This year we went back to Rio de Janeiro to document the beautiful chaos of the world’s most marvelous city.
This series, Carnival: The Heartbeat of Rio, covers the alternative side of Carnival, featuring exclusive access to the Sambódromo and include interviews with dancers, journalist and the people who make carnival happen.
Pedra do Sal and Porto Maravilha – Episode 1
In this episode we visit the cultural and historical monument of Pedra do Sal to enjoy the free samba and good vibes. Then we explore how the area around it is changing due to the massive Porto Maravilha revitalization project.
Raquel’s Story – Episode 2
For Raquel, Carnival is about transforming pain into joy and washing Rio with love and consciousness. Follow her as she prepares and performs at Boitatá.
Orqestra Voadora – Episode 3
Witness the the vibrant and trippy side of Rio’s Carnival at Bloco Orquestra Voadora.
I spent three weeks filming and conducting interviews for our upcoming documentary series on Carnaval. We worked with Mayor Eduardo Paes’ international communications team in the Palácio da Cidade covering all aspects of Carnival, while focusing on what goes on behind the scenes. Here is a selection of my favorite shots.
In recent years there’s been lots of negative press concerning Rio and the upcoming olympics. The goal of this project is to document all the hard work and organization to show a side of Carnival that tourists and international press often overlook.
Ipanema beach at sunset, looking out towards Dois Irmãos.
Eduardo Paes, the mayor of Rio, starting the week of Carnival celebrations at the City Hall. The mayor began Carnival by handing off the key to the city to the King Momo, the official King of Carnival, joking that the King will now inherit all of the cities problems. Eduardo Paes has been busy hosting the World Cup last summer and the Olympic Games in 2016. Despite the stress, Paes is a pragmatic and energetic man who loves Carnival and Samba as much as any Carioca. Paes once said, “I don’t want to compare my city to Zurich, thank God we’re not that boring.”
Raquel getting ready to dance like a Baiana (a woman from Bahia, Brazil) at the Cordão do Boitatá.
Cordão do Boitatá in the histrotic old city of Rio.
Taking a break before Cordão do Boitatá begins at Praça XV.
Raquel preparing another costume.
The people you find in the back alleys of Rio during Carnival.
The Sambódromo around 2:30am, with many hours of parades to go
Lady from Vila Isabel, waiting in the rain for hours before entering the Sambódromo.
Rio is eager to clean up its image before the 2016 Olympic Games. Much of the cities waterfront was once an area with elevated freeways, homeless, crime and trash. Last year the city tore down the freeway, is converting the new spaces into parks and plazas, and planting new trees and plants with the intention of radically changing the area. The area is known as the Porto Maravilha (the Marvelous Port), and it is one of the largest urban renewal projects in Latin America.
Inside the Porto Maravilha area the new Museu do Arte do Rio examines Rio’s past and present. I’ve never seen a museum that portrayes histroy, race, economics and gentrification so honestly. The exhibition Do Valongo à Favela (from Valonga to the Favela) traces Rio’s histroy from the slave port to the contemporary favelas.
Exhibitions also examine gentrification, fighting for public space.
Praia Vermelha and Pão de Açúcar.
View from the top of Pão de Açúcar.
A few blocks from the Museu de Arte do Rio is the wonderful Pedra da Sal. This area was once where the slaves from Africa were bought and sold, and it is rumored to be where samba was born. Today it atracts people from many walks of life who come from the samba, the spicy food, the art and the good times.
Samba in Pedra da Sal.
The old and the new in Porto Maravilha.
I spent the last few days in Rio exploring Zona Norte. This is the Complexo do Alemão, one of the largest favelas in Rio, which now has a gondola which facilitates transport to the rest of the city.
Born and raised in San Francisco, Walker then majored in International Relations and Chinese at the New School University in NYC. He began traveling during a high school exchange to Argentina, and hasn’t stopped since. Walker has always sought out the more unusual and off the beaten path locations and is combining his love for photography and travel to kickstart a career as a journalist, striving to redefine the profession in rapidly changing world.
Everyone has an idea of what Rio de Janeiro is like during the World Cup, with the massive parties on Copacabana, the violent protests, and the hordes of tourists. While living in Rio for a month I took my camera around everywhere, attempting to shed light on the other side of Rio, the real Rio, the one not seen on TV or in the newspapers. Here is my portrait of Rio de Janeiro.
We weren’t able to watch the World Cup final because we were trapped in a plaza by 10,000’s of military police. They began firing tear gas, stun grenades, and pepper spray, injuring dozens of people in the process. It was definitely one of the craziest days of our lives.
There is not other way of putting it, Rio de Janeiro is one of the world’s best cities. It’s equal parts first world and third world, part European, part Latin, and part African. It flows to the beat of Samba and Funky, and enjoys hands down the greatest setting of any city in the world. It is far from perfect, the crime rate is high, the poor are mistreated by the military and police, and the economic disparities are some of the most extreme on the planet, but it is those exact tensions and contrasts that make Rio endlessly fascinating. At the end of the day, Cariocas (a resident of Rio) seem to put these differences aside in favor of white sand beaches, the warm Atlantic water and the vibrant nightlife.
The upper middle class neighborhood of Urca is an unexpected delight. It has beautiful treelined streets with local neighborhood restaurants and bars (make sure to check out Bar Urca where you can sit on the sea wall overlooking of Rio and the Christ the Redeemer statue). But what makes this neighborhood great is its setting. It is situated on the end of a narrow peninsula between the iconic Pão de Açúcar/Sugarloaf mountain and the bay.
Things to see:
Pista Cláudio Coutinho
Pão de Açúcar/Sugarloaf mountain
This is the most typical of neighborhoods on this list, but it must be mentioned. This is what Rio de Janeiro is famous for; if you’ve seen this city in a movie or on a postcard, it was probably from Copacabana. Here lies one of the greatest stretches of urban beach anywhere in the world. One minute you are underground, packed like a sardine at rush hour on a crowded subway car, and the next minute you are riding waves in clear, warm water with white sands, palm trees and blue skies. An added bonus is that the people are beautiful, the juices are plentiful and otherworldly and the setting is spectacular. This is why people come to Rio, and I can understand why.
For a city of 12.5 million, the downtown of Rio may seem disappointing at first (the skyline could be compared to a mid sized American city such as Cincinnati or Denver), but what it lacks in soulless skyscrapers, it makes up for with history and old world charm. This is the historical heart of Rio de Janeiro, and some might argue all of Brazil, but this isn’t like the tacky tourist joints of the North End in Boston, or Midtown Manhattan where teeshirt shops outnumber locals, these streets are rough, with homeless men smoking crack, people shuffling through garbage and the walls are covered in graffiti. But pause for a second and you will find over 400 years of Portuguese and Brazilian history all around you.
Things to see:
Mosteiro de São Bento
Centro Cultural Banco Do Brasil
Travessa do Comércio
If there is a crazier party strip in Latin America I’d like to see it. Lapa is where Cariocas of all walks of life come to party and be merry. The sounds of Samba flood into the street, strangers meet and begin dancing, people sip caipirinhas while chewing on grilled meat from migrants from Brazil’s Northeast, transsexuals sell themselves on street corners in skimpy dresses, and in the shadows crack dealers sell their goods. It’s a crazy mix that must be experienced, preferably with a sweet caipirinha in your hand.
#1 Santa Teresa
This bohemian hood of narrow, 100 year old cobble stone streets is Rio’s crowned jewel. This is a neighborhood of poets, writers, artists, and those who inhabit crumbling, turn of the century mansions. This neighborhood would certainly take the cake as one of the worlds great neighborhoods. Make sure to check out Largo do Guimarães and Largo das Neves, two old squares with bohemian bars (Bar do Gomez) and restaurants (Bar do Mineiro). Our personal favorite is Largo das Letras, a wonderful place where music dances through a library like setting and caipirinhas flow freely.
Stay tuned for our neighborhood review of Sao Paulo.