Documentary, Exhibitions

Photographers from Rio’s Favela on show for the first time

Main image: Leisure day on the Avenida Brasil. Elisȃngela Leite, 2014 © the artist. All images courtesy The Horniman Museum and Gardens

The realities of life in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, photographed by three young photographers who grew up there, are revealed in a new photographic exhibition at London's Horniman gallery.

The new exhibition, entitled Favela: Joy and Pain in the City, displays photographs taken by three young Brazilian photographers, each of whom hails from, and attempting to reflect, the experience of living in the biggest favela in Rio de Janeiro, and indeed the whole of Brazil. Their work is presented by the Observatory of the Favelas based in Maré.

Bathing in a swimming pool on a summer’s day in Nova Holanda favela, Maré. Elisȃngela Leite, 2015

Photographers Bira, Elisângela and Adriano all come from Brazil’s largest favela, Maré, a favela so troubled and and blighted by violence it was occupied by 2,700 of the country’s troops from April last to the denouement of the World Cup.

The series succeeds in enriching and, in some regards, challenging the ideas we have of the more deprived streets of Rio: children playing football, skateboarding and cavorting on the beach, a gaggle of children splashing around in a paddling pool, natives of the city singing and dancing to Rio’s anthem, the Cidade Maravilhosa, yet also the almost ubiquitous presence of the armed forces in Maré, the sheer poverty many children have to live with in the city, the leering, background presence, communicated through something as subtle as graffiti, of drug-fuelled gangs, in a place where the murder rate is comparable to anywhere in the world.

A boy and the Sugarloaf Mountain. View from Morro dos Prazeres, South Zone of Rio. Elisȃngela Leite, 2012

The photographers grew up in a place where the Comando Vermelho, or Red Command, engaged in an almost decade-long fight between two rival gangs and a highly-compromised police for control over a warren-like maze of 16 communities, home to 140,000 people, loosely organised by territorial and ethnic divisions.

Tim Corum, Curatorial Director at the Horniman Museum, where the exhibition will take place, says: “These photographs offer a compelling insight into the lives of the people who live in Rio’s favelas, underlining that there are no better documenters of the life of a city than those who know it best.

The Military Police occupation of Cajú, a favela in the docklands area of Rio. AF Rodrigues, 2013

Panoramic view of the Alemão favela complex from a cable car. AF Rodrigues, 2011

“Each of the photographers has earned their reputation amongst contemporary Brazilian photographers through the exceptional quality of their work and the unique vision they bring of the city of Rio de Janeiro.”

Favela: Joy and Pain in the City is exhibited until Sunday 18 September, as part of the Horniman’s Brasil summer season.  Further details can be found here.