Tommaso Rada: Questions On the Edge of Mankind

It is not uncommon that the path we decide to take can lead us to a state of consciousness in which we realize that what really interests us is something else. In large part it can be curiosity that pushes us beyond what we are facing and, in certain cases, asking ourselves questions does nothing but push us in the direction that best suits our being.

Tommaso Rada, an Italian documentary photographer based in Brazil, comes from a degree in biology and a PhD. At the end of his journey, At the end of his journey, he realised of having interests in another type of research: the photographic one. His profound need to give space to his curiosity fits perfectly with a world in which images tell stories and ask questions, creating a flow of research that does not necessarily lead to answers but, precisely in line with a documentary need, asks enormous questions on situations and problems that need more attention.

To be quite honest: his work particularly struck me because of the deeply personal aspect that each of his shots and each series manage to convey. The arguments that he creates, in his numerous projects, confirm that they are born and live from the same drive and the same necessity, in a flow of observation and thought that moves its seat in the various issues it intends to talk about, following the common line of a emotional point of view and adapted to the situation. This is not a mere work of cold documentation, on the contrary, Rada’s images seem to implicitly speak of how he himself experiences the situations he takes on in the narrative and, in this way, gives each project the opportunity to ask questions in the observer who, implicitly or explicitly, will have to look for answers if interested.

It is clear that all this could be part of the classic theme of “filtered reality” through the eyes of the author. Yet, as far as I’m concerned, Rada’s work is not an egocentric push that leads him to tell a reality from his own external point of view, raising all this to truth, indeed, what comes is his taking charge of the problem from the victims’ point of view, absorbing and channeling it all as if he himself were part of every community from which he takes the point of view.

From A story on oil, pollution and racism © Tommaso Rada

Tommaso Rada is now on display at Phest 2022 with the project A story on oil, pollution and racism. The work talks about how the discovery of oil wells in the Candeia area and Ilha de Maré and the consequent industrial growth have resulted in major problems of environmental pollution and environmental racism on the local population. Through the mixed use of archive images, new shots he made himself and infrared images, Rada shows us the victims and perpetrators of these growing problems, as well as the contaminated areas. Rada’s sensitivity, in this case, is to present us a work on a human scale, showing us reality at an emotional level of observation which, in its complexity, is understandable on an instinctive level: we ourselves, as spectators, live the case that is presented to us in first person. Our possibility is to experience the local reality and its wealth with our own eyes, completely trampled by the rights taken by force from the colonizing and exploiting minds of the place. Every industrial building that we can observe in the images is always distant, sometimes alien and unreachable, meaning that the distance between the population and the industries responsible for the problems is not only physical.

From A story on oil, pollution and racism © Tommaso Rada

Domestic Borders of Europe is perhaps the most surreal and full of atmosphere work that we can find in the production of Rada. It is a work that focuses on the reality of the border lines that now exist only in the imagination of the territory and in print media, but which in reality are nothing more than a liquid border between countries that are only apparently distinct. The work is presented to us in the form of stages of the journey and is a sort of new topography lent to the documentation of the territory and the reality of the border. From the shots of Rada we can not only understand how much these areas are actually left to themselves, but we can breathe the air and observe their reality even outside the shot itself. This work thrives on the charm of a no-man’s land and a totally dystopian and unique atmosphere. And here too, as in the project mentioned above, there is the idea of ​​how much Rada is able to experience situations and grasp their basic aspects, returning a highly personal vision which, however, does not remain such as to detach itself from the problem but on the contrary, it reinforces the questions, becoming a very special and almost grotesque journey into the semi-desolation of the border lands.

From Domestic Borders of Europe © Tommaso Rada

It is now clear that Rada’s work, as he himself stated, aims to ask questions rather than find answers and its strength lies precisely in the modality and depth with which these same questions are asked.

My article on Tommaso Rada ends here. Before saying goodbye, for those interested, on his website you can find his numerous projects and here his Instagram profile.

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