Renato Custodio, Jardim

JTF (just the facts): Published in 2021 by Club del Prado (here). Softcover (26 x 18.5 cm), 92 pages, with 58 black and white photographs. Includes a poem by Eleni Sikelianos (translated from English into Spanish, Portuguese, and Japanese). Edit and design by Mateo Barbuzzi. In an edition of 250 copies. (Cover and spread shots below.)

Comments/Context: Renato Custodio is a photographer and skateboarder from Brazil who has travelled around the world photographing skateboard culture and working on projects with local skaters. He is particularly interested in skateboarding’s connection to urban spaces and architecture. His new photobook titled Jardim (“garden” in Portuguese) documents skateboarding as an art form, while also the considering peripheral neighborhoods of his native São Paulo.

Jardim is beautifully produced and printed in risograph; it also has a comfortable size and is pleasant to hold. A photograph of the sky with cables stretching diagonally across the corners appears on the cover, and the title is placed in the middle in a rather small font ending with a period. The photograph then continues to the back, and includes a bird caught with its wings wide open. An open spine is also an elegant design element. The book easily opens flat, making interaction with content even more enjoyable. 

Custodio spent about three years taking the photographs for Jardim, collaborating with 12 skaters who agreed to explore the periphery of São Paulo. All the photos were shot in the neighborhoods whose names begin with the word “Jardim”, yet all of them are located on the outskirts of the city, and despite the name, they are predominantly made up of concrete. There are a number of smaller pages in the book, printed on different paper, and they list the names of these neighborhoods in one continuous flow, in a fading typewriter-like font: “jardim capela jadim analandia jardim sonia maria jardimo edem”.

The book opens with spreads showing close ups of concrete, or rather its grainy and abstract texture. Similar spreads appear throughout the book, underlining the landscape of the areas, but also the connection between skating and the marks it leaves on the urban landscape. Custodio says that “Skating is in a constant search for the unexplored. Both the maneuver that was never performed in classic places and the classic maneuver that was never performed in an unprecedented place.”

There are no staged portraits or close ups of skaters’ movements, as Custodio photographs the skaters within their surroundings: empty streets, structures covered with graffiti, cars, asphalt, cables against the sky, etc. There are no pedestrians or passerbys in the photographs, and the lack of trees and gardens is also evident. In the middle of the book, there is a short poem by Eleni Sikelianos titled “World is weird” adding a poetic dimension to the visual narrative.

One of the first spreads in Jardim pairs a group of photographs. The image on the left is of a man caught in a pretty high jump as he skates on a street, and it takes a moment to notice the skateboard on the ground under him. The page on the right has two images. The one on top shows the last floor of the house and net of cables, and the one underneath portrays a skateboarder with this board casually standing on a busy corner. 

Shots of skaters in action with their boards are often paired with close up images of asphalt or peeling walls, putting attention on the physicality of the space. Custodio also captures the poverty and degradation in the neighborhoods. A full spread image shows the ruins of a building, and right behind them is a tent city. Poverty affects the infrastructure of the neighborhoods, and the lack of wide sidewalks, benches, and handrails is the main reason why skaters usually avoid these areas, mostly taking over more developed city centers. 

In the end, Jardim is a small self-contained project, with thoughtful sequencing and editing, that delivers an attentive look at a skating subculture in São Paulo. It is another successful example of how the book format can be effectively used to share a tightly edited series with a much wider audience.

Collector’s POV: Renato Custodio is represented by Galeria Aura in São Paulo (here). His work has little secondary market history at this point, so gallery retail likely remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.

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