Oct 3, 2013

Street life photos in Buenos Aries and Porto Alegre

Ever since getting my camera It's been interesting to note what my eye gets drawn to. I've always been interested in street and people shots, what a French running mate defined as 'Humanist Photography'. Street life is ever present in South America, from makeshift markets and food vendors, to street art and poverty. Its an iconic and integral part of society here.

At first I felt unsure about documenting the poverty and hard living, a Brasilian running mate questioned why I was capturing "negative" things. We had just departed from Fundação Iberê Camargo where a charming Art mediator shared a perspective that helped illuminate some of those concerns. The opening exhibition piece 'No Vento e na Terra' (In the wind and the land) struck me immediately. It was a heavy picture that reflected the artists' mood at the time, he was dying of cancer. I remarked that the image spoke to some of my own reflections, "Whatever you see will always be viewed from your perspective" she offered.

No Vento e na Terra (1991) Iberê Camargo
Schoolkids in the past interpreted it as a boy listening intently to the ground, she explained "Once you let the art go, its no longer yours". Being an Art mediator I knew she spoke from experience, understanding the value of bias in interpretation.

It is with this in mind I present some stills of life captured in the streets of South America. They represent themes I enjoy exploring - human spirit, the cosmic joke and the pursuit of happiness.
The photos below are tagged by their location and presented without comment.

Centro, Porto Alegre
Palermo, Buenos Aries
Farroupilha, Porto Alegre
Palermo, Buenos Aries
Retiro, Buenos Aries
Centro, Buenos Aries
Palermo, Buenos Aries
Cidade Baixa, Porto Alegre
Update: São Paulo insights
The sensitivity of this photo collection is something I still dwell on but more time in South America, particularly my tenure in São Paulo adds further perspective.

The III Latin American Photography Forum at the Itaú Cultural gallery was illuminating and allowed me to experience the creative energy São Paulo is famous for. The event "proposes a different perspective from the traditional portrayal of Latin America, that pictured the continent through an exotic or wildlife bias or as a delation of poverty of violence".

São Paulo de Todas as Sombras 
by Lucia Guanaes, Marc Dumas, Diógenes Moura
One of the many books I found in the open store was 'São Paulo de Todas as Sombras', a photobook that came about after three friends had a discussion about the hidden everyday nuances, the passing of anonymous lives that make a city. Its a collection of street photos capturing the human traffic and stark street life of São Paulo, including unflinching portraits of the homeless.

The Waiting Game
by Txema Salvans
I was witness to a compelling Q&A for Txema Salvans' book capturing highway prostitution in Spain. The photographer used a clever ploy pretending to be a Topographer to surreptitiously document the subject as naturally as possible. Interestingly it sparked a debate about honesty, sensitivity and morality as the photographer took a neutral stance on the issue and did not ask the ladies for permission, much to the chagrin of many in the crowd.

Punk rock exhibition via the 'selva SP' Facebook page
Across from Itaú Cultural, the boarded up building under construction hosted a wheatpaste exhibition courtesy of 'selvaSP' and 'Lima Foto Libre'.

I began to realise my reservations about Street photos might not have been related to any issue but my distance to it all. I was taking photos in secret, never interacting or engaging with the subject to better understand the context of their situation. I was distant in every way possible.

The most striking thing about the city of São Paulo is its enormity, its the 6th largest city in the world and contains about a third of the state's population. The poverty is ever present but has a darker, more unstable dimension as it's home to an ever-growing Crack epidemic - Cracolândia: the crack capital of Brazil where addicts are forced to seek help (The Guardian). I myself have not taken my camera out in São Paulo, frankly the city has me overwhelmed and initimidated.


  1. Excellent! I love street photography! When I travel I find it really hard to throw myself into it because I'm scared of offending people or breaking some rule I don't know about! I really love photographing people in London because I feel a bit safer and it's totally normal there, but then that's a bit boring really so I should push myself more when I'm abroad.

    1. I don't think that's boring at all. It's just about capturing authentic moments, if that's your thing. I don't have a smartphone so rarely have a camera ready anyway but that's the main difference between home and away.
      Having the alertness and wonder to take street candids during the monotony of day-to-day, work commutes etc...

  2. hey Loz! Cauê here!
    it`s my friend`s tag on the last blue picture, the one on the left... "Coelho"...
    keep writing mate!!!

    1. Awesome Cauê! Only just became aware of this comment. Cool about 'Coelho', hope he's still tearing it up with art