In the begining was the word
At the age of 14, Araquém Alcântara wanted to be a journalist, maybe even a writer. He spent his teenage years immersed in the literature of Lima Barreto, Machado de Assis, J. D. Salinger, Joseph Conrad and Guimarães Rosa. In 1970, he enrolled in the College of Communication of Santos. He was soon working in the branch of the newspapers Estadão and Jornal da Tarde. Everything according to plan.
But on a fateful evening he went to see a midnight movie session that a Frenchman, Maurice Legeard, held in Santos. The film was The Naked Island, by Kaneto Shindo. A film nearly without a story, or words. A couple living with their two children on an inhospitable island. The daily drudgery of getting up, fetching water, tilling the land, preparing the meals, fetching water again, the skiff at the dock, the birds on the rocks, the oar pushing against the waves. The power and beauty of the pure image. The photo as a summary of speech. Araquém, catatonic in the darkness, had an epiphany, as though struck by lightning. He left there staggering, overwhelmed, called.
The First Photo
The next day, a friend of his, Marinilda, showed him some commonplace photos, from her family album, taken with a simple Yashica camera. Still stricken, feverish from the film, Araquém could hardly look at them. Instead, he asked Marinilda to lend him the camera, bought three black-and-white films and that night went to a cabaret at the port where he often listened to rock bands and, with luck, could catch a brief appearance by a famous performer.
There he was, camera in hand, two rolls of film in his pocket, no technique at all in his head, nervous like on any first time. Although he lacked the courage to do anything, he was dimly aware that in that Yashica, in those films, he was holding a life. He left there late that night, without ever pressing the button.
At the bus stop, it was already dawn when one of the girls from the cabaret passed by and challenged him:
You want to take a picture, eh? You want to take a picture? So then, take a picture of this. She lifted up her skirt and showed her sex.
It was his first photo.