JTF (just the facts): Published by Cdf Ediciones in 2019 (here). Hardcover, 72 pages, with 29 color and black and white photographs, includes drawings by Jady Virgínia. In an edition of 500 copies. Design by Walter Costa and Talita Virgínia. (Cover and spread shots below.)
Comments/Context: The Brazilian photographer Talita Virgínia was born and raised in São Paulo, in the family of a military police officer. Brazil’s military police play a crucial role in maintaining general security in the country. Her father carries a gun, and it was constantly present in their house; he would often take it on family trips. Her family was forced to flee their home to avoid death threats connected to her father’s job, and Virgínia grew up gradually understanding what the silent violence of a gun represented in their home environment. She was fifteen years old when her younger sister was born, and that was the moment when she was able to look again at the situation from a new perspective, seeing herself through her little sister.
As Virgínia studied photography, her projects began to focus on documenting her father. She says she got “obsessed with my family and the clash of classes I experienced daily studying at a middle-class university and living on the outskirts.” Over the period of ten years, she photographed her family and her father at work, and she then turned the series into a photobook titled My favorite color is pink but I like black very much. It combines Virgínia’s photographs with drawings by her younger sister, sharing with us what it means growing up in a family where guns are constantly present.
The book has a sugar pink cover without any text or visuals, and the title of the book appears on the spine in Portuguese. The title, My favorite color is pink but I like black very much, references the first sentence in the diary of Virgínia’s sister Jady. The combination of black/pink emphasizes the perspective of a girl, and serves as a metaphor for the narrative. In terms of construction, there are a number of fold outs that feature drawings by Jady and open up to full spread photographs.
Virgínia interleaves photographs of her father with Jady’s child drawings. The first photo in the book is rather blurry, depicting a group of soldiers (their uniforms and rifles make us assume they are soldiers), and there is a cloud of white fog in the foreground. This is followed by a photograph of a little girl with curly hair eating pink cotton candy, repeating the puffed motif. (Pictures of little girls, often wearing pink, appear throughout the book.) A drawing of a house with a girl next to it then resets the framework of home and family. The little sister is often captured next to the father, and Virgínia probably also sees herself as a young girl in these images.
One of the first photographs of Virgínia’s father shows him standing by the window, pulling the curtains while holding his gun. The family lives in a dangerous neighborhood, so the father has to perform his duties and also protect his own family. While the gun and the uniform represent violence and danger, the lace pattern of the curtains (and its shade falling on the uniform) adds a gentle element. The photograph is taken from a lower angle as if from a child’s perspective, and in many ways, symbolizes the complexity of the situation.
Another photograph captures the father loading the gun as he gets ready to go to work, and the little girl behind him is quietly sitting on a bed with a book. Her colorful book and outfit stand in contrast to the black color of the gun and the gun belt. This image captures both the innocence of childhood and the violence represented by the weapon. Virgínia uses juxtapositions throughout the narrative, confronting us with innocence and violence, a parent and a child, gentle and rough, male and female, ultimately drawing attention to the complexity of the subject.
There are also photographs of Jady peacefully sleeping, jumping on the bed, and posing in a princess outfit. Closer to the end, there is a photo of a young woman, likely the artist herself, standing in an alley covering her face with her hand – this story is her story. It is followed by a portrait of Virgínia’s father (now retired) in his white ceremonial uniform decorated with awards he received during his service as a police officer. It is a loving portrait of a father, showing him both as a police officer and a gentle vulnerable man.
As a physical object, this book has some flaws and imperfections, but what makes Virgínia’s project stand out is her very intimate and personal approach to her subject. As she documents her father and family, she brings a human dimension to a fractured set of emotions, showing the complexity of the situation when a family has to combine the profession of a policeman and everyday life. Photography, and ultimately her book, helped Virgínia to deal with the unsettling childhood memories and trauma connected to her father’s job. She brings a human dimension to the abstract conversation about violence, showing the story from the nuanced perspective of her own family.
Collector’s POV: Talita Virgínia does not appear to have consistent gallery representation at this time. As a result, interested collectors should likely follow up directly with the artist via her website (linked in the sidebar).