Photographs of Brazilian customs

The black view behind the portraits of Christiano Junior

By Museu Histórico Nacional

African Slave – Mina (1864) by José Christiano de Freitas Henriques JuniorMuseu Histórico Nacional

Christiano Junior, the photographer 

Christiano Junior was born in the Azores in 1832. In 1855, the photographer was already in the Northeast of Brazil, and in 1862 he announced the production of photographs in Maceió. In that same year, in Rio de Janeiro, he offered portraits to families. In 1864, he became one of the owners of Photographia do Commercio, on Rua de São Pedro, a studio that in the following year would be transferred to Rua da Quitanda. Christiano Junior participated in the International Exhibition of 1865, held in the Portuguese city of Porto. There, he exhibited the portraits of the enslaved Africans that are now part of the collection of the Museu Histórico Nacional (MHN). He would later display his work in other international exhibitions.

In 1867, he opened a photography studio in Florianópolis and in Mercedes, Uruguay. A little later, he would also open a photographic studio in Buenos Aires, where he specialized in children photography. Between 1873 and 1875, he produced more than 4,000 portraits in Buenos Aires. Between 1879 and 1883, he traveled through the interior of Argentina, photographing popular types.

After this journey through Argentina, Christiano Junior left photography to dedicate himself to the wine trade. He died in 1902 in Asunción, Paraguay.

Architectural map of the city of Rio de Janeiro (1874) by João da Rocha FragosoMuseu Histórico Nacional

Christiano Junior settled at different addresses in Rio de Janeiro. As of the year 1862, he offered his services as a photographer in advertisements in the city's newspapers, dedicating himself "to take portraits by any photographic system".

Architectural map of the city of Rio de Janeiro: Rua São Pedro (1874) by João da Rocha FragosoMuseu Histórico Nacional

In 1864, he became one of the owners of the Photographia do Commercio studio at Rua de São Pedro, 69. His partner was Fernando Antônio de Miranda. The number 69 of Rua de São Pedro was on the same block as the Church of São Pedro of Clerics. Both the church and street disappeared when Avenida Presidente Vargas was constructed in the early 1940s.

Architectural map of the city of Rio de Janeiro: Rua da Quitanda (1874) by João da Rocha FragosoMuseu Histórico Nacional

In 1865, Christiano Junior opened by himself a photographic studio at Rua da Quitanda, 45. Rua da Quitanda exists until today, site of several commercial establishments.

[Panorama of Lapa] (1890/1899) by Juan GutierrezMuseu Histórico Nacional

The city of Rio de Janeiro found by Christiano Junior 

The city of Rio de Janeiro Christiano Junior found was both a Portuguese and an African city. The Portuguese city is recognized when it is photographed in its entirety, from a distance, from its various viewpoints, such as the Hill of Castelo or the Hill of Santo Antônio, as well as the Island of Cobras. There, you can see a Rio de Janeiro still half Portuguese, with the towers of its churches and hills that dominated the landscape. The Carioca Aqueduct, now known as Arcos da Lapa (Arches of Lapa), formed the Portuguese frame of the city and brought water to the various fountains where the population of African descent would fill their pots and wash their clothes.

[Rua do Rezende] (1890/1899) by Juan GutierrezMuseu Histórico Nacional

View of part of the city and the large aqueduct of Rio de Janeiro (1820/1829) by Jean Baptiste RévilleMuseu Histórico Nacional

[Arsenal of the Navy and Monastery of São Bento] (1890/1899) by Juan GutierrezMuseu Histórico Nacional

We can find the African Rio de Janeiro in the population that roamed the streets and markets of the city. It is almost possible to smell and hear the buzz of the fish market and its anchored boats after bringing goods from the depths of the Guanabara Bay.

[Mercado da Praia do Peixe] (1890/1899) by Juan GutierrezMuseu Histórico Nacional

The balaios, the cloths used by black women, which we take as turbans, but which served to accommodate the basket of goods over their heads, and the kiosks, which would later be removed from the landscape of Rio de Janeiro, reveal an important component in the daily life of the worker.

[Mercado da Praia do Peixe] (1890/1899) by Juan GutierrezMuseu Histórico Nacional

[Mercado da Praia do Peixe] (1890/1899) by Juan GutierrezMuseu Histórico Nacional

Slave woman also known as “slave who earns” working as a street seller (1864) by José Christiano de Freitas Henriques JuniorMuseu Histórico Nacional

Bunch of Balangandãs (charm bracelet) (1880) by UnknownMuseu Histórico Nacional

Balangandãs

Adornments and jewels worn by African female greengrocers and their descendants, captive or freed slaves, and therefore also known as “jewelry of the Brazilian crioula”, the "balangandãs" were ornaments made of gold and silver or coral, ivory, glass beads, wood and other materials. Attached to the hips of these saleswomen in clasps and chains, this jewelry was made up of miniatures of fruits, animals, coins, the amulet of crossed fingers (mano fico), musical instruments, pendants of attributes of the orixás and Catholicism, and other objects more to the taste of its owner. The name "balangandã" originated from the tinkling sound produced by the combination of the metallic pieces of these black merchants when moving through the streets and markets of the cities.

Pulseira (c. 1820 - c. 1840) by DesconhecidoMuseu Histórico Nacional

Produced since the 18th century in Bahia, the "balangandãs" were sold in Rio de Janeiro in the early 19th century. In addition to ornaments worn with the clothing of the female greengrocers at the Praia do Peixe Market Square (now Praça XV), their uses and meanings were not only aesthetic; they also indicated their carriers' spiritual protection, prosperity, and social prestige.

Fontaine from place du Palais to Rio Janeiro (1840/1849) by Louis Pierre Alphonse BicheboisMuseu Histórico Nacional

A trace of that time, the fountain that is in Praça XV used to be a meeting point for water bearers.

Slave man also known as “slave who earns” weaving sisal threads (1864) by José Christiano de Freitas Henriques JuniorMuseu Histórico Nacional

The portrayed enslaved people

Great fortunes were made from slavery. We always remember the slave trade and labor in plantations. What we often forget is that slavery also generated indirect resources: the slave trader paid tax to the municipality for that purchase; the slave master who spent money to acquire enslaved people had an insurance policy that guaranteed the investment of his capital; at last, we must remember the images produced by artists and photographers that were then sold to foreigners passing through Rio de Janeiro.

Slave woman also known as “slave who earns” (1864) by José Christiano de Freitas Henriques JuniorMuseu Histórico Nacional

The person portrayed was not rewarded for image rights, but his/her portrait, sold as a souvenir from the tropics, responded to the demand for consumption of the exotic and enriched some people.

Slave men also known as “slaves who earn” (1864) by José Christiano de Freitas Henriques JuniorMuseu Histórico Nacional

Christiano Junior took advantage of this lode and produced “a varied collection of customs and types of blacks, something very appropriate for those who leave for Europe”, as it was announced in the Almanaque Laemmert (1866). The photographs taken in Christiano Junior's studio, made for foreigners, do not depict the landscape, nor the city, nor the roads. They portray the enslaved people.

Slave woman also known as “slave who earns” working as a street seller (1864) by José Christiano de Freitas Henriques JuniorMuseu Histórico Nacional

Christiano Junior presented 24 “Photographs of Brazilian customs” at the International Exhibition of 1865, in the city of Porto. After being exhibited, these images were offered by the photographer to dom Fernando, King of Portugal.

Frame used for photographies (1865) by José Christiano de Freitas Henriques JuniorMuseu Histórico Nacional

Slave man also known as “slave who earns” working as a barber (1864) by José Christiano de Freitas Henriques JuniorMuseu Histórico Nacional

Of the 24 photographs, 12 are portraits of African faces and the other 12 are of “slaves who earn”. These are work scenes recreated in the photographer's studio, whose objective was to depict the activity, not to represent the individual. Therefore, we find basketmakers, greengrocers, barbers, porters, fruit and chair vendors.

Slave man also known as “slave who earns” carrying chairs (1864) by José Christiano de Freitas Henriques JuniorMuseu Histórico Nacional

Slave man also known as “slave who earns” with empty basket (1864) by José Christiano de Freitas Henriques JuniorMuseu Histórico Nacional

Slave man also known as “slave who earns” with box over head (1864) by José Christiano de Freitas Henriques JuniorMuseu Histórico Nacional

African slave – Cabinda (1864) by José Christiano de Freitas Henriques JuniorMuseu Histórico Nacional

As for the “types”, the pictures did not likewise seek to represent the person himself/herself, but his/her origin: Christiano Junior wrote under each face the nation or the African port that shipped them to Brazil: Mina Nagô, Cabinda, Angola, Mozambique, Monjolo, Congo.

Frame used for photographies (1865) by José Christiano de Freitas Henriques JuniorMuseu Histórico Nacional

Slave - Crioulo, José Christiano de Freitas Henriques Junior, 1864, From the collection of: Museu Histórico Nacional
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African Slave - Angola (1864) by José Christiano de Freitas Henriques JuniorMuseu Histórico Nacional

African Slave - Nagô (1864) by José Christiano de Freitas Henriques JuniorMuseu Histórico Nacional

African Slave – Mina, José Christiano de Freitas Henriques Junior, 1864, From the collection of: Museu Histórico Nacional
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African Slave - Mozambique Nation (1864) by José Christiano de Freitas Henriques JuniorMuseu Histórico Nacional

African Slave - Congo Nation (1864) by José Christiano de Freitas Henriques JuniorMuseu Histórico Nacional

African Slave - Monjolo (1864) by José Christiano de Freitas Henriques JuniorMuseu Histórico Nacional

African Slave - [Quelimane] Nation (1864) by José Christiano de Freitas Henriques JuniorMuseu Histórico Nacional

Slave woman also known as “slave who earns” working as a street seller (1864) by José Christiano de Freitas Henriques JuniorMuseu Histórico Nacional

When we zoom in the image, we notice that a single individual represented many of these characters to compose the photo. We also notice the look of these people. A hard look that seemed to want to denounce the oppression to which they were subjected.

Slave woman also known as “slave who earns” selling fruits (1864) by José Christiano de Freitas Henriques JuniorMuseu Histórico Nacional

African Slave - Inhambane Nation (1864) by José Christiano de Freitas Henriques JuniorMuseu Histórico Nacional

African Slave - Mina (1864) by José Christiano de Freitas Henriques JuniorMuseu Histórico Nacional

Slave men also known as “slaves who earn” with empty baskets (1864) by José Christiano de Freitas Henriques JuniorMuseu Histórico Nacional

Slave - Crioula (1864) by José Christiano de Freitas Henriques JuniorMuseu Histórico Nacional

Slave woman also known as “slave who earns” working as a street seller (1864) by José Christiano de Freitas Henriques JuniorMuseu Histórico Nacional

Christiano Junior's signature (1860/1870) by José Christiano de Freitas Henriques JuniorMuseu Histórico Nacional

Credits: Story

Curators
Adriana Bandeira Cordeiro
Daniella Gomes dos Santos
Maria Isabel Ribeiro Lenzi
Maria De Simone Ferreira

Acknowledgments
Cliff Korman
Jaime Acioli

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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