My first visit to Rio de Janeiro was in July 2016, just ahead of the Olympics. I started taking pictures of the usual things a tourist does, mountains falling into the ocean, beaches, landscapes and street scenes. As I became more familiar with the city and its two sides, the light and the dark, I began following political and cultural events and very soon began documenting people and their personal lives in order to understand the city and the people living in it.
I wanted to show Rio amidst the hype and activity of the games, but more importantly I wanted to hear from people who had no voice and explore places that were far from the limelight. For this reason, the project's main focus is on favelas and peripheries; marginalized communities abused or ignored by the authorities, avoided by wealthier residents and largely misunderstood by the outside world. I continued visiting throughout 2016 as the media attention evaporated and as the games left the city with a pile of debt, broken promises and the worst recession in the country's history. At the beginning of 2018 I moved to Rio to live and work in order to continue the project to whatever end I felt was necessary.
The material has since developed from a variable collection of images, audio and video into more focused, individual stories as I try to piece together what the city is going through and why. Corruption, political turmoil, pollution, violence, poverty, racism and inequality are the main topics of interest. The intent is to document important events and to collaborate with individuals who have stories to tell so that the effects of government policies, their failures, political polarization, social tension, economic misery and general frustration can be shown through the human experience and their day-to-day struggle so that we can bring about a better understanding of these places and people and perhaps even society at large.
The project title comes from a chapter in Juliana Barbassa's 2016 account of the seductive and chaotic city of Rio de Janeiro as it struggles with poverty and corruption on the brink of the 2016 Olympic Games. This project will aim to document, in that same spirit, what is happening now that the games are over and the dust has settled. A lot has changed since Barbassa wrote her book, and things will likely get worse before they get better. One of the world's most impressive cities is cracking at its very foundations, at risk of sliding into the abyss. What will become of the 'cidade maravilhosa', beautiful and broken?