‘Warld Cup’ is a documentary photography project gathering images from more than 30 photographers from different latitudes to create a portrait of what was happening in Brazil on the fringes of the 2014 World Cup. After being shown in various spots in Rio de Janeiro, it is now open here in Buenos Aires, in the Centro Cultural de la Cooperación.
The exhibit narrates the social distinctions and contradictions of the tournament through well-chosen images that shun a tabloid aesthetic.
A woman kissing the image of [Brazil’s captain] Thiago Silva on the television in the settlement known as Copa do Povo in São Paulo. A group of indigenous men standing around a solitary tree opposite the Maracaná stadium. A person overcome with joy approaching a camera which is focusing on the security forces who are observing the scene. A man entering the only surviving house in a sea of rubble in front of a highway. These images come together in an exhibit whose name is formed through the fusion of “war” and “world”.
The idea for the collective project came from the meeting of French-Argentine Sebastián Gil Miranda, Brazilian Dinho Moreira, Elsa Brugière, and Thomas Belet (both French).
The title ‘Warld Cup’ was thought up by Sebastián Gil Miranda, a documentary photographer and sports fan who travelled to the World Cup with the idea of capturing the other reality of the event. He soon realised that he was not the only one: “The first days there I was meeting people that I thought were interesting, with interesting work, and one day, as I shared my project with some friends of friends, the idea came up of doing something collective. The next day we already had a logo, website, and a call out for entries.”
The Two Sides of the Coin
The evictions of vulnerable communities, overpriced building projects, reports of corruption, tax benefits for FIFA and the World Cup sponsors, as well as laws designed according to their needs – all of these issues had an impact in the lead up to the tournament.
The social discontent in Brazil over the organisation of the World Cup had become public a year earlier, during the June 2013 Confederations Cup. The protests that began over the hike in public transport fares spread to include diverse problems and people, and combined with a violent police response, exposed the inequalities that hosting the World Cup in implies.
Beyond what he already knew, Gil Miranda was surprised by the almost constant contrast of celebration and police brutality: “Both the inauguration and the closing ceremony began with parties in the stadiums and a few blocks away protesters were being brutally suppressed. You were in two totally opposing worlds, a simultaneous party and a war, just a few blocks apart.”
Perhaps this is why the project quickly gathered momentum; in the end there was a wealth of material from which to select photos. That’s when the concept was fully defined: “We sought to tell the story [of the World Cup] from a much deeper, more subtle place, to search to find out what was really behind the incidents and not fall into sensationalism over the blood and violence,” says Gil Miranda.
Most of the photos are faithful to the goals of the project, even if not always the most aesthetically accomplished. The selection of photos transmits the contradictions between celebration and repression, the tension between poverty and business, traditions and progress, between the passion of the people and the show business of FIFA.
These contradictions were not exclusively felt by the Brazilians who suffered the collateral damage of the tournament. Gil Miranda felt it: “on the one hand I was working to show the other face of the World Cup, but then on the other hand Argentina kept progressing through the rounds and I ended up caught up on both sides.”
The most powerful photos are those that complement an underlying story. “The most interesting thing is to break down the story behind each image, such as in the photo of the woman kissing the television,” notes Gil Miranda. The photo was taken by Frederick Bernas in the Copa de Povo settlement, the new home to many of the families who were evicted to clear room for the São Paulo Arena in the Itaquerao neighbourhood.
Bernas himself notes: “These people had lost their homes for the World Cup, but when the game started they forgot about everything. The same woman who was shouting about FIFA, saying that they didn’t want any of this in Brazil, started to go crazy during the game. The level of intensity in this situation really surprised me.”
For his part, Bernas picks another example: “I think the photo of the boy playing while a line of police behind him are ready to act frames the tension that was running through society. But there were many good ones – seeing these photos in print is something really special and powerful.
The organisers promise to maintain the spirit of Warld Cup and continue the project in during the European Championships in France and the Olympic Games in Rio, both in 2016.
‘Warld Cup‘ is on at the Centro Cultural de la Cooperación (Av. Corrientes 1543, 11-5077-8000) until 29th March. Entrance is free.
Lead image: ‘Warld Cup’ by Felipe Paive, R.U.A. Foto Coletivo