Exhibitions, Interviews, Photojournalism, Uncategorized

Peter Bauza’s Copacabana Palace wins at World Press Photo

  • A young boy playing with a "pipa" (kite) on the roof of an unfinished condo. It is one of six buildings originally constructed for the middle class about 30 years ago; the mega project stopped after the construction company hit a financial crisis, and squatting started soon after. From the series Copacabana Palace © Peter Bauza

    A young boy playing with a "pipa" (kite) on the roof of an unfinished condo. It is one of six buildings originally constructed for the middle class about 30 years ago; the mega project stopped after the construction company hit a financial crisis, and squatting started soon after. From the series Copacabana Palace © Peter Bauza

  • Young Eduarda sitting outside a window and observing the street. She lives with her seven siblings in one of the six uncompleted buildings of a supposed middle-class condo project, not far away from Rio de Janeiro (60 km), but still far enough to be hidden from our view. From the series Copacabana Palace © Peter Bauza

    Young Eduarda sitting outside a window and observing the street. She lives with her seven siblings in one of the six uncompleted buildings of a supposed middle-class condo project, not far away from Rio de Janeiro (60 km), but still far enough to be hidden from our view. From the series Copacabana Palace © Peter Bauza

  • A young couple with three kids sitting in the living room of an unfinished two-bedroom apartment. In general furniture is recycled from the rubbish or third-hand. From the series Copacabana Palace © Peter Bauza

    A young couple with three kids sitting in the living room of an unfinished two-bedroom apartment. In general furniture is recycled from the rubbish or third-hand. From the series Copacabana Palace © Peter Bauza

  • Members of an alternative church blessing a dweller in an occupied apartment. Alternative churches are very well represented in this occupied and unfinished condo. From the series Copacabana Palace © Peter Bauza

    Members of an alternative church blessing a dweller in an occupied apartment. Alternative churches are very well represented in this occupied and unfinished condo. From the series Copacabana Palace © Peter Bauza

  • Domingo, from Angola, came to Brazil several years ago in search of a better life. He has a new family, and is trying to make a living. From the series Copacabana Palace © Peter Bauza

    Domingo, from Angola, came to Brazil several years ago in search of a better life. He has a new family, and is trying to make a living. From the series Copacabana Palace © Peter Bauza

  • Dolores has one of the few nicer, furnished rooms. She loves music and parties, it seems to be “party time” at home. From the series Copacabana Palace © Peter Bauza

    Dolores has one of the few nicer, furnished rooms. She loves music and parties, it seems to be “party time” at home. From the series Copacabana Palace © Peter Bauza

  • Edilane and three of her seven kids resting on a mattress on the floor. She would soon give birth to another son. Despite her many problems, Edilane is positive about her life, and was able to build up a very small internet store by building a computer out of approximately ten discarded ones. From the series Copacabana Palace © Peter Bauza

    Edilane and three of her seven kids resting on a mattress on the floor. She would soon give birth to another son. Despite her many problems, Edilane is positive about her life, and was able to build up a very small internet store by building a computer out of approximately ten discarded ones. From the series Copacabana Palace © Peter Bauza

BJP first ran this story back in December - and it's now won third prize in the Contemporary Issues - Stories category at World Press Photo

Copacabana Palace is a complex of six concrete shells in Rio de Janeiro’s Campo Grande neighbourhood – buildings left unfinished 30 years ago after an economic crash stalled a housing project. The name comes from the eponymous five star hotel that looks over Rio’s Copacabana Beach, but the complex is also known as “Jambalaya”, the title of a Brazilian TV show, and “Carandiru”, the Sao Paulo prison where more than 100 inmates were massacred by police in 1992.

When they were first abandoned, the Copacabana Palace buildings were looted and gutted of pipes, wires and electric cables. The hall floors have collapsed in many places. One building is completely uninhabitable, but the other five house about 300 families, some of whom have been squatting there for decades. German-born photographer Peter Bauza started taking pictures of them in June 2015, often sleeping in their homes.

“When I appeared, they were just surprised to see a gringo there,” says Bauza. “I told them that I had an idea, that I would like to document their daily lives – their joy, their pain, not only their misery, because beside the misery there is also joy.”

The resulting series, Copacabana Palace, won the Days Japan Photojournalism Special Jury Prize earlier this year, as well as the Visa d’or Feature Award, and will be the inaugural exhibition at the new Officine Fotografiche in Milan, which opens on 15th December.

Some of the Copacabana Palace residents are unemployed, some can’t afford to pay rent, some have no documentation and are therefore ineligible for housing, many are on the housing waiting lists. “It’s a story about homelessness, about a hidden society,” says Bauza.

Copacabana Palace's inhabitants enjoy dancing during the Festa Junina [June Festival], which is sponsored by good middle-class neighbours. The Festa Junina has its origins in the period of colonisation in the 16th century. From the series Copacabana Palace © Peter Bauza

Copacabana Palace’s inhabitants enjoy dancing during the Festa Junina [June Festival], which is sponsored by good middle-class neighbours. The Festa Junina has its origins in the period of colonisation in the 16th century. From the series Copacabana Palace © Peter Bauza

“But when you share with them, you have love and expectation, you have joy. They have parties, they dance. They are not only dying inside, they have this life, real life, that I could share with them…You have everything inside these building – you have good people, bad people, medium people, as in any other life.”

One woman, Edilane, who now has eight children, was granted government-sponsored accommodation after two years on the waiting list. But she decided to stay at Copacabana Place, after realising that the apartment was in a favela dominated by drug gangs.

“There is this whole social circle that the government needs to understand before trying to do something with a family,” says Bauza. “You have to understand all of the stories.”

“The pictures are about defending people that need to be defended,” he continues, adding that he hopes his series can shed light on the politicians’ “empty promises” and highlight the flaws in the government’s housing system.

“By showing this, it means that people can’t say later on: ‘Oh, I didn’t know. I didn’t know that this happened’,” he says. “It’s the same when you go to somewhere like Aleppo. You do it because you want people to open their eyes.”

Copacabana Palace by Peter Bauza is on show at the Officine Fotografiche Milano from 15 December – 17 February. milano.officinefotografiche.org www.peterbauza.com

MARCH 2017 ISSUE:

From the places we call home to Earth’s altered landscape, we’ve partnered with Britain’s biggest photofestival, Format, to explore the theme of ‘Habitat’.  It’s available to order online now.

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