A voluptuous viewpoint


So many cities enveloped by a cloud, thick or diffuse – they induce a turning inward and the intense probing of the haunted, spirit beating his chest mea culpa mea maxima culpa. Immaterial cities under an everlasting fog.

Feasts for the eyes are those cities that gather up their sensuality and flaunt their myriad smells, flavours and colors in kaleidoscopic blending.

Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Istanbul, Marrakech, Calcutta, Rio de Janeiro and, last but not least, Salvador in Bahia of all Saints: lush, they compete for primacy in wondrousness and in the unruliness of the senses, of all shapes of passion and pleasure and misery and madness. It is of good measure in the art of savoir vivre, to be politically incorrect – to be faithful to each one of them per se, setting up a priceless harem of beloved cities. But it would be incurable lunacy to suppose a socialist regime of affections for no one has ever seen an egalitarian harem, as every self – respecting harem always has a favorite. Geraldo Melo, having settled in Rio de Janeiro when he was 14 and enjoying himself as a carioca, would be a self-acknowledged traitor were it not for the eternally unreplaceable image in his mind, and mainly in his focus, of the belly- dance the the splendors of his favorite city of São Salvador of Bahia of All Saints has always known how to put forth like no other.

Bahia reigns alone when she enters the dance and vaunts all the power of her hypnotic magnetism. The popular saying goes: a Baiano is not born – he makes his grand opening. And he does it against a dazzling backdrop. Just look at how Bahia is saucy. She is wont to expose herself, display herself, to show off. It is congenital: she has stood out right from the start. As though she was born posing as a top model. No wonder, for she was planted on the top of a hill overlooking the amorous sea that keeps caressing its sands, rocks, reefs, with fondling fingers of foam. “Brazen” is a most befitting term when affectionately applied to this town. Her body moves to the music and tempts the throng. Woe to the mortal drenched in Atlantic light, shellfish broth and lust-giving potions: how is he to escape the illusion that eternity is back to stay, when, to the mellow beating of drums, he watches the wedding feast of sun and sea as the day dies in Porto da Barra? It is a real sunset in Porto da Barra or a skyscape borrowed from El Greco? Super realistic colors? A photomontage? Photographer João Bosco refutes: “I don’t accept the term photomontage, once this was photography, but today it is nothing but image”.

Thus, we have been taught by “Philosophy in a new New Key”, Suzanne Langer’s classic study: “To see is in itself a process of formulation; our understanding of the visible word begins in the eye”. Especially if the eye takes on the computerized vision that clips and swaps images, amplifying the limited range of focus.

Beholding and admiring Geraldo Melo’s voluptuous photomontages one cannot but acknowledge a blatant case of bewitchment.

Bahia of All Saints embraced her prodigal son with generous eagerness and almost drowned him in her amniotic fluids. The voluntary expatriate returns in hunger and intends much more than merely eating with his eyes. Geraldo possesses her because he can lay bare her most powerful icons such as the typical baianas, the Lacerda Elevator, the magician of the Maciel, the harlots of Manoel da Nobrega Street – a red-light street with the name of a priest – and the cartoon drawing of Amigo da Onça, the fishermen who bring in the xaréu, the coconut cutter of Amaralina (Edinho do Coco, my feline friend, on the prowl in the most of all, the instinctive theatricality of Bahia’s eminent son, big time politician Antônio Carlos Magalhães, framed in consecrated ribbon bracelets in the holy setting of the church on the hill.

Such a great power of selection and kinetic merging of icons makes of Geraldo Melo a master of lascivious fusion – a Caribé of photography. Such swing! I am grateful to photographer João Bosco for showing me All the Saints of high-tech Bahia, the pop-poor Bahia of the ex-votes Geraldo Melo. It is a song of high eroticism to Salvador of Bahia of All Saints. It is a symbiosis photographer-city, an incestuous love affair between Yemanjá’s dwelling and her obsessed and enlightened prodigal son.

Waly Salomão