JTF (just the facts): Published in 2020 by Schoeler Editions (here). Softcover (17 x 23 cm), 74 pages, with 62 black and white photographs. Includes an essay by the artist. In an edition of 600 copies. Design by Helena Rios and the artist. (Cover and spread shots below.)
Abrigo is also available in a special edition (here). This version includes a book with a signed silver print houses in an exclusive hand-made box. In an edition of 10 copies.
Comments/Context: The work of the Brazilan photographer Marcelo Greco often looks inward, dealing with emotionally charged and personal experiences. His new photobook titled Abrigo, meaning “shelter” in Portuguese, ends his recent trilogy, which includes the earlier photobooks Internal Affair and Sombras Secas (review here). Greco’s blurry, atmospheric black and white images usually hide more than they reveal, immersing us into an almost unconscious world.
Abrigo is a softcover book, with a black and white photograph enveloping the cover. The image is uncertain, looking like a courtyard between two buildings taken from a spot close to street level, with bushy trees covering one side and black space at the top and bottom. The images inside vary in their size and placement on the pages, almost always with generous white space around them, creating a dynamic and loosely open visual narrative.
The book opens with a thin vertical photograph placed almost at the edge of the right page, like the frames of a film strip. It captures two portraits of a woman surrounded by shadow, the top image with her eye closed, and the bottom with her eye open and looking straight into the camera, now paying attention to our presence. Photographs of this woman will appear throughout the book, anchoring the flow and creating an intimate visual relationship.
Just like in Greco’s earlier photobooks, there is no explicit indication of geographical place here, but the photographs were most likely taken in São Paulo (the artist’s hometown). Greco’s photographs consistently capture elusive and transitory moments. He brings in double reflections, light leaks, visual collages, and murky shadows, creating an eerie mood, and avoiding any obvious narrative. One photo shows nighttime buildings dotted with window lights; another is a head of a horse overlayed with a garden view from the window; and a third shows us a vendor carrying plastic-wrapped cotton candy on a stick – blurry and out of focus, it resembles a flower. In these and other pictures, we get fleeting glimpses of small moments, both tender and quietly ominous.
Photographs of a woman, Greco’s partner, appear throughout the book, symbolically connecting all the other elements together. Grainy, expressive portraits are mixed with more anonymous fragments of bodies – in one picture, we see just her legs in tights with a big running hole on the knee. Many of the photographs have an undertone of erotic desire, capturing her legs, back, breasts, or lips, and a sequence of three vertical shots follows her taking a shower. In another spread, Greco pairs an indistinct close up photo of a woman’s torso on a bed with an image of a bird’s overlapping silhouette on a branch, adding a doubled poetic element. There is a sense of intimacy, elegance, and care in all of these photographs.
In a later section of the book, there is a photograph of a woman, placed in the lower left corner of the spread. She is in the shower with her arms crossed over her very pregnant belly. The following spread is a sequence of three small horizontal images documenting the intimate moment of giving birth. Then, there is a photograph of a baby, we see its profile while the background remains rather blurry, and a few pages later, there is a slippery shot of a baby from the back with a hand holding it. Clearly, the arrival of a child has further intensified the relationship between Greco and his partner.
In the text at the end of the book, Greco is rather elusive, just as in his images. He feels the change in now offering protection, a shelter, to both his partner and their newborn. He shares that “to experience life with acceptance means, most of all, to offer oneself and others a shelter, a protection that removes us from this desolate place where we keep on battling against life, where nothing and no one can help us.” This feeling of belonging is something that was absent from his earlier life, and that scar is still present. The photographs serve as a reminder of who he was, but also of the empty places he no longer wishes for himself or others.
Greco’s book immerses us into a fragmented world full of emotions and expressive moments, a place where he finds a loving relationship and discovers the meaning of fatherhood. Abrigo is a thoughtful photobook, with an elegant design and photographs that talk to each other, revealing quite a bit more than what it depicts.
Collector’s POV: Marcelo Greco does not appear to have gallery representation at this time. Collectors interested in following up should likely connect directly with the artist via his website (linked above).