Portraying black beauty in the heart of Brazil, photographer Thiago Borba seeks to deconstruct racism while bringing Black Brazilian representation to the forefront in his photo series #BlackIsBeautiful.
The series was born from an exhibit Borba produced last year called Hidden Paradise, which he says was created from a “need to give protagonism and identity to the Black body.” His passion to highlight the beauty of Blackness continues to drive his work today.
Born and raised in the mostly Black Brazilian city of Salvador, the gay artist (who is half white and half Black) couldn’t find work, so he moved to São Paulo, where he’s lived and worked for a decade. It was there he saw the disgrace of colorism. He says that in São Paulo, the blacker one is, the more discrimination they face.
That’s why he was inspired to return to his hometown and do the photo series.
Borba tells Chill that his photos are meant to offer a compassionate view of Black Brazilians, and throw “a naked look at social values, a look that recognizes what is beautiful regardless of color — and from there show that we need to change the way we were taught to look at us Black [people].”
All of the models featured in the photos are either friends or friends of friends, which, to the 34-year-old artist, makes it all the more authentic.
Last November, the government included his photos in the campaign Novembro Negro (“Black November”). For weeks his pictures were displayed on billboards, bus stops, and subways.
“The work has been received by the eyes of identification,” Borba shares. “I receive numerous messages daily from Blacks of the whole world that felt touched in some way [by] the series — and this, for me, is the best feedback that I could have.”