not your usual tourist photographs
August 30, 2004 5:37 AM   Subscribe

a visitor to rio takes a bunch of disposable cameras and hands them out to children in the favela of rocinha to take pictures of their lives (via k5) (scroll down)
posted by pyramid termite (53 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Better link.

Disclaimer: nat is my boss.
posted by louie at 5:41 AM on August 30, 2004

posted by delmoi at 5:47 AM on August 30, 2004

[this is good]
posted by mr.marx at 5:47 AM on August 30, 2004

This is a fantastic post.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:00 AM on August 30, 2004

Wow... there are some real gems, in there. This is the shot I'm admiring at the moment... huge steps for a such a little man.
posted by Witty at 6:03 AM on August 30, 2004

great post.
posted by Sijeka at 6:22 AM on August 30, 2004

This is amazing.

I've seen the favelas, but only from the distance of privilege. The family I was living with in Brasil that took me to Rio was wealthy, and we saw the city from the comfort of a series of hired cars, and from their apartment (that they kept in the city, despite not living there) across the street from the beach at Copa. It's easy to become detached from the reality of the life of the majority when you're part of the comfortable minority. To forget that the 100 dollars they just dropped on ice cream to celebrate your birthday would be considered a small fortune by most of the city's residents.

What I'm struck most by with these pictures, though, is how strikingly normal they seem. The housing conditions are shoddy, and these are clearly people who are very poor, but the pictures are filled with all sorts of familiar ideas and scenes. We often get the impression from news about the slums in Rio, that they're simply a vast den of crime - that you can't go about without being shot at or kidnapped or whatever. That's the same impression my hosts fostered - slums are dangerous lands of drug lords and crime.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:24 AM on August 30, 2004

interesting project, but the results in terms of images are, well, very shoddy.
on the other hand the Rwanda Project, from an earlier thread, gave us some terrific, terrific images
posted by matteo at 6:29 AM on August 30, 2004

Shoddy? (a bit harsh)
posted by Witty at 6:37 AM on August 30, 2004

These are a few of my favorites.
posted by Witty at 6:39 AM on August 30, 2004

Shoddy, yeah, it's like thos kids never used a camera before. Imagine that.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:41 AM on August 30, 2004

interesting project, but the results in terms of images are, well, very shoddy.

The problem is that they mostly used the flash. Obviously they should have got the 16000 speed film disposables, and taught the kids how to set a long exposure.

Anyway,this shows all of the pictures, not just the highlights.
posted by delmoi at 6:53 AM on August 30, 2004

By the way, if you're not familiar with linux / free software, Nat Friedman is some sort of VP (I think) at Novell after they bought up the company he founded, Ximian.
posted by jnthnjng at 6:56 AM on August 30, 2004

I kinda dig the 'low-budget' quality of 'em. And I'm glad that they handed back the results.

...everyone who got prints was thrilled to have them.
posted by sciurus at 6:58 AM on August 30, 2004

stunning... thanks!
posted by moonbird at 7:03 AM on August 30, 2004

Thank you Metafilter (and pyramid termite).
posted by eas98 at 7:07 AM on August 30, 2004

Those are wonderful. This is great stuff. It reminds me of the captivating story/photos from "The Devil's Caldron", one of the best photo documentaries i've ever seen ..about lha Grande, (Big Island) an unspoiled paradise/prison off the coast of Rio de Janeiro.
posted by thisisdrew at 7:08 AM on August 30, 2004

This is a great link. Really made my morning, thanks.

The pictures are entirely what you'ld expect for regular folks using high-speed, grainy film in low light with cheap wide-angle lenses (probably 35 mm or so). they still got some nice shots.

What strikes me is how young the people in the pictures are. There are a few grandparents in a couple of sets, but almost all are under 40, most are kids. this could be just kids taking pictures of their siblings and playmates, but were you to give cameras to young people here (hmmmm...), I'm sure they'd take lots of pictures of older folks.
posted by bonehead at 7:08 AM on August 30, 2004

That's an amazing view.

btw, I'm kind of suprised the author didn't ajust these a little in photoshop.
posted by delmoi at 7:12 AM on August 30, 2004

This kid has a good eye.
posted by whatnot at 7:20 AM on August 30, 2004

Shoddy? (a bit harsh)

maybe, but I'm under the impression that shoddy means "of poor quality or craft".

Shoddy, yeah, it's like thos kids never used a camera before. Imagine that.

heh, you're so funny. because of course the Rwanda kids had taken pictures for all their lives instead. with Leicas.

people, these are snapshot. simple and plain. of course they do have documentary/anthropological value, especially if one has never visited Third World countries (that includes depressed areas of too many First World countries, too).
posted by matteo at 7:24 AM on August 30, 2004

I'm such a sucker for photos taken by children. I love the perspectives, the angles, the subject matter and the innocence. A lot of these photos remind me of scenes/shots from City of God. Thanks, pyramid termite!
posted by shoepal at 7:39 AM on August 30, 2004

Great post, great idea.

Shoddy - and they nicked some of the cameras! (Anyone know any juvenile detention centers where they teach photography?) Hehe.
posted by Blue Stone at 7:41 AM on August 30, 2004

Oblig. City of God link

See. Movie. Imperative.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 7:42 AM on August 30, 2004

camera in favela = deathwish.
posted by subpixel at 7:46 AM on August 30, 2004

delmoi: the vacation happened in December, the pictures didn't get up until August. At nat's pace, actually photoshopping would have meant aug. 2005. As was pointed out, he's a busy guy these days.
posted by louie at 7:47 AM on August 30, 2004

Matteo, I think you missed Space Coyote's irony.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:00 AM on August 30, 2004

IMHO, content overrules technical presentation. I was taken by the woman on the left's expression in this one. And whatnot's comment on the kid with the eye is spot on. Cool post, thanks, pyramid termite!
posted by yoga at 8:24 AM on August 30, 2004

What's your point matteo, exactly?
The Rwanda team beat the Rio Team?
Go Rwanda?

A couple of things you missed: The Rwanda "project" is donation motivated, it has to look good. The kids are closer to the 17yrs old end than the 8yrs one. Very few frames were selected and all rely heavily on post-processing (chromatic stylization, so the squalor is ascetically pleasant). Their "disposables" use low distortion 24mm lenses, I'm sorry but no plastic lenses will give that kind of aspheric result, this is just not possible. Landscape and vast outdoors are available as background or subject, no such thing in the crammed favelas.

You give a bunch of kinds disposables, you'll get a lot of thumbs over the lenses, underexposed, badly framed pictures: kids are clueless and happy experimenters.
posted by kush at 8:35 AM on August 30, 2004

I enjoyed these, especially the "raw" quality that gets washed away with a good photoshopping.
posted by falconred at 8:57 AM on August 30, 2004

I think matteo has a good point. Of course these pictures give us some insight into the life of the neighborhood, but in an accidental way. They are mostly snapshots of acquaintances. This isn't a snotty thing to say, because they're only kids. Sometimes kids without prior exposure to a medium really do "get" the idea of showing some essence that only they know to the world through it. That's sublime, and it happens at least as often with poor and ignorant kids as with middle-class brats! It didn't happen what? So they're just hyper kids snapping unimaginative shots of their buddies. At least we get a free tour of their neighborhood by accident.

But learning about these kids' lives through these pictures does mean (mostly) looking them over for details that got in there accidentally. The perspective itself, in this case, tends to provide less information, & does not remotely shock us with its difference from the perspective of an American tourist running around taking snapshots of kids.

All that said, I agree equally strongly with whatnot: This kid has a good eye. It's the only shot I saw, including all of y'all's favorites, that told me more than my characterization above.
posted by Zurishaddai at 9:06 AM on August 30, 2004

Great link, thanks pyramid termite.
posted by dhoyt at 9:09 AM on August 30, 2004

(Of course a tourist running around would not have the intimate access—that was exaggeration. But I hope you see my point.)
posted by Zurishaddai at 9:09 AM on August 30, 2004

Really interesting! It was neat to see how many dads and grandfathers were around the house cooking, etc. I also thought the different pets were interesting. And guessing the different familial relationships was sometimes a good puzzle.
posted by lobakgo at 9:13 AM on August 30, 2004

For the record, I only meant things like white and color balancing. Just a few seconds on pshop.

That's kinda what I was thinking of.
posted by delmoi at 9:24 AM on August 30, 2004

From the site:

" I read a newspaper article about some Kodak marketing team that hands cameras out to starving kids in Kenya and posts their photos on somewhere, and it made me sick"

Sick? Why? Because a for-profit company was helping to provide pictures from the daily lives of the poor and destitute?

Check this site, and see if it makes you sick.

From that site:
"Each host mother was given a disposable camera and asked to take photographs of important things in her life. Once the pictures were developed, the women explained their significance.

Through the images -- made by women who had never taken photographs before -- and through their own words, the women have created a picture of daily life in Kaimosi. It is dominated by family, by routine tasks on the shamba (farm) and in the household, by concerns over generating cash for school fees, and by the traditions of the Tiriki people. "

And the cameras were donated by Kodak. Sickening, isn't it?
posted by Ayn Marx at 9:36 AM on August 30, 2004

kush, you're willing to imply that the Rwanda pictures are a fraud. I am not. the lens looks more like a 28mm to me, and many many disposables have 28's (better for depth of field, etc). if you have an issue re plastic lenses, I have more than a few Holga images that I'm sure would surprise you. sharpness -- to a certain extent -- is possible with plastic lenses.

and of course delmoi has a point, a little tweaking in Photoshop would have helped the Brazilian snapshots. which remain snapshots, however interesting. it's not that I'm hurting anyone's feelings. this should be "weblog as conversation", not "you'll hurt those kids self-esteem".
my two cents is, the Rwanda images are interesting, these aren't. you're free to disagree but I bet you 100 critics/photographers/collectors will choose the Rwanda images over the Brazil (and Kenya) snaps. no disrespect intended. I'm just not ready to consider the Rwanda work a fraud. not enough evidence. but if you can prove a pro took them, go ahead. at least they raised a few bucks for those unlucky kids
posted by matteo at 9:42 AM on August 30, 2004

Wow. This is why I love mefi. Thank you pyramid and to echo whatnot's comment, man, that kid really does have a good eye for color and composition. Good good stuff.
posted by Tacodog at 10:36 AM on August 30, 2004

asked to take photographs of important things in her life. Once the pictures were developed, the women explained their significance

That's exactly the instruction that didn't seem to get put across as well in this particular experiment (though the Kaimosi photos are a bit stagey, a reminder how hard artistic vision is, and how romantic we're sometimes being to suppose that someone poor and isolated will be artistically freed by their naivety). In any case, though, the addition of verbal explanations adds immensely to what we can understand from the documentary-style camera shots on the Kaimosi site.
posted by Zurishaddai at 11:15 AM on August 30, 2004

I'll echo what a lot of other people have said: excellent post and link.

Two things (of many) I noticed:
- there are a lot of stairs
- a good proportion of the people are smiling
posted by tpl1212 at 11:30 AM on August 30, 2004

My favorite kid.
posted by swift at 11:32 AM on August 30, 2004

Nice link.

[Insert witty comment about Brazilian kids and fotolog here]
posted by Ufez Jones at 11:39 AM on August 30, 2004

I have the feeling this poor boy got teh shafted. When his mom took over the camera it all turns to pictures of his sister in her princess dress and then he even has to suffer a haircut.
posted by roboto at 12:44 PM on August 30, 2004

I love these photos, just exactly as they are. I work with professional photographers who strive to create this look all the time, and rely on Photoshop to "down-grade" the shots they take to this level. In fact, I sent the link to several of them and you'll probably see the kids' work in some major in-store promotions real soon now. :)
posted by icetaco at 12:52 PM on August 30, 2004

I especially like the pictures of people with their cats.

Also, this picture of a dog and her many puppies. It makes me smile to see that so many of the kids thought to take pictures of their pets, too.
posted by vorfeed at 1:14 PM on August 30, 2004

Awesome post. A fascinating window. More often than not, from the the naive and unexperienced photographer we get an honesty and insight that you wouldn't find in a seasoned photographer.

Many of those people have nicer furniture and larger/nicer kitchens than I do. Some of them have better clothes than I do. Heck, some of them even have larger living spaces. I know for sure many of the people in these pictures have nicer stereos than I do. (But I know from experience that having good music is a boon when you're poor.)

Then again, I do have a couple of older computers, access to broadband, access to cleaner water and better infrasturcture. And I'm not really complaining, I'm pretty darn content.

It's interesting how many shots show televisions - often being displayed like a most prized possession, or even in quasi-religious tones with altar-like imagery.
posted by loquacious at 1:21 PM on August 30, 2004

It's interesting how many shots show televisions - often being displayed like a most prized possession, or even in quasi-religious tones with altar-like imagery.

I wonder if these pictures were around the time of a major football tourney? TV altars are quite common in Brasil during major events.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:25 PM on August 30, 2004

jacquilynne: Yeah, I was wondering about that myself. I've seen TV altars in Mexico for similar events and reasons.

Also, I love the shots of graffitti. It's often the only man-made color/art to be found that's not advertising, and can tell you things about a neighborhood. Is it a hopeful neighborhood? A cultured one? Or an embattled one? Recent tragedies and triumphs often appear in "graffiti" street art as well.
posted by loquacious at 1:37 PM on August 30, 2004

Matteo is better than your kids
posted by Space Coyote at 1:48 PM on August 30, 2004

I'm amazed at how attractive and healthy they look, despite what one hears described of their poverty. I think they are really quite beautiful.

They look a lot more attractive, friendly and welcoming than a lot of us comparatively fantastically wealthy Americans, don't they?

I was getting unhappy living in my crappy little apartment... I can forget about that and enjoy it and be thankful instead.

Great post.
posted by zoogleplex at 1:57 PM on August 30, 2004

i love the pics of the people with their animals too....
so charming.
posted by billybobtoo at 2:40 PM on August 30, 2004

Those kenyans didn't seem very starving, btw.
posted by delmoi at 2:52 PM on August 30, 2004

delmoi, as Reagan would say, they're just on a diet
posted by matteo at 3:35 PM on August 30, 2004

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