I was born in São Paulo, in Bom Retiro, a neighborhood, which, back then, was a Jewish “ghetto”. I was raised in a syncretic melting pot of Judaism and socialism. My parents, in gifting me with a simple camera, unwittingly set me on the path to become a photographer. As a child, restlessness, indiscipline and a certain caustic humor were some of my idiosyncrasies, and they remain so to this day, albeit tamed, naturally, by the circumstances of life. These characteristics are invariably conveyed in the images I’ve produced over the years.

My father’s death was a defining moment in my life, launching me headlong into a photography career. I was only 16 and I had to start working; I landed a job as a studio apprentice at Editora Abril. From then on, I was led by an ambiguity which brought me closer to – but which at times also distanced me from – the profession. One day, however, I yielded to a kind of vocational calling, after which I became one with my photographs – to such an extent that, today, I find it impossible to dissociate myself from them. I am my photographs and vice versa.

To celebrate my 50 years of photography, I am bringing out Desnorte [Adrift], whose deliberate thematic disorder plays a constitutive part in this edition. Displaying photographs of different – perhaps irreconcilable – places, times and themes side by side poses an enormous challenge when one wishes to cover, even if succinctly, a career spanning so many years. This, of course, wasn’t done by kludging together randomly selected pictures. There is a logic and an order to it: portraits, fashion photographs, polaroids, pictures extracted from my books, exhibitions, pictures taken while traveling or location scouting, photographic annotations, family album pictures, and a number of female nudes made on commission.

These images were collected and woven into a patchwork that offers alternating perspectives of my multifaceted photography.

Selecting pictures from my personal archive and establishing relationships between them, so as to create new nexuses and narratives, is what guided me. Like musicians do with their old songs, I have updated these pictures – remixing and recontextualizing them. This new work is the result of an extensive and intricate search. And I continue exploring and reaffirming the possibilities – which I’ve long championed – that arise from moving freely among the many genres of photography and from crossing over unreservedly from one to the other without having to be, or to become, a specialist in this or that genre. I have nothing against being monothematic, really, it just isn’t my thing; having said that, some of my work often focused, inadvertently, on a single theme or subject.

And lastly, a commemorative edition never escapes the retrospective gaze. Even though I still have a very active and prolific photographic output, rumors of a retrospective are usually accompanied by the smell of ether – and it’s frightening. In looking back, one also touches on questions of how to approach the emptinesses and uncertainties of the future. In these dire times – the world over, but especially in Brazil – fear takes on even greater dimensions.

Resistance, however – in the broadest sense of the term –, in my personal, professional and political life, was part of my upbringing, and it is by resisting that I keep moving forward.

Let’s keep moving forward.

Bob Wolfenson