Dualidade: Brazil as a country of extremes

Over the past five years, photographer Frederick Van Grootel has visited Brazil several times. He has now captured his experiences and impressions in a beautiful coffee table book. ‘Dualidade‘ zooms in on the fragile beauty of the country and the contradictions hidden behind every corner.

“The contrast of the painter bringing an idyllic landscape to life and the reclining pose of the wanderer exemplify what I saw in Brazil.”

It was the typical journey of a young twenty-something. Getting away from it all for a month, seeing and doing something totally different. In 2015, Frederick Van Grootel visited Brazil for the first time. He would attend an international music festival there with a friend, have fun and soak up the Brazilian atmosphere and flair. In between, he would also photograph the land. So Van Grootel fell under the spell of the language and culture, and they have never left him. Every year, the photographer spends at least a month in the land of the Samba, documenting all that crosses his path. A precipitation of all that footage he released in book form under the title “Dualidade,” which literally translated means “duality. It outlines Brazil as a country of extremes: wealth and poverty often go hand in hand.

Frederick during a photo shoot in Sao Paulo

Laureate Brussels Street Photography Festival

It was thanks to the image of a street painter and a vagrant that Frederick Van Grootel’s work first came to real attention. In October, he became the laureate of the Brussels Street Photography Festival, where he snagged the audience award. “That picture forms the perfect synthesis of the book,” says the photographer. “It is an image as funny as it is poignant. The contrast of the painter bringing an idyllic landscape to life and the reclining pose of the vagrant are exemplary of what I saw in Brazil.”

Behind the scenes at printing company Buroform

It took a while for Van Grootel to grasp the theme of his book. In 2018, he volunteered to teach neglected and abused children from a favela in Rio de Janeiro. After working there for two weeks, he took the bus to a birthday party just down the road. “It was harrowing. In the same breath, I switched from kids struggling to have money for breakfast to young people drinking whiskey from the bottle at a rooftop pool party. From that moment on, the puzzle fell together for a big piece. I was in shock at this huge contrast. This was the story I wanted to tell. Brazil is a country of extreme wealth and beauty, but at the same time it is poor and vulnerable. You find this dichotomy everywhere, often within a sigh of each other.”

“The paper has the perfect thickness and makes the colors and contrasts of the photos stand out beautifully.”

Collaboration Buroform

Van Grootel’s work can be recognized by its use of pronounced colors and contrasts. The book is printed on a very tactile paper that makes the images stand out perfectly. “It came about in collaboration with graphic designer Tina De Souter, who guided me through a lot of things. Through her, I also came into contact with Buroform. ‘That’s where you should be,’ she convinced me. Your printing company did a perfect job. Tina and I had a very specific idea of what the book should look like. But in terms of paper choices, printing techniques and binding, some additional expertise was welcome. The paper has the ideal thickness and lets the colors and contrasts of the photos stand out beautifully. The binding makes the book fall open very nicely. The latter in particular seems like the most normal thing in the world, but I’ve had other experiences as well. This collaboration was definitely a breath of fresh air.”

For more information: https://www.frederickvangrootel.com/book