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
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam