Rio’s Favelas As Seen Through A Camera Lens

Pedro Lobo is a Brazilian photojournalist that’s been working to document the favelas of Rio. He looks at the structures that people create and tries to establish what the structure says about the people that created it.

His work is currently on exhibit at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art and College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina. You can see more of his work on the favelas and their architecture on his personal website.

Photographer Pedro Lobo believes the walls of a home say more about its inhabitants than a family portrait. “Walls can tell a lot about the history of a place,” he says. “Walls speak loudly.” But if the walls of your home are made of corrugated zinc, and your neighbors can look into the room where your children sleep, and your kitchen is lit from wires that criss-cross in front of your window, what does that say about you?

A native of Brazil, Lobo studied architecture and painting before turning his attention to photography. Favelas: Architecture of Survival is a collection of 40 large-format prints that chronicle the lives of the very poor in Rio de Janeiro. “What I saw really intrigued me,” he says of his years photographing the favelas. “I saw the strength of the struggle to survive in adverse conditions.”

With the Olympics on the horizon, Lobo’s exhibition is timely. The nation is watching Brazil to see how officials will handle security concerns. A recent New York Times article talked about the push for Rio officials to increase security and address drug issues in the favelas. Lobo says most middle-class Brazilians never go into the favelas and are ignorant of the racial and economic segregation that exists.

Lobo began working in the poverty-stricken and drug-riddled communities in 2000, and he sees himself as both a photojournalist and artist. “I can draw resources from both methods and be more effective,” Lobo says. His aesthetically pleasing photographs draw people in while encouraging them to think, but Lobo insists that he doesn’t want to talk about the misery, crime, and violence within the favelas. “I’m looking at the relationship between men and space and what keeps us human,” he says. His images seek to reflect a sense of honor and respect for the people who live in these excluded communities and continue to struggle for a dignified life. Lobo refers to the way a homeless person will arrange their sleeping space with order and dignity and says a home can be in our head.

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Rafael is an aviation geek, a consumer advocate, a dad, a multiple personality blogger, a photographer, politically opinionated, a videographer and many other things as well.