, from Punctum, a blog about photography:
Uma questão: como se pode argumentar a favor da criança e do adolescente, afirmando que a dita foto fere seus Direitos, se é justamente nesta Casa em que um futuro decente para o país – e dessas mesmas crianças – é completamente fulminado????
Just a question: how can one argument in favor of children and teenagers, stating that the said photo offends their rights, if this is just this same House in which a decent future for this country – and consequently for its children – is completely destroyed????
João Prado finds another explanation for the censorship  [pt]:
Aí vai uma teoria conspiratória (faz parte): será que não é essa a intenção dos deputados, de desviar a atenção de todos para assuntos menos importantes? ou será que não tem nada mais importante mesmo? Tipo crianças brasileiras em situação de tratamento desumano, violento, aterrorizante, vexatório, constrangedor…
Here (as always) comes a conspiracy theory: What if this was just the congressmen's intention, to divert everyone's attention onto less important issues? Or is it the case that there is nothing important at all going on? Things like Brazilian children suffering inhuman, violent, nasty, coercing treatment…
Fernanda Montenegro , actress, by Luiz Garrido
Márcio Pascoal provides a full stop for the discussion  [pt]:
E Rogéria e os protetores da moral nacional precisam saber que se a turma de Brasília inventar de sair censurando o que pode nos envergonhar e às criancinhas, não sobrará pedra sobre pedra na capital. Toda a corja para trás do biombo, já.
And what Rogéria and the national moral protectors need to know is whether Brasília's troupe will start to go promoting censorship of everything that may offend us and the little ones, because then there will be no stone left unturned in the capital. All the political riffraff must go to behind the same screen now.
The pictures in this feature have been kindly provided by FOTO ARTE 2007