Photo Essay: Faces of Morro do Palácio

Josemais Moreira Filho
Collaboration: Paulo Batelli

Along with friends and colleagues from the nearby favela community of Morro do Palácio, Josemais Moreira Filho participated in the Arte Ação Ambiental [Art Environmental Action] project developed by the Museum of Contemporary Art of Niterói (MAC) since its inception in 1998/99. Meaning Palace Hill in English Morro do Palácio is one of many favelas in and around the city of Rio de Janeiro and Niterói. The use of “morro” meaning “hill” in common parlance connotes a favela community as it is on the surrounding hills of the city that favelas developed. As part of the Arte Ação project Josemais participated in various artmaking workshops and under the guidance of the artist educator Eliane Carrapateira, received training in artisanal handmade paper, the techniques of which, along with Eliane and other colleagues, he then taught in high schools and diverse public settings.  The Arte Ação Ambiental project sparked the creation of the cultural and community center named Macquinho – or “little MAC” –  in 2008. Due to threats of landslides from the heavy rains of January 2009, and lack of resources, unfortunately, Macquinho’s activities in the early years were limited. Josemais worked as a security guard and when he could collaborated with the initiatives of the museum. In 2014, Macquinho became a Digital Urban Platform under the management of the Municipal Department of Education, Science and Technology and Josemais assumed a new position along with Elielton Rocha (also a participant in the Arte Ação Ambiental project) as a co-coordinator of art, culture and citizenship for the center. In 2015/2016, Josemais participated in a photography course offered by the photographer/educator Paulo Batelli (part of his master’s research at Federal Fluminense University (UFF)) and a new perspective on his surroundings began to unfold. Batelli collaborated with Josemais on the production, treatment and selection of images for this photo essay. Here, they talk about Josemais’s journey, his interest in education and his photographic practice.


Paulo Batelli: Josemais, what got you interest in art making?

Josemais Moreira Filho: It started on a visit to MAC in 1998. On that visit Guilherme Vergara, [then director of the division of art education] proposed that we make some interventions in the museum space and, realizing that the group was creative, suggested more meetings with him. We started the Arte Ação Ambiental project in 1999 with the intention of taking the R$50 monthly stipend [T.N. equivalent approx., US$15], which at the time was a fair amount for us, and spending it on a funk music party, or buying a T-shirt and even having a bit left. Over the course of the project, Vergara introduced us to the works of Lygia Clark, Lygia Pape, Hélio Oiticica and many other artists including those that had exhibitions at MAC at the time, such as the Campana brothers and also Rubens Gerchman. I even have a photo with him. We found all this very cool. There was a special work in the collection on exhibition at the time, I remember, that was very simple but, which made an impact on me, which was a … a half wall of tiles with a little hole. [E.N. Josemais is referring to a work by the artist Ivens Machado from the João Sattamini Collection of MAC Niterói] which was on exhibition that first visit in 1998.]

PB: What color were the tiles?

JMF: White, all white with a little black hole. I liked it a lot because I realized how we, favelados of the morro are a little black spot in a very big place. [T.N favelados are people who live in favelas.]

PB: Given this experience and all the other information that you have absorbed with the paper workshops, neoconcrete games and now with photography, are you able to use and build on all this knowledge today?

JMF: I would like to be professor at Macquinho. When the building was inaugurated four job positions for security guards opened up, but I did not want that. I would insist and say: I want to be a teacher at Macquinho! As part of the Arte Ação Ambiental project I was trained by and then worked with Eliane Carrapateira making handmade paper and then started to teach these paper workshops in other places, other communities. With these workshops, we introduced participants to handmade recycled paper, together with others in the Arte Ação group, we must have taught more than a thousand people.

So I want to teach what I have learned and to pass it on to someone. Why? Because if I keep this to myself and not pass it on, that knowledge could die. I want to give continuity to that knowledge. Everything we learn has to be passed on, at least I think so.

Another project I did at Macquinho involved doing film screenings for the community. I had the opportunity to access a laptop and, surfing the net, I discovered movies and started downloading some. So I then created a movie screening project – where Macquinho’s studio is now located – called “Cine Um Olho” [laughter!] [T.N. Cine Um Olho means Cinema One Eye, a pun that Josemais enjoys as he himself also only has one eye]. It became a cool thing.  A lot of people, a very diverse audience, ordinary folks from the community to those involved in drug trafficking,  everyone was coming to the movies … I want to screen films for the community, those that they had no money to see in the cinema (…) I wanted to get them used to cinema at Macquinho.

PB: Photography comes from other places – its another language. The way you write is with the camera. And your narrative is through your images.

JMF: Yeah and I’d like to spend more time with my camera, to improve and polish more my way of seeing things. Observe before clicking. Photography brought me back to art. Right now though I’m a bit worried about going out with my camera because of the violence we’re experiencing. Previously, I would go out at any time to photograph, go to Boa Viagem beach at night and click the boats in the water making long exposures, now, I don’t feel safe doing that anymore. Even the street that I live on is dangerous. But I want to get back. It makes me think of a picture of my kids running on the beach …

As far as my photography goes…I do shoot at parties for people, but I do that to help out and charge a really low price.  I’d prefer not to do it, I want to take pictures of what interests me, when I get some feelings, to shoot what I look at and think is cool. I want to save it for me, because photography is this, to keep something in your memory, right? …




Josemias Moreira Filho
Is a photographer and educator and has been working as a co-coordinator of art, culture and citizenship at Macquinho (Digital Urban Platform) since 2014. He was involved from the beginning in the Arte Ação Ambiental project developed by the Museum of Contemporary Art of Niterói in collaboration with the community of Morro do Palácio and the Family Doctor Program between 1998 and 2014.

Paulo Batelli
Natural of São Paulo, capital. Training: FAAP-SP; Bennett Methodist Institute; mastering UFF. Professor of Photography: in the MEMORIES OF THE PAC in the community Pavão / Cantagalo through the Secretary of State of Culture of Rio de Janeiro and the NGO Observatory of Favelas, SENAC-Rio, Ateliê da Imagem, Espaço Figura, Ateliê Oriente and A Casa Foto Arte. Contributor to the magazines: Flash, Who Happens, Faces, Exam, You S.A., Season, Carte Capital, THIS IS, Veja, Veja-SP, Casa Vogue, Vogue R.G., Kaza, Per Decorare, Casa & Garden and Creative. Newspapers: Extra, Folha de São Paulo, The State of São Paulo and Valor Econômico. Collaborator for the site:, with Glória Kalil. Advertising Agencies: Lewlara, with Banco Real and TIM Telefonia. DPZ, with DECA Metals and CASACOR-SP.