Stefanie Moshammer, Land of Black Milk
A new subway line, dedicated bus lanes, new schools, a museum, and a revamped downtown: all of these were either built or overhauled in Rio de Janeiro prior to the 2016 Summer Olympics. This period of tumultuous, sweeping change seemed to Stefanie Moshammer an excellent time to pay a visit to the former Brazilian capital. Land of Black Milk, which was developed over the course of her stay in Rio, examines the city’s profound transformation from an unexpected perspective. The photographer is uninterested in construction projects conceived to make life easier for wealthy residents and short-term visitors. Instead, she turns her gaze toward the fringes of the city, where over twenty percent of the population dwells in the favelas.
One of the pictures in Land of Black Milk features a bird’s-eye view of a favela, overlaid with a strange, organic-shaped shadow. Moshammer is focused on exploring these areas that usually remain the preserve of their inhabitants. The series was developed over the course of the artist’s visits to places hidden away from the casual visitor. To shoot in districts controlled by Comando Vermelho, one of Rio’s largest criminal organisations, the artist had to receive a permit from the group. Assembling an image of the favela also meant seeking out its denizens in the more affluent parts of the city, where they earn money selling cold drinks and sunglasses.
The artist sees Land of Black Milk as a combination of documentary elements with personal experience, all filtered through her aesthetic preferences. The photographs, most of them in colour, do not attempt to formulate any theses on life in the favelas but are rather a calm capturing of ephemeral moments. Palm fronds casting shadows on a pink wall; a vendor pulling out cold soda cans from a styrofoam container; people wearing camo outfits standing next to one another. Moshammer does not try to conceal the sense of tension that permeates her pictures, but neither does she force it into the foreground. She is thus able to distance her work from both clichéd images of Rio de Janeiro and its world-famous Carnival and white-sand beaches, and those that result from a photojournalistic preoccupation with poverty and violence. Palpable here is the experience of spending time in places where the atmosphere tends to change from day to day.
Aesthetically and stylistically, Land of Black Milk situates itself squarely within Stefanie Moshammer’s artistic practice. The Viennese-born artist is known for series of photographs that share a specific common denominator, namely the place they are taken in: Tomorrow of Yesterday was shot in Haiti, I Can Be Her in Las Vegas, and Absent Presence in Kolkata, while Therese is a story of her native Austria. These poetic series all share a very specific sense of colour. Sometimes, the colours are intense, as in Rio de Janeiro; other times they are bleak and subdued, as in Las Vegas. Explains Moshammer, ‘I believe that places have their own colour palettes and elicit specific feelings, even if the experience is strictly subjective’.
Stefanie Moshammer (b. 1988, Vienna) is an artist working in the field of photography. After graduating from the Fashion School of Vienna, she received a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design & Photography from the University of Art and Design in Austria and was enrolled in the BA program in Advanced Visual Storytelling at the Danish School of Media and Journalism. She is the author of the photobooks Vegas and She (FOTOHOF, 2015), Land of Black Milk (Skinnerboox, 2017), and Not just your face honey (Spector Books, 2018). In 2016, Moshammer was selected as a “Foam Talent”; in 2017, she was nominated for the ING Unseen Talent Award and won the C/O Berlin Talent Award; and in 2018, she was nominated for the Foam Paul Huf Award. She has been published in print and web publications including i-D, Monopol, Zeit Magazin, M Le magazine du Monde, New York Magazine, VICE, Purple Fashion, and Dazed. Her work has been exhibited at galleries, festivals, and fairs in Europe and the US, including at C/O Berlin, Foam Photography Museum Amsterdam, Photo London, Red Hook Labs (Brooklyn), Unseen Amsterdam, Webber Gallery (London), and WestLicht (Vienna).
Nuremberg House Gallery
ul. Skałeczna 2