New Year’s Eve on Paulista

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(photo by matt masin)

Last night, the crew trekked up the street to Avenida Paulista for the biggest New Year’s Eve celebration any of us have attended. News stories said the crowd would number in the millions and there would be millions of security officers.

I can’t say if there were that many, I can’t say if there were more, but it was packed as far as the eye could see and everyone was having a great time.

Toward one end of Paulista, the street where the celebrations were held, there was a stage where massive Christmas decorations had been a few days before.

The speed of the infastructure work in Brazil continues to surprise me…from my rooftop vantage point where I shot once by myself and once with Matt for my motoboy story, I noticed that in a matter of days all of Brigadeiro, a main cross street of Paulista, had been repaved. In similar fashion, the whole street of Paulista was revamped for this one evening in what must have been record time. I do feel bad for the cleanup crews, though.

Festivities started at 8 p.m. and I’m not sure that they ever ended.

Here’s what our cameras saw last night; we wish you all a happy new year.

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(photo by andrew dickinson)

(photo by anna reed)

(photo by anna reed)

(photo by andrew dickinson)

(photo by andrew dickinson)

(photo by matt masin)

(photo by matt masin)

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(photo by andrew dickinson)

(photo by andrew dickinson)

(photo by andrew dickinson)

(photo by brianna soukup)

(photo by brianna soukup)

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(photo by andrew dickinson)

(photo by andrew dickinson)

(photo by andrew dickinson)

(photo by andrew dickinson)

(photo by andrew dickinson)

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(photo by andrew dickinson)

(photo by brianna soukup)

(photo by brianna soukup)

Happy 2013. Stay well, stay happy, stay safe and appreciate everything and everyone that you have.

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From above

Last night I had the opportunity to take photographs from atop one of the many skyscrapers on Paulista Avenue, thanks to Andrew Dickinson, who needed roof access for his motoboy story.

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Being high above the streets was the first chance I had to truly grasp how huge this city is. It doesn’t matter which direction you look toward, there are too many skyscrapers to count.

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There was a light rain while Andrew and I were up on the building, so I figured finding some sort of rain feature photo was necessary. I messed around with probably a dozen different shots before taking this frame. It’s rare to go a day in Sao Paulo without rain, and when it didn’t rain for nearly two days this week, we all started to miss the rain.

Thanks for looking,

Matt

The lunch hour

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Today, I spent the lunch hour at Master Boys, a motorcycle courier service near the Faria Lima metro station.

The lunch hour (from about 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) is the main break time during the day for motoboys, and they make the most of it. They park their motorcycles inside the gate of the office and rinse the morning’s sweat off, eat lunch and sometimes nap.

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Despite the danger they put themselves into with each delivery, they all seem lighthearted about it. Everyone in São Paulo is aware that at least one motoboy dies per day (some say two, even three die a day), but even kids are taught that motorcycles are cool. I passed by a child playing on a toy motor(tri)cycle on my way to the metro this morning.

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And I learned today that you don’t disturb a resting motoboy’s sleep. You might get a shoe thrown at you if you do.

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Lastly, I finally made contact with Luciene, the only motogirl employed by Master Boys. She was very kind, but I could tell she was tired. She’s agreed to a video interview on Saturday, and I’ll be spending more time with her in the coming week.

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Hospital Clinicas has essentially turned me away from photographing in their physical therapy ward – a complete 180 from what they told me five days ago. Apparently, authorization will take longer than the time I have left in São Paulo. I’m pursuing a backup through another NGO of sorts, and will let you know how the meeting with them goes tomorrow.

Cheers.

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Working without a translator

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Today I tagged along with Cara as she went to spend the day with a group of people who tag phrases and symbols around São Paulo.

After a metro/train ride of about an hour we arrived in a tiny, more run-down neighborhood of São Paulo than I’ve seen to this point. Favelas, rolling hills of dilapidated, stacked houses, surrounded the area.

This community likes to drink, and they like to smoke marijuana. “Legalize” was tagged multiple places in the neighborhood, and tiny, one room bars, could be found up and down almost every block. Most were packed with people in the midafternoon – although it was a Sunday, so that could’ve been a big influence.

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We spent the first few hours at the home of our main contact, Leo. He lived in the house seen below with his wife and daughter. This frame shows the kitchen/dining room, one of the two rooms in the house, with the door to the bathroom on the left and the entryway, where there is access to other apartments, on the right. They made Cara and I lunch before they planned on heading out to do some tagging.

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The group spent a little time scoping out an area to tag before they got to painting. On the trip, they rolled a joint and smoked it when they arrived at the location.

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Sometimes, working without a translator is great. It’s always possible to communicate through a few basic words I’ve learned in Portuguese, and hand gestures can usually take care of the rest.

Most importantly, I’ve found that it helps subjects ignore you. When you can’t directly hold a normal conversation, the talking between the subject and me dies down quite a bit and I’m able to make pictures without worrying about inserting myself into the situation. This group was great about letting me do what I needed to do while they did what they needed to do.

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As you can see, they’ve tagged all over. According to the group, run-ins with the police happen somewhat frequently.

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I’m not sure if I’ll have time to get back to this community again due to work on the motoboy story, but I hope I can at least get back out once more.

They warmly welcomed me and showed me their passion, and I feel a renewed sense of appreciation each time someone does that for me.

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Thanks for looking.

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Wandering Faria Lima

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I spent my afternoon wandering São Paulo in the Faria Lima area, looking for an open repair shop or any interesting scene involving a motoboy.

After a bit of searching in a misty rain, I came across an auto shop with a lone bike being worked on.

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The three men in the shop were very friendly, offering me the best coffee I’ve ever had and letting me hang around while they replaced a broken tube on the back tire of the bike. Motoboys, who make little money to begin with, must pay for all repairs, as they own their bikes personally.

Lastly, under a bridge I came across a motoboy parked to avoid the rain while he checked his map for directions. He then whipped out a bright orange comb and spent a minute or so checking his appearance in his mirror.

I’m waiting on hospital access and permission to follow the firefighters’ emergency response team to the scene of accidents for this story to get going with the really impactful images. I think it’s safe to say that Christmas has slowed everything down for nearly all of the group’s stories. By the middle of this coming week, things should pick up.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Avenida Paulista from above

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I spent a few hours tonight on the roof of an 11-story building overlooking the intersection of Avenida Paulista and Avenida Brigadeira. My intent was to get a photo of a motoboy speeding through traffic from above.

With the help of a fantastic Candian-born, Brazilian-raised journalism student named Ana, I gained access this afternoon and returned this evening to see how it looked in better light (it ended up being overcast, as I assume it will be most days).

Initially, the super of the building was unsure if he should let me up to shoot – his concern was that the photos would be published somewhere and he would get in trouble for allowing me access. After a lengthy conversation that I understood only random words of, Ana bet him 10 reales that they’d never see the photos no matter how hard they searched for them. Like that, I was in.

I hope they don’t find this blog.

The view, as you can see above, was incredible. It seems that the city goes on forever – the metropolitan area of São Paulo contains somewhere near 18 million people. I’ll be heading back to the roof at least one more time, as I didn’t get the image I wanted. But spending two quiet hours alone on the roof of a building overlooking a busy, foreign city isn’t the worst way to spend a few hours on the last day in the Mayan calendar.

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Thanks for looking.

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Rainy city

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Yesterday, while the blizzard was raging in Nebraska, it was pouring rain in São Paulo.

Downpours were so bad that 29 people died in floods and mudslides in the Rio de Janeiro metro area. The rain was coming down in São Paulo, too, but not to the extent that it was up the road in the Carnival capital of Brazil.

So, naturally, I headed out to shoot. There was no translator available, but Brian came along and we took the metro downtown.

My story while in São Paulo is on motoboys. These men (and, sometimes, women. I’m working on finding a female rider) are essentially couriers who zip in and out of traffic carrying documents or packages to their destination. The short explanation of the story is that they are paid little for a very high risk job.

According to a few news reports, one motoboy dies per day in São Paulo. There are thousands of them here, and they are necessary to the way business has adapted to incredibly congested traffic in this huge city. If you want to get a document or package across town in a reasonable amount of time, you need a motoboy.

As one contact told me at dinner two nights ago, no business can survive without a motoboy.

So I tried to make some pictures of them in the rain, and made some pictures of pedestrians as they dealt with the rain, too. Without a translator I was unable to talk with anyone (not that they wanted to stop and stand and chat in the pouring rain, anyways), but here’s what I came away with.

My pants are still hanging out the window drying.

As always, thanks for looking.

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