This essay offer a comparative analysis of three sets of photographs made in different periods of Brazilian history: portraits of urban slaves made by the photographer Christiano Júnior in the mid-nineteenth century during the Second Empire; photographs of political propaganda commissioned by the Estado Novo in the early 1940s (Obra Getuliana); and contemporary images of Rio de Janeiro favela dwellers taken by the inhabitants of the favelas themselves as part of the communitarian projects of “visual inclusion.” While examining these photographs, we find that our attention is not only centered on the visual traces of the extinct past that resurfaces; rather, we also scan the vestiges of the future that these images distill. Their use of a visual rhetoric that defines scenarios, excludes or includes protagonists, and, most crucially, evokes pedagogies of the gaze allows us to glean signs of becoming, modes of making visible imagined modernities and communities. Despite their disparity, these sets of images organize temporal experiences in specific fashions. In the carte de visite, the testimony of continuity and of succeeding generations attests to a past exemplarily recorded for the future. In the case of the Obra Getuliana, the temporal mode insists on the inauguration of the future-in-the-present. In the photographs of social “inclusion,” the emphasis is cast on the present, and the future is maintained in suspenseful incompletion. In each set of images, therefore, a version of modernity is rendered as progress, rupture, and the right to the quotidian.

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