Getty photographer Mario Tama has spent the past 22 months documenting life in Rio de Janeiro. Leading up to the 2016 Olympics, Tama captured the complexities of the underside of Brazil, making cultural connections between his native New Orleans and the South American nation (above).
“The favelas in Rio brought to mind the housing projects of New Orleans, both incredible incubators of culture and spirit,” he wrote. “Samba called to mind jazz, baile funk reminded of bounce music. And then, of course, there was Carnival. Blocos were like Second Line parades: the costumes, the spirit, the revelry.”
The Emmy Award-nominated photog shuttled between New York and NOLA for five years before publishing Coming Back: New Orleans Resurgent, which then inspired his following journey to Rio.
“Brazil is a place, like most places I suppose, where the more love you give, the more you get in return,” he said, adding that “the delays, the bureaucracy, the insecurity and the corruption—can slowly eat at you if you allow it. But if you’re able to cast aside those issues and embrace the larger truths of love, tenderness, joy, rhythm, those things that are just part of the DNA of the Brazilian spirit, one can truly feel at home here, even as a foreigner.”
What Tama came to love the most about the people of Brazil was their tenderness, joy and indefatigable spirit: “Deep inside Rio’s favelas, where poverty, violence and gang warfare are often endemic, one still finds the streets bursting at the seams with music, laughter, love. It is contagious and it’s everywhere and it’s something that overtakes and overwhelms.”