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Ricardo Rangel

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This book was bought sometime ago, an impulsive purchase influenced by the cover and the repute of Ricardo Rangel a Mozambican photographer who is of some acclaim at least in Mozambique. He was born in Mozambique of Chinese, Greek and Portuguese ancestry in 1924 and is considered by many to be pivotal in the development of the visual medium.

Rangel’s great fortune was that he was an able photographer and journalist during the country’s most dramatic historical moments. In the highly stratified society of colonial Mozambique, he occupied a lesser social position than that of a Portuguese man. Growing up in the suburbs of Lourenco Marques, surrounded by poverty and inequality he learned to use his ability as a photographer to document his experiences.

The book is a posthumous release and in its initial chapters contains long commentaries on Rangel’s capacity and intention to highlight unacceptable (by modern standards) social norms.

RicardoRangel2The histories told in the book by many of Rangel’s contemporaries suggest that he initially kept most of his material that would not pass the censor board private. His foray into journalism began at what is now Noticias for which he would provide photos. Owing to his ability, he was gradually given greater freedoms over his content which he gladly accepted and often used to throw jibes at the colonial administration.

RicardoRangel3By the independence of the country in 1975, Rangel had become one of a handful photographers highly favored by the party that claimed to have liberated Mozambique and to have toppled colonialism, FRELIMO. After independence he distanced himself from work related to politics and spent time as the director of the Center for Documentation and Photography CDFF.

From a technical perspective Rangel is a documentary photographer whose body of work differs to that of Saul Leiter or André Kertész who were more concerned with the creative and aesthetic dimensions of photography. However in the early 1970s, his release of Our Nightly Bread was notable for its capture of silhouettes, movement and of course its visual attestation of a vibrant adult entertainment industry conveniently overlooked by the colonial authorities but very much a source of income for African women and a diversion for white men from Mozambique, Rhodesia and South Africa.

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