Call it unprecedented. Call it daring. Call it what you will, but when I see these images of hollow Brazilian billboards, I am tempted to call São Paulo's advertising ban simply beautiful.
City officials in this metropolis of 11 million passed legislation banning billboards, neon signs and electronic panels as of the new year, and the effects of the law have begun to sink in. Billboards have been stripped of their commercial clothing, the stark nakedness of the abandoned frames reminding passers by of the once stolen public space now reclaimed.
Corporations and ad agencies are enraged, naturally, leaving boardrooms in a tumultuous tiff. Fortunately, it looks as if they won't be able to bully or bribe their way out of this one. The advertising law is “a rare victory of the public interest over private, of order over disorder, aesthetics over ugliness, of cleanliness over trash,” author Roberto Pompeu de Toledo wrote in Veja, a weekly newsmagazine. “For once in life, all that is accustomed to coming out on top in Brazil has lost.”
The counterarguments put forth by the corporate world lack even a pinch of persuasion. Marcel Solimeo, chief economist of the Commercial Association of São Paulo, complained about the blow dealt to fellow capitalists in an an interview with International Herald Tribune: “We live in a consumer society and the essence of capitalism is the availability of information about products.” Touché.
While the battle rages on–and while São Paulo's residents enjoy their newly liberated visual space–Tony de Marco's photos will take you to the city's streets so you can see these monuments to reclaimed space for yourself.