Brazil?

Discussion in 'Geographic Location' started by Donald Miller, Nov 17, 2005.

  1. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    I have an opportunity to travel to Recife, Brazil for a couple of weeks in January. I still haven't made up my mind on this for sure.

    An acquaintence there has proposed a photo essay of the "poor" of Brazil. They will help with the language difference if I decide to go.

    Has anyone traveled in Brazil? How safe is it there?

    I am undecided whether to take medium format only or 4X5 only. I don't see getting bogged down with a lot of equipment. Medium format would save hauling a tripod on the trip.

    I am thinking along the lines of TriX or Tmax 400 for low light applications and Efke PL 100 as my prime film (since I already have that film sorted out pretty well).

    Any thoughts, experiences and advice that you can share would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. Tanya

    Tanya Member

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    Hi

    I would suggest just taking the medium format if you dont have an assistant or two. You can always use this as a scout trip. I lugged my 4x5 many places, when I have a med. w/no tripod, much easier, better for travel.
    have fun!!
     
  3. lee

    lee Member

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    PM sent

    lee\c
     
  4. DrZ

    DrZ Member

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    Donald:
    I'm originally from Brazil and still travel a lot there.

    Recife is a beautiful beach city. Like any other large city in the world, it has safe and less safe areas. This should not limit your visit there, particularly because you are going with local people.
    For photography, I would recommend MF only. The city is very hot and crowded. It is not easy to move around with big equipment in a hot and humid climate. MF also shows less and people get less intimidated.
    For photo essay I suggest the near by city of Olinda and local markets. There you can see a lot historical places, tradition, culture and enjoy good and fresh food.
    Bring a lot of film. The supply there is limited and expensive. For speed 100 and 400 will be fine.
    Pls let me know if I can be of futher help.
    Enjoy!

    DRZ
     
  5. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    Oh Lord....another gringo photographing the poor......Go to Brasil and photograph the beautiful things. If you want to do documentary or photo journalism, then ask your acquantancies what is this city known for. IOW dont go there with the idea you are going to "photograph the poor"....WTF as if everybody was rich in the US.....
     
  6. noseoil

    noseoil Member

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    Donald, read Tristian Jones's book "Incredible Voyage" and learn about Recife. This may be a bit much unless you are a sailor. tim
     
  7. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Jorge,

    Interesting is that this was the suggestion and the wish of the local. Not mine...so perhaps you may want to reevaluate your impression of me.
     
  8. magic823

    magic823 Member

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    Ola!

    I've been there (Brazil) a couple of times and loved it. I haven't been the Recife, just the larger cities on business. I would think the larger cities are more dangerous. I felt safe, but I took taxis everywhere I went at night - walked during the day, and I avoided the seeder areas.

    Go and enjoy. Brazil is one of my favorite places in the world. The people are fun and friendly. Wish we had a little more of that attitude here.

    I took my magic case with me (I'm a bit of a magician - henst the handle) and would do magic as ice breakers. Try getting a case of magic tricks through customs :smile: I also speak a bit of Portegues - it helps ALOT!

    I would lean to MF over LF. Mobilty in a foreign country is never over-rated.
     
  9. Andre R. de Avillez

    Andre R. de Avillez Member

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    Don,

    Jorge's opinion of you may be wrong, but it has some value nonetheless. Like I said to you before, it would be interesting to note if your acquaintance is middle class and up or not. I say this because many of the people you will photograph will be hostile to the idea of yet another guy with a camera coming to show how poor people can be. The poor and the not poor form two very distinct worlds in Brazil, and many non-poor never cross into the other side. Many of my friends and family have more prejudice than knowledge of that other world, and it shows when they talk about my photography. Such behavior is not uncommon in the middle and upper classes of Brazil, and it worries me that perhaps your acquaintance is like that. If that is the case, she/he would be as much a stranger as you in whatever setting you may find yourself, and she/he may not be the best indicator of how you will be seen there.

    If you haven't already, rent "City of God." Although it portrays a particular slum in Rio, I think it will show the separation between the poor and non-poor well enough, if you keep in mind that that was the 60's and 70's. Everything is much more tense today.

    If you decide to go, let me suggest going to the rural areas inland of recife. There you will probably find beautiful towns, beautiful landscapes, and great people. Like I said to you before, there is much less tension in the rural areas than in the urban settings, so please keep that in mind.

    Also, keep in mind what I said about NGO's. The type of work you are thinking about is much easier to do if you have UNICEF or something like that backing you up. Of course, you would be working for them, probably for free, but its something to keep in mind.

    Anyway, don't be offended at what Jorge said; that is the overall feeling you will encounter down there. Jorge may have put it bluntly, but he has a very good point. To invade someone's life, even if briefly and cordially, is much easier if you somehow share in that person's background. In many cases, I was too much of a stranger for some people, and that is simply because I'm a city boy from Rio. Not sharing the language and culture will complicate your situation a lot.

    Please don't discard going to Brazil, either because of what I wrote to you before of because of the conversation we are having now. But it may be worth it to go with a different goal in mind. Keep an open mind, I guess.

    take care, man.

    André
     
  10. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Jorge does make a valid, if blunt point. I wouldn't take it personally; it doesn't seem like it was directed towards you personally, rather I think he was making a point of what it may appear to a Brazillian local - I suspect someone coming just to photograph the poor, and not seeing the beautiful of the country as well, would be offensive.

    I feel that you probably should only take the invitation if it allows you to do what you do best; to photograph those things you do best. I know if I went, it would be to photograph the natural places.
     
  11. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    I never mentioned you Donald. I know you and we have corresponded privately, remember at one time you wanted to come to live to Mexico. I just think is a bad idea, and besides it is another dead horse that gets beaten every so often, there is nothing new about poverty and you can find deprorable situations in every country.

    It is one thing to go and photograph the country and if you find and interesting person to ask them to take their picture and another to go there with the mind set that you are going to "photograph the poor."

    OTOH Donald, your last comment IMO is invalid. It is the same argument Witkin used. Just because locals ask you does not make it a good idea or something that is ethically right.

    In the end is up to you, but why concentrate on the bad when you can concentrate on the good?
     
  12. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Jorge,

    While this is taking the discussion off the original topic, I think that your response merits an answer from me.

    I understand your viewpoint. I respect it. There are of course, as in most things, several ways of viewing something.

    I would like to propose an alternative interpertation.

    I think that we can agree that there is proverty in many countries. There is also violation of children and trafficing in humans for slavery and prostitution. We violate children by using them in sweat shops in many places. If we focus only on the beautiful and good in life, are we not ignoring and denying that the bad and the ugly also exist? While on the one hand you view a depiction of poverty as a violation of the poor, I view a depiction of poverty as an aid to their plight.

    My basis for this is that if we hold up to the "fat cats" of the world the reality of poverty, violation of human rights, descrimination, and all of the other things that we would rather not see are we not making it damned difficult for them to deny that this reality exists?

    Just my views on the matter.
     
  13. Pastiche

    Pastiche Member

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    I'm also from Rio, and have visited Recife a couple of times, although it has been a looooong time ago...

    The advice you've gotten from Andre is particularly apropos.
    "City of God" is a decent look into the lives of Brazilians. Also, Xingu, and "Behind the Sun" (it's native name is Abril Despedacado"), Pixote, Dona Flor and her Two Husbands is another classic from which you can draw alot of assumptions about the place, and it's rhythms.

    As with any country that has one foot in the first, and one foot in the third world, the scene is VERY complex. There is another facet that I personaly find interesting - there is dignity, happiness, and humanity beneath the scab of poverty - not only in Brazil, but in any place where people are under alot of durress... that is what I'd be interested in showing... not to exalt the conditions (which are deplorable), not to sidestep the issues, and not to parse a warm fuzzy over a situation that is raw and rough... but really to talk about the people, and not so much about what ails them. What ails them will unmistakeably show thru in the environment and surroundings.. there is no escaping that.. but the when and who you frame and shoot can show so much more than a disection of economic factors...
    I can asure you that somewhere along your trip you will run across a bunch of children, probably barefoot and wearing only tattered or no shirts, playing soccer in a street lined with garbage and possibly an open sewer... and I also guarantee you that if you stand there for five minutes you could pull five images of jubilant faces grinning under the sweat of exercion.. THAT is Brasil.... Brasilians are a people that deal with their tough conditions with a heart full of levity, and an eye for the simple joys of life, despite all else...

    If you can capture that juxtaposition, you'll have gotten something beyond the cold outsider's perspective of "this place is poor", and have gotten at the heart of what it means to be poor, but unbeaten.

    GO MAN! I guarantee that you will come back inflamed at the circumstances, and if you really get it, a little in awe of the people who manage to cope and find happyness on the margins of a larger economy.
     
  14. Pastiche

    Pastiche Member

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    As for showing the Fat Cats of the world that they are ***king the **it out of people... dont bother... there are plenty of Brasilian's working on that, have been for a long time... the problem is not a lack of evidence, the issues are MUCH MUCH MUCH more entangled than that. Indiference, and more importantly, greed, market pressures, and a general cultural mindset that says "this is just the way things are" are the primary culprits in the situation.... No amount of photos will make a difference, only legal or market pressures will change the way things are... if your images can cause a change in legislation (which, with all due respect, is not likely, as there ARE plenty of people with their feet on the ground there right now working on it), or bring to bear some kind of market pressure like sanctions... a mere boycot wont do **it . . THEN yes, I'd focus on the conditions... but unless you already have a contact that is willing to push your photos into the right venues.... you'll be far better off looking at the people, than at the sewage.
    Like I said - if you can find a party that has some clout, and they are willing to mount a campaign around the pics you take - something like a show in Brasilia (the Capitol), or an ad campaign that targets the CONSUMERS of particular Brasilian products (SUGAR!) like CokaCola... then.. and only then... would pictures of "economics" be most advantageous...

    All the above is only my opinion Donald, and I'm not particularly sure that any of it should bear on anything you will be doing.. for after all, the trip is yours, the camera and film are yours, and in the long run, what you do or dont do is NOT up for some decision by committe.... take it all as simple opinon, and of course, you'll draw your own conclusions... :smile:

    In no way do I feel that ANY kind of photographic work done in any country should be curtailed. I do however opine that there are forms and forms that can suit various purposes.