Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Divided City I

"Exite o Rio de Janeiro, o Rio de Janeiro e o Rio de Janeiro. Três cidades que occupam o mesmo espaçi geográfico, mas raramente o mesmo espaço simbólico." -Silvio Essinger: Batidão

Rio de Janeiro is a divided city, as is every third world metropolis. But Rio is divided in a unique way, because of the geography of the city. The city is a mosaic of the sea and the city, the hills and the rainforests, a labyrinth of the asphalt and the unpaved paths.

The poor in Rio live right next to the rich. They haven't been pushed to the fringes of the city, which would be the usual solution to get the slums out of sight and out of mind, nor has the middle-class fled to seek refuge in the suburbs, as is the case in the North American cities. The poor have built their favelas on the hills overlooking the richer neighbourhoods.

Such proximity evokes fear in the rich. Poverty and social problems breed violence and Rio has plenty of both. The media is happy to pour gas into the flames. News of murders, robberies, kidnappings and car highjackings. The rich are caging themselves in, seeking protection from the dangers real and imagined.

This is the first Rio, a city of metal bars, locks and private security. A city of door-men, red carpets and refridged, freezing air. A city hidden by behind the darkened windows and bullet proof glass. A city of birdcages.

I had planned to file these images in my Flickr under a collection called Photo reportages. But it sounded too pompous, as professional photo journalism these pictures are not. They move somewhere between pure artistic expression and an attempt at a social documentary, yet I do try to convey an honest (if somewhat personal) image of the issues tackled. I ended up naming the collection Photo essays. Maybe that would be more accurate. First "essay", The Divided City, is about the social divide in Rio de Janeiro and I just got the part one - A Life in a Birdcage - on-line. Please follow the link below to see all the images in their proper size and order. The second part "A View to the Sea", on life in the favela of Babilônia, will hopefully soon follow.

View A Life in a Birdcage as a slideshow.

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