Mobbed by Children

We all have moments in time we dream we could relive differently. Experimenting with digital photographic equipment in Brazil pretty much rates at the top of my own list.

Mind you, I’m all about experimenting in Brazil. If there is one place on earth where you can let loose, that’s the one, hands down. It embraces you and incessantly whispers to your ear its maddening mantra: “Whatever feels good, just do it.”

I arrived in Rio with a brand new digital camera. We are talking stone age of the digital era: 2.1 megapixels. Floppy discs. You read correctly. Floppy discs. 4 photographs a disc. My suitcase: half bikinis, half floppies.

After a week spent samba dancing at night (Pagode woohoo!) and sleeping on the beach during the day, I decided to enjoy a day of relaxation on ilha Grande, a small island off the coast.

There was a village, a white church, an old jail, but I never made it that far. I disembarked on a beach full of chickens.

The houses appeared run-down but they were full of colors.

The fishermen’s boats were pulled in front of their habitations. I walked up and down the beach taking it all in and discovered a small elementary school, tucked away in foliage. The children were playing in the courtyard. Temptation mounting, I armed the camera with a brand new floppy, and clicked. Then I got mobbed.

I found myself surrounded by a bunch of kids asking questions AND demanding answers. Need I mention my Portuguese at the time was not exactly up to snuff? I tried to tame the riot by showing them the image on the LCD screen. They had never seen such magic. They were wowed. In awe. I suddenly stood in the middle of 40 grabbing hands reaching for the camera. Not exactly the kind of development I had in mind.

A teacher finally intervened. His English seemed a bit tentative, but to me, he was a knight in shining armor (like most Brazilian men, I should add.) He gave his approval for more photographs and rounded up the troops.

At first, the children’s discomfort was almost palpable.

Another teacher emerged, and the kids started to get a little nuts.

I was not about to go anywhere. They shared their modest lunch with me: nut bread and water.

They all wanted their portraits taken. As soon as I clicked, they would run to me and demand to see themselves on the screen. Then we had to go through five minutes of comments I could not even begin to comprehend and they would go back to posing, waiting impatiently for the click and fighting for the spotlight.

They brought me to the pier.

They would not let me go so I began to shoot individual portraits and small groups.

This little girl was gorgeous and a personality and a half. She just grabbed little Mattheus and made him pose kissing her.

She must have been no more then 10 year old. I wonder what she looks like today.

I have never desired children. Not even for a minute… except for that kid. Mattheus with the crazy ears. Hilarious little guy.

M and Y. Best Friends. Camera hoggers.

Four hours into my visit, these little girls were certainly not more educated (apparently lessons are purely optional when the photographer shows up), but they got to experience with posing.

It came naturally to them. No self-consciousness. Complete trust.

This was no highfalutin island with modern amenities. These kids came from very modest conditions and were probably not promised shiny futures. Some, like this little one, seemed to bear the weight of the world on their skinny shoulders.

I had a very good time in Brazil. The discovery of a new culture. Lots of partying. But if I had one single moment I could go back to, it would be this day spent with twenty children I could not understand. I later sent about 200 prints to one of the teachers. I never heard back from her. I hope she received the pictures and gave them to the kids.

There is nothing I can do with these photographs but post them online. In prints larger than 4″ x 6″, the pixelation is horrendous. Bringing the analog would have been the correct decision… on the other hand, the kids would not have been able to check out their photographs right away, and we all would have missed out on tons of good times and laughters. One of the best days of my life.

20 responses to “Mobbed by Children

  1. Pingback: Mobbed by Children

  2. This last little guy also looks very different from the rest of these children, no? Oh, wouldn’t that be a story if you went back today to see what had happened to them? Making the invisible people, visible.
    A gift.

  3. Excellent post, as always. Seriously, how many floppies did you have on you that day? How did you ever keep track of them? I’d love to see you recreate these photos today with the grown up versions of these kids.

  4. These faces are so totally beguiling and beautiful. Music and cameras- the international equalizer and magnet.
    What a stunning series.
    Maybe by now that one heartbreaker has de-throned Gisele and found herself with a 5 year contract with Elite.
    Jeez those kids are amazing.
    So many of these photos are ideal as subjects for paintings, ( ahem…..).

  5. Amazing pics as usual 🙂

    Visiting schools in other countries is always fun.

  6. Dang now I miss Brazil it was the same for me, love the photos and narrative, you have a true gift!

  7. You’re so clever you know. Not only do you take fantastic photos, but the way you tell the story behind them is every bit as delightful!

    Gorgeous kids. I agree – that last little lad looks more ‘western’ than ‘hispanic’. (I’m probably not using the correct terms – apologies!)

    And the little dude with the ears. awww.

    (I’ve finally thought of an idea for the meme you tagged me with. Better late than never. Now I just actually have to DO it!)

  8. i enjoyed the photos and they way they were full of life and also your way of telling story of each photo

  9. nathalie with an h appreciates your continued support and readership, and thanks you for all the suga’. “Project Runway” has started again and one of the designer speaks of himself at the third person. I just wanted to try it. It feels very royal but a tad weird.

    Pat und Magnum, I like your idea of revisiting the ex-kids. Might be really difficult, but I’ll send a few letters and see where it goes. Magnum, the answer is a gazillion, closets full of floppies. Floppy galores.

    Bonnie, funny you mention Elite. After my trip, I actually contacted Elite Brazil about that kid. If you want to paint any of the lil’ones… Don’t mind me! I think it would be great!

    Ross, I generally do not make a habit out of visiting schools when I’m on vacation (I even believe these terms should never be pronounced in the same sentence!) Then again, I realize that as long as I pack a camera, it’s not really a vacation anymore.

    SanityFound… Is there a place on earth where you have not been yet?

    Nezza, Brazil has an incredible mix of races. You see everything and everyone is gorgeous. Even the not so pretty or the not so thin radiate happiness and it makes them beautiful all the same. It’s all in the attitude… and cosmetic surgery which is rampant. Friendships with women over there are a little tricky though.

    Hajar, welcome. Thank you for your nice compliment. I wish I could tell you I’ll read your posts… I really wish I could but frankly, it’s just not going to happen! I HATE language barriers! شكرت أنت لزيارت

  10. I think that question is for you, I am yet to see the world as I dream to – each continent and perhaps one day each country.

    Fantastic photos as always, you have an eye to catch the emotion and spirit, fantabularse indoods!

  11. Brilliant photos of children. The color is astounding. I think with children sometimes there is no question as to whether to film in black and white or color. They are so vibrant at times. The feel of their soul comes through so vividly it has to be captured in color. Wow! is the best I can come up with Nathalie. These are so amazing. I had to search for you on Google and found your home site, which pleased me to no end I must say! You are so humble, yet your photography speaks volumes. Your photos are amazing. They must be a reflection of you.

  12. Ok. I can’t stop laughing. Not at your photos, of course. But, you know. Seriously, though, what was wrong with let me go slowly now…Sandra Bernhart?

  13. Intoxicologist! I’ll take Wow! No worries. Glad you enjoyed the site. I’m ashamed to say I have not updated it since I started blogging. I just hope they click on the blog button to see more recent work. I’m really not amazing. Just happy I’ll never have to attend another BS meeting in my life. That’s probably the joy seeping through my photographs!

    Pat, I know I should have been more gentle but… Sarah Bernhardt on Project Runway! Come on! I was not about to spare you! I’d hope that if she chose to revisit us, she’d at least pick something scandalous like the new Pamela Anderson reality show to make her comeback.

  14. Amazing pictures H! Once again you live up to your reputation. You DO have a reputation don’t you? And obviously that is you lying by the poolside in the first photo, no?

  15. Kids rock! Enough said.

  16. Allan, it’s not me lying by the pool. 1) I’m a beach person 2) I do not want crazies as clients so I’m not about to display a photo of myself in a bikini on my blog (but know that unlike you, I do have a 6-pack and it’s not in my fridge!)

    Matt, I concur.

  17. You do huh? Well then…I’ve got a petition and I’m getting signatures…

    Who here wants to see H’s 6-pack? You can sign up at MY site! 🙂

  18. Pingback: Weekly Fruit Salad - No Number « SanityFound’s Rambling’s

  19. Wow. Just got back from France and the Out-laws and saw this post. Okay, I’m late again, but better late than never, right?
    I agree with the others. If there was some way you could ever find your way back there to see what has become of those beautiful children, it would be fascinating. That girl with cute little Mattheus was a model in the making. I wonder if anyone ever discovered her, or if she is now the proud mother of her own brood of stunning kids?

  20. Epic, I’ve begun to empty old drawers full to stuff to find the address of the school. So far, no luck (I’ve got a whole garage full of “drawers”.) I’ve also brought back from the dead my method to learn Portuguese. I’m a little rusty to say the least.

    I think it is a cool project and I’m very seriously considering it. I would just rather try to trace some of the kids from here rather than arrive in Brazil with no info at all.

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