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.