Olympic Favela

Ahead of the World Cup (2014) and the 2016 Olympic Games, the city government of Rio de Janeiro is transforming the urban landscape to host the two mega-sporting-events. As a result, thousands of residents of the 1.4 million people living in Rio’s shantytowns, of favelas, have been faced with forced evictions from their homes.

Between 2012 and 2013 Marc Ohrem-Leclef created two series of photographs in Rio’s favelas to capture the human impact which the policies of removals have.

One group of images consists of portraits of the people who live in the favelas with many of the residents photographed in front of their homes, which have been designated for removal by SMH with spray-painted code numbers.

The second group features directed images of residents posing with flaming emergency torches in their communities. Referencing iconic imagery ranging from Delacroix’s ‘Liberty Leading the People’ and Bartholdi’s ‘Liberty Enlightening the World’ to news imagery of the Arab Spring, these photographs invoke ideas of liberation, independence, resistance, protest and crisis, whilst making use of the core symbol of the Olympic Games-the torch.

Together with the portraits, these images juxtapose the dynamics of celebration and togetherness with those of struggle based on social-economic disparity, which the mega-events are bringing to Rio de Janeiro and its citizens.

The works in OLYMPIC FAVELA are subtle investigations of the extraordinary challenges residents in Rio’s favelas face at this time: city officials who use ever-changing tactics to sow fear and insecurity to actively erode the sense of community; and lengthy, complicated legal disputes they must wage to avoid eviction and assert their rights to remain in the homes where they have grown up. The photographs also reveal the beauty of 13 communities Ohrem-Leclef worked in and echo the deep-seated sense of optimism felt throughout them.

Marc Ohrem-Leclef was born in Dusseldorf, Germany, 1971. Since the mid-nineties he has pursued work that focuses on portraits of communities, whether they are formed by blood-lines, social circumstance or cultural movement. Ohrem-Leclef’s work has been exhibited in Germany and the U.S., and has been published in numerous international publications.
He currently lives in New York City.


Photographs by Marc Ohrem-Leclef
Texts by Luis Pérez-Oramas and Itmar Silva
88 pages, 67 photographs
Published by Damiani


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Marc Ohrem-Leclef and curator Mazie M. Harris discuss Olympic Favela. Download Interview here.

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