Portraits Of Dreams, Rio de Janeiro

Portraits Of Dreams, Rio de Janeiro

2009, I moved to Rio de Janeiro and started living in the
favela of Rocinha.

Rocinha is the biggest favela in South America and has a
population of 70 000 people; it is a big ant-hill, with ceaseless
movements and endless rumours. With time I met people, and through
them I learned more about the favela and its inhabitants. I worked
with kids for an NGO and we built a special bond.

For me photography is a collaborative art, and I have always
built my projects in collaboration with other people. I want it to
be a way for them to express themselves too.

I began this project to allow children in the favela to express
themselves, far removed from the clichés surrounding their social
standing. I proposed to make their portraits, inside or in front of
their homes, after they gave me their answers to the question: “How
do you want to be seen by other people?”

Each child posed following their own idea, some imagining
themselves as movie stars, others as models for glamorous fashion
magazines and some as fairy tale characters. I asked them to be as
precise as they could be, creating drawings and collages so that
our final picture would be as close as possible to what they had

Upon my return to Paris, I transported the project to the
suburbs where – as in the favelas – people are often reduced to the
stereotypes of the places in which they live. It was important to
me to take these photos again in my own country, collaborating with
kids that I had known during the time that I was a teacher in

I truly believe that we decide what we are. We just need the
tools, and the confidence to follow our little voice.

| irisdellaroca.com

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City Guide: Rio de Janeiro