Through the looking glass: Rio's favela photo school

A dozen children holding tin cans rush out of school in a shantytown in Rio.

In a moment, they are screaming as a dog lunges after them.

But then one of them stops to place his can on the ground, and in a matter of moments the cylinder, modified to be used as a simple pinhole camera, has captured an image of life in the city's gritty favelas.

"I've taken my photo!" exclaims Jonathan, as he picks up the metal container. A tiny hole lets light through to imprint an upside-down image on film.

The device was made in the first photography school established seven years ago by an association in Mare, a slum, or favela, in Rio that counts among the city's most violent.

The aim of the organizers of the school was to encourage creativity among the favela's kids, and to have them capture moments of daily life beyond the guns, drugs and danger that the place is more often known for.

"We put photo paper inside the can which reacts to light. There's no need to focus or to set the aperture," explains one of the amateur photographers, 13-year-old Julia.

With the errant dog now tied up by its owner, the boys and girls of the class gather around to take pictures.

"It's a camera that's easy to use and it's cheap, everyone can have one," their teacher, Tatiana Altberg, says.

She started the "Project Pinhole" school in 2005 for pupils aged nine to 16. Funding comes from Globo TV, Brazil's biggest private television network, and the Rio de Janeiro state government.

"The biggest problem is that they lose attention easily. They only think about the computer. Amateur photography is a counterbalance to the unbridled use of digital photography," she said.

Taking a pinhole photo demands patience. Whereas a digital camera can snap several images per second, to be immediately looked at, a pinhole camera demands standing still for seconds or for minutes, and only seeing the result once the film is developed.

"They have discovered another era, before that of immediate photography. They are taken by this other notion of time that is the opposite of the speedy world in which we live," she said.

After a 10-month course, they pupils are shown how to digitize their images and do basic touch-ups, and how to scan photos. They are also taught the history and techniques of photography.

Fagner França, 20, studied under Tatiana and now he works with her as a tutor.

"I studied photos, I'm a photographer and I want to keep going. I want to show the perspective of someone who's always lived in the favela. It's very different to the stereotypical photos you see in newspapers that show what people want to see, the poverty and the violence," he said.

"Newspaper archives are a far cry from the real variety of the community," he said.

Some 200 students have gone through the school since 2004, and 40 have continued to work as photographers.

Founded by Joao Roberto Ripper, a photographer with ties to human rights groups, the school has also started its own photo agency and photo library, called "Images of the People" which contains 8,000 photos, nearly half of them online (www.imagensdopovo.org.br).

"Ripper believes the people in the favelas should be producers of images, with political training to know their rights. One of the guiding lines of the project is to distribute photos as artistic products," said the coordinator of the library, Joana Mazza, even as she complained that sponsorship is difficult to find.

"We are well-placed in the photo network but we are lacking photographers at a cultural level. Nobody can train photographers who think. They (stock photo agencies) want laborers, handymen in the favela. As we're a school aiming for excellence they don't want to sponsor us," she said.

Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones