New publication Quilo takes us on an odyssey through contemporary Brazil

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Farroupilha © André Penteado.

[The magazine’s] intention is to shine a light on the plurality of stories that felt endangered under the violent rhetoric of Brazil’s conservative right,” says editor Mico Toledo

In recent weeks, the world watched as the political landscape in Brazil hung in the balance. After several years of far-right conservative leadership under the president Jair Bolsonaro, a recent election saw Workers’ Party politician Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva win by a small margin, marking a new political era. Under the conservatives, though, “a time of growing extremism and intolerance grew,” says Brazilian creative director and photographer Mico Toledo, who is now based in London. Life across the country has been tumultuous, fuelled by hatred and bigotry. These are the circumstances that led Toledo to the idea of creating a new publication, Quilo: Journal of Photographic Tales from Brasil. “Quilo and the stories featured in it are intended as a counter-reaction or weapon against the current parochial system,” Toledo explains.

The publication is organised according to the different regions of Brazil. This way, Quilo’s narrative takes us on an odyssey right across the country, from the far reaches of the North to the deepest arteries of the South, through mangroves and cities, beaches and small communities. Featuring work by 38 photographers alongside a handful of short stories by well-known Brazilian writers, Toledo describes Quilo as a “bookish magazine” – something with the feel of a magazine, but the narrative weight of a book.

When asked why he thinks photography has been such a powerful tool for Brazilians to express themselves, Toledo says: “I think the ubiquity of photography in Brazil comes down to accessibility and the immediacy of the medium. Anyone with access to a digital camera or a phone can document their surroundings and express themselves. That is true all over the world, but especially in a country where the minimum wage is around £200 per month, and access to the internet is widespread through social media platforms,” Toledo continues. “Everyone with a camera in Brazil documents everything and anything, all of the time. Think William Eggleston’s Democratic Forest (1989), but on steroids,” he says.

Toledo is fundraising to publish Quilo on Kickstarter. Here, he tells us more about the intentions behind the publication.

Quilo cover
Amazônia Lado B© Fernanda Farazão
Sentinela © Igor Furtado.
Noites Desperdiçadas © Vitor Casemiro.
Brick Lifting © Karolina Karlic.
Quilo spread

Tell us the story behind Quilo – what inspired it?

I have a recurrent dream where I drive the whole length of Brazil. As a migrant, the minute I left my country, I immediately fantasised about understanding it. I dreamed of immersing myself in every community, documenting every story, and exploring the many cultural and geographic complexities this land holds, but as a photographer, I couldn’t tackle such a monumental task myself. That’s when the idea of a collective publication was born.

What does Quilo mean?

The title of the magazine is primarily a reference to a Quilombo, which is a hinterland community of escaped enslaved people who resisted the prevalent and brutal slavery regime in Brazil that was active until the late 1800s. I wanted the publication to feel like a safe haven and a sanctuary for diverse stories to exist in the face of the past few years’ oppressive right-wing presidency.

What are some of the issues we can expect to see explored? 

The intention of Quilo is to shine a light on the plurality of stories, communities and voices that felt invisible or endangered under the violent rhetoric of Brazil’s conservative right. From a trans community of women in São Paulo captured with tenderness by Camila Falcão, a riverside Quilombola community in Rio de Janeiro witnessed by Valda Nogueira, to the indigenous struggle for land rights in the Amazon documented in its rawness by Tommaso Protti, all the stories here champion important issues that need to be seen and heard, beyond the narrative clichés exported out of Brazil.

What do you want people to take away from this publication?

One of my goals with Quilo is to expand the canon of documentary photography and expose the world to the talented photographic voices and stories coming from Brazil. I know this is a tall order, but as a MFA photography student in Hartford, where I recently graduated, I experienced the sometimes insular world of American and European photography. Every time I mentioned a Brazilian photographer in crits, I was met with silence. I knew there was incredible talent in my country, and I wanted to expose them to a wider audience.

It is the final week to support Quilo on Kickstarter. Head to the fundraising page to find out more.

Joanna Cresswell

Joanna L. Cresswell is a writer and editor based in Brighton. She has written on photography and culture for over 40 international magazines and journals, and held positions as editor for organisations including The Photographers' Gallery, Unseen Amsterdam and Self Publish, Be Happy. She recently completed an MA in comparative literature and criticism at Goldsmiths College, University of London