Fighting for the Hill (Lutando pelo morro) is a photo essay about the Morro da Providência neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I was privileged to spend time in Rio with photographer and human rights activist Maurício Hora (when I did a workshop with Magnum photographer David Alan Harvey during the spring of 2014). While I was at Morro da Providência, I was impressed by Maurício Hora and the way he connected with and cared for the kids at Casa Amarela (a community center for youth donated by the French artist JR in 2009). In 2008, JR did a project in Providência called Women are Heroes (to celebrate the women in the neighborhood and also raise awareness about the demolition of houses and people being removed from their homes). In a gesture to help the community and specifically youth through art projects and educational activities, JR founded Casa Amarela (Yellow House) for local kids to have a place to take interactive art classes, read books in a library, and also act as an activity center. Over the past few years, the community has faced some challenges because of the demolition of homes and removal of residents to build a tram up to the neighborhood, specifically in preparation for the 2014 World Cup and the summer Olympic games.
My photos are of the people and residents of Providência, and they focus on the youth and culture found at Casa Amarela and the neighborhood. In many ways, my photos show the innocence of youth, the cultural context of the favela, and also everyday life on the hill. I chose the title "Fighting for the Hill" (Lutando pelo morro in Portuguese) to highlight the constant struggle of the residents to keep their homes, while at the same time showing the promise of youth in the future, and especially the beauty and power of regenerating the human spirit through art. Maurício Hora, JR, and many volunteer artists have dedicated their time and energy to make Casa Amarela a space that represents hope and creativity, and I hope that my vision of the neighborhood shows this positivity in a clear, heartfelt way.