2015 - 2017
In 1819, driven by starvation and economic crisis, about 2,000 Swiss people emigrated to Brazil. After a deadly journey, they founded Nova Friburgo in the mountains near Rio de Janeiro. Unfortunately, their lands barely provided enough to feed, and the settlers scattered. Some returned to Rio where they lived in poverty and crime, others headed North where coffee could be grown, and made prosperous business there, particularly thanks to slavery.
In this survey, Thomas Brasey documents the nowadays town of Nova Friburgo and meets the descendants of the Swiss settlers, questioning the identity of these Brazilians bearing Swiss names. In a series of staged pictures, he also evokes in a strongly personal way the adventure of these people who left their country some 200 years ago. With a contemporary setup, he depicts their hopes, pains, fantasies and disappointments. By using a temporally ambiguous approach, the photographer goes beyond the historical scope of his subject and raises the tragically topical issue of emigration. He also remembers us that not so long ago western Europeans left their continent by boat in search of a better place to live.