b. 1946


Based in Petrópolis, Brazil


Available for commissions
& assignments

Son of diplomats, Miguel Rio Branco spent his childhood in Portugal, Switzerland, Brazil and the United States. He has variously been a painter, a photographer and a filmmaker. His first painting exhibition was in Bern in 1974, while he was living in Switzerland. Two years later, he moved to New York, where he earned his Bachelor of Arts, continued to paint, and took a one-month vocational course at the New York Institute of Photography. In 1978, he continued his studies in Rio de Janeiro, at the Escola Superior de Desenho Industrial, before launching into a career in photography and film.

Rio Branco was a freelance photographer and director of photography for movies when he embarked on documentary photography and was soon noticed for the dramatic quality of his color work. In 1980, he became an associate of Magnum Photos. Fascinated by places of strong contrast, in the power of tropical colors and light, he made Brazil his main area of exploration. In 1985, he published Dulce Sudor Amargo, a book in which he drew a parallel between the sensual, vital side of Salvador da Bahia and the historical side of the city, which, at the time (1979) was inhabited by prostitutes and the fringe elements of society. It is an essay on life and death, on the scars left behind by time and by living. The photographer’s fascination for these places of strong contrast essentially resides in the power of the tropical colors and light, which he conveys by means of his pictorial sensibility.

Rio Branco’s obsession with the material power of images continued with Nakta in 1996, a book exploring the theme of bestiary in man and animal, which marked a move away from a documentary approach. He followed this with a visual and poetic project fueled by a happy encounter with Louis Calaferte’s poem Nuit Close, a collaboration that won the Prix du Livre Photo in Arles. Silent Book, published in 1997, presents tableaux of bodies and spaces affected by time; decrepitude is magnified by the light, and wounded flesh, ageing, and death haunt the work through earthy and blood red colors.

His book Entre os Olhos o Deserto demonstrates an evolution towards a hybrid form using photography and video images extracted from Rio Branco’s experimental films. Similarly, his exhibitions function as installations, a concept that is crucial to his work, so that – without neglecting the importance of the single image – creating a discourse through images is the final aim.  As his latest book and exhibition, Plaisir la douleur, confirms it.


1997 Prix du Livre Photo, Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie, Arles, France
1994 VITAE grant (for series Santa Rosa)
1988 Brazilian Film Festival (Best Director of Photography for Memoria Viva and Aboliçao), Brasília, Brazil
1986 Special Prize for video Apaga-te-Sésamo, Festival International Short Films,
Salvador do Bahia, Brazil
1982 Prix Spécial du Jury and the International Critics Award, XI Festival du Film
de Court Métrage et du Film Documentaire, Lille, France
1982 Prix Kodak de la Critique Photographique, Paris, France
1980 Grand Prize of the Photography Triennial, Museum of Modern Art, Sao Paulo, Brazil


2005 Plaisir la douleur – Maison européenne de la Photographie, Paris, France
2004/05 Gritos Surdos – Galeria Milan Antonio, Sao Paulo, Brazil;
Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie, Arles, France
2003 Door in Darkness – Aperture’s Burden Gallery, New York, USA
2002 Objetos Diretos – Galeria Paulo Fernandes, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
2001/05 Nakta – Galeries Fnac Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Toulouse, France; Paris, France
2001 Gritos Surdos – Centro Portugueses de Fotografia, Porto, Portugal
2000 Door into Darkness – Hellenic American Union, Athens, Greece
2000 Pele do Tempo – Centro de Arte Hélio Oiticica, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
2000/04 Beauty the Beast – William Benton Museum, University of Connecticut,
USA; Art Institute of Boston, USA; Haggerty Museum of Art,
Marquette University, Milwaukee, USA
1999/01 Entre los Ojos – Fundacion La Caixa, Barcelona, Spain; Fundacion
La Caixa, Palma de Majorque, Spain; Centro Insular de Culura, Las Palmas
de Gran Canaria Spain; Sala de Exposiciones Alameda, Malaga, Spain;
Colexio de Fonseca, Santiago de Compostella, Spain, Centro Cultural de la Villa,
Madrid, Spain
1997/98 Nakta – D’Amelio Terras Gallery, New York, USA; Galleria Oliva Arauna,
Madrid, Spain; Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, USA
1993/96 Out of  Nowhere – Ludwig Forum, Aachen, Germany; IFA Gallery, Stuttgart,
Germany; Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Fotografie Forum ,
Frankfurt, Germany
1993 Bestiario – Centro de estudios Romulo Gallegos, Caracas, Venezuela
1991 Petites réflexions sur une certaine bestialité – Rencontres d’Arles, France
1988 Suadouro – Galerie 1900-2000, Paris, France
1987 Coraçao espelho da carne – Fotoptica, Sao Paulo, Brazil; Fotogaleria Funarte,
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1985 Coeur miroir de la chair – galerie Magnum, Paris, France
1978/79 Negativo Sujo – Escola de Artes Visuals, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Theater Castro
Alves, Salvador do Bahia, Brazil; Nucleo de Arte Contemporanea, Joao Pessao,
Brazil, Museu de Arte, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1974 Photographs – Galeria Grupo B, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


2005 Plaisir la douleur, éditions Textuel,  France
2002 Entre os Olhos, o Deserto, Cosac & Naify, Brazil
2002 Gritos Surdos, Centro Portugues de Fotografia, Portugal
1999 Pele do Tempo, Centro de Arte Hélio Oiticica, Brazil
1998 Miguel Rio Branco, Aperture, USA
1997 Silent Book, Cosac & Naify, Brazil
1996 Nakta, Multiprint Grafica e Editoria Ltda., Brazil
1985 Dulce Sudor Amargo, Fondo de Cultura Economico, Mexico

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Selected works

Arts & Culture

Dulce Sudor Amargo: Bittersweet Brazil

Miguel Rio Branco

Miguel Rio Branco's series of vibrant photographs reveal scenes of beauty and flux in the everyday life of Brazil's coastal city of Salvador

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