Last October, Brazilian voters elected Jair Bolsonaro as their president.
In 2013, the then-congressman made headlines when he said, “I would be incapable of loving a gay son. [I’d] prefer that he die in an accident.” On its own, that comment is disturbing and upsetting. It won’t ever not be. And yet, Bolsonaro has made other hateful declarations: he has compared homosexuality to pedophilia, and has stated that Brazil cannot become a “gay tourism paradise” (which is more than a little dissonant, given that the city of Rio de Janeiro, for example, has long attracted a large gay traveler base). With Bolsonaro’s ascent and rantings, irresponsible and bigoted rhetoric has seeped downward and outward from the top. Local homophobia has become more widespread, given that Brazil’s most powerful figure freely… well, promotes it.
Juliano Corbetta wanted to push back. The founder and editor of the well-known Made in Brazil magazine and Instagram account had been observing a queer renaissance in his country, which seemed to flourish and swell once Bolsonaro came to (and started exercising) his power.
This progress turned into something of a politically-charged counter-movement, observed throughout Brazil and reverberating somewhere between the underground and the mainstream. As a result, Corbetta created a new title called SambaZine to both catch and heighten that wave, and to lens Brazil’s LGBTQ+ creative community; the magazine-slash-book stands proudly in the shadow of Bolsonaro’s ignorance. The publication arrives in the United States on Monday, October 28, and will be available exclusively at Casa Magazines in New York City.
“What started out as an idea for a queer journal became much more of a publication about youth and freedom, in a way,” Corbetta explains. “The project organically began to change because I wanted to make sure that all of these photographers and stylists had room to explore the truth about themselves and their work, because they don’t get to do that in monthly Brazilian publications.” Meaning: the contributors ultimately shaped SambaZine’s DNA, which is ultra-collaborative and interconnected.
The Brazilian artist Samuel de Saboia was an obvious fit for the first cover. In the image, he’s wearing a satin dress by the label Art School. Saboia has made a name for himself through his paintings about experiences as an Afro-Brazilian queer person, focusing on the persecution of marginalized groups. Other features include Instagram model Iago Kulesis, artist-activist Jup do Bairro, and Kiara and Valentina Luz, two trans women who also deejayed the magazine’s launch party in São Paulo.
In the flesh, SambaZine is a weighty, 200-page experience that’s much like that of a September issue, but without the ads—or text.
“There’s not a single blank page,” Corbetta says. “There’s no breathing room. There’s just one picture after the next, and they’re all intertwined. So you don’t know who the photographer is, you don’t know who [the model] is, you’re just impacted with the image.” All of the credits are found in the back of the book.
Ultimately, the publication’s purpose is to foster a network amongst the country’s LGBTQ+ youth, and give their collective artistry a platform. “Let’s make sure that everyone who is suffering a backlash from what they’re hearing from our government feels like they are a part of the conversation,” Corbetta says. “The whole thing is my dream, but all of the pictures on the pages are someone else’s dreams coming alive.”
As far as what inspired Corbetta, now 41, to feel open during his own path to adulthood?
“I had Madonna!” He says, laughing. “[When I] saw Truth or Dare, it was the first time I watched gay men interacting and doing artistic things. And I remember thinking, ‘I want to be like those people.’”
Below, Corbetta speaks to W Magazine about a selection of exclusive, unreleased images from SambaZine.
“Jorge Barros is a 19-year-old young creative who has been consulting on projects for the photographer Hick Duarte. He not only cast the entire portion of the book shot by Hick, but also scouted the location for this story. It was incredible to work with individuals that we cast from Instagram. They were passionate about all of the labels we had at the shoot, and were super excited about the clothes, especially these massive Louis Vuitton looks in this photo.”
“This was the last shoot of the book because it was the only time Linn could fit us in her schedule, as she was recording a series at the time. The guys from Mar+Vin had sent me a picture of a street vendor near their home with all of these rugs piled on top of a car as inspiration, and I immediately said: ‘Let’s put Linn naked on top of it!’ We couldn’t find a car to do it (and didn’t have the budget for it anyway), so we ended up using mine and covering it in all of the rugs from the original photo that they had sent me. The hood of my car still has marks, to this day, but it’s okay.”
“These guys all friends, and have all worked on songs together, and are all openly gay, but they had never shot together for a magazine, so I thought it would be fun to create a sort of a fashion moment with all of them in Prada looks in the studio. This day was so crazy and fun and we ended up running more than just one of the images because they were all so great.”
“I was a fan of Jup on Instagram and wanted her to be part of this project because I admire all that she stands for. I think this picture captures all of her strength, but there is still a sweetness about it, which I love.”
“When we started talking about this project, the stylist Victor Miranda told me he wanted to do a story with all black trans girls, but shot in an honest way and reminiscent of 1990’s-era supermodels. He thought I was going to say no to it, but I said yes in less than a second. I asked Mari Maltoni to shoot it because I wanted a woman’s point of view and I wanted to make sure all of the girls felt comfortable. It is one of my favorite pictures in the entire book and probably one of the most important pictures I have ever published. Liniker is one of my favorite Brazilian artists, so it was a huge dream come true.”
“We cast Iago from Instagram because I loved all the humor and sexuality in his posts. He is a really creative guy, and was super into creating this image with us. He arrived with pink hair, and even brought the reference for the stars that we shaved into his head. I particularly love the rhinestone heart on his butt cheek, which the stylist Leandro Porto thought of on the spot. The thong itself is by Ludovic de Saint Sernin.”