I first started shooting in Brazil after a commission from the Ford Foundation in November 2001. I was able to extend my stay and decided to document one of Rio’s many favelas. I worked closely with a local producer I’d contacted though an English production company I worked with.

My experience of working there made me realise that the favelas of Rio were the only place I’d visited were the stereotype of violence was real. It was because of this difficulty that I didn’t continue the project.

The following year I got a commission from Nikon. The brief was to shoot in a favela in Rio. So I contacted my producer and asked him to find a safe favela in which we could work. He found Tavares Bastos. It is located in central Rio and has a police swat-team training college overlooking it. It was with the arrival of the police college that all the drug & gun boys suddenly disappeared. It was the first favela I’d been into where I could walk around freely both day & night without being accompanied or having loaded guns pointed at me. What I found was an amazing community, one that was very close knit, open and welcoming.

I decided that it would be good to document the lives of everyday favela residents away from the stereotype of the guns & drugs. The idea being to show that the majority of people living in fevela’s try there best to lead as full a life as possible. They love, they laugh, bring up their families and don’t go around shooting at each other in a perpetual war zone. As with many of my past projects I like to focus on the life of one or two families and through them record the community around them.

What I found was a very close-knit community, one that appeared to fit western ideals of an ideal community. Everyone is known to each other and since the departure of the drug boys the community has started to develop various projects to the benefit of all. Much of this is organised around the children and football. Every night during school holidays free art classes are available to all the kids. Ballet classes are held 3 times a week, as are marital arts. At present they are converting one building into a library and so far have 3000 books pledged from various sources. Every night there is football practice. This is available to both men and woman of all ages.

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