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Candomblé ceremony in Bahia

March 15th, 2011

When i was in Bahia, in the North East of Brasil, a few years ago i was lucky enough to attend a Candomblé ceremony in one of the local Terreiros (Religious centres, pronounced Te-he-ro) just outside the city of Salvadore de Bahia.

Candomblé Ceremony in Salvadore de Bahia, North East of Brasil
The circle of Initiates of Candomblé

Candomblé is one of the major forms of Afro Brasilian religion found in Brasil. It originated in the city of Salvadore de Bahia, and the surrounding areas in the North East of Brasil, where the African Slaves would cloak their African Animist Religion in a thin veneer of Christianity to fool the Portuguese Slave owners.   The practising of the African religions was strictly forbidden and the Christianisation of the Slaves strictly enforced, so the Slaves adapted. Out of this versatility and will to survive Candomblé was formed.

Candomblé Ceremony-2 in Salvadore de Bahia, North East of Brasil

Candomblé, sometimes called Macumba, holds many similarities to the Afro-Cuban Religion of Santería and the Afro-Haitian Religion of Voodoun (Voodoo) as their origens are from the same regions in Africa, being largely the Yoruba Tribes of West Africa.  

In each of these forms of worship the Christian Saints take on the persona of the African ancestor spirits called Oríshas in Cuba or Orixás (pronounced Ori-shaas)  in Brasil, and these spirits will possess the bodies of their worshipers and thus communicate with the living and experience life again.  It’s a religion that requires a lot of participation and involves many hours of ritual and dance with hypnotic african rhythms played on drums throughout the ceremony.

Candomblé Ceremony-3 in Salvadore de Bahia, North East of Brasil

For a few dollars to help supplement income, the ceremony participants are happy to let visitors come to observe and even take a few unobtrusive pictures (no flash of course).  These ceremonies are not done for tourism and there is nothing vaguely commercial about them, they are the real thing.  On the night i attended there were a few of us from a small hostel in Salvadore there, along with many locals and initiates.

It’s a very surreal experience, with the drumming and the ritualised dancing around the circle, this was made even more so when the girl who had been standing next to me – who had come on the same bus as me and was staying in the same hostel – suddenly started to shake and then leapt into the middle of the circling dancers.  She then proceeded to dance wildly around within the circle, not crazy western person dancing, but precise steps to the rhythm in the same African style of the ceremony participants, she had her eyes closed the whole time.  None of the locals even flinched, we had already seen this happen a couple of times during the course of the evening, but it had previously happened to Candomblé initiates, this was certainly a new twist for me.

Candomblé Ceremony-4 in Salvadore de Bahia, North East of Brasil
The final part of the ceremony to become Babalorixá

She danced this way for several minutes before some of the senior women gently lead her away out the back. This happened once more that evening, the next time to a young Spanish or Italian guy, i don’t remember which, who was also staying at my hostel and had come on the same bus as me.   When they re-joined us for the bus trip back they both looked dazed and had no recollection of anything that had happened after arriving at the Terreiro.

These images were shot with the permission of the participants on a Leica RE with a 90mm f2 lens and Kodak Tri-X Pan 400 black and white film pushed to ISO800.  There was of course no flash used.

More on Tiradentes, Brasil

March 2nd, 2011

I got curious last night after writing the last post on the Brasilian town of Tiradentes, seemed like i should know why it was thus named, and it seemed like i would have asked at the time.  Sometimes my memory is a little unreliable about stuff like that, so its lucky we have Wikipedia!

So, the town of Tiradentes is named after Joaquim José da Silva Xavier,  also known as Tiradentes (tooth puller) due to his one time profession as an impromptu dentist.  He was also a leading member of the Inconfidência Mineira, a revolutionary group formed in 1788 dedicated to the political independence of Brasil from Portuguese colonial rule.

Typical street in the town of Tiradentes in Minas Gereis, Brasil
Typical street in the town of Tiradentes in Minas Gereis, Brasil

The group, including Tiradentes was betrayed by one of their own members, and he was captured and eventually hanged in 1792 for treason, after a trial lasting nearly 3 years.  Imagine 3 years in a Brasilian/Portuguese prison in the 18th Century, i think the eventual hanging would have been a relief.

The Human irony  is that a man can be considered a villain by society one day, and for the very same reasons a hero the next.  The place in Rio de Janeiro where Tiradentes was hanged (and quartered…) is named in his honour (Praça Tiradentes), there is a town in the inland state of Mina Gereis that bears his name, while his likeness is on the Brasilian 5 cent coin.  He has been considered a revolutionary hero of the people of Brasil since the late 19th Century.

Another irony is that the town of Tiradentes, along with most of the state of Minas Gereis (which translates literally to General Mines), was built entirely by slaves (see previous post), and while the Inconfidência Mineira was agitating to lift the colonial yoke of Portuguese oppression from Brasil, they were still happy for the disenfranchised African slaves to be worked to death pulling the gold they so desired out of the ground.  In fact the driving force for the proposed rebellion was to stop the gold  that was being dug by the African slaves from the Brasilian soil being sent as tribute to the King of Portugal.

Slave built wall in Tiradentes, Minas Gereis Brasil.
A 500 year old slave built wall still shows evidence of the hand tools used to carve it out of the solid stone

So really what it all came down to was greed, thus the coin is flipped again, was Tiradentes hero or villain?.  Very little changes in the world it seems.

Both these images were taken on the Hasselblad XPan at dusk, and shot with Fuji Velvia 100.

Tiradentes Brasil, Os Amigos Velhos

March 1st, 2011

Another one from Brasil shot on the Hasselblad XPan.  This time from a small town in Inland Brasil called Tiradentes, literally “pulling teeth”… can’t say i know why the town is called that, seems like an odd name for a beautiful place.  Perhaps it describes the difficulty in building it, its all built on hills of stone, and of course the whole town is made of stone, including the window lintels and the door frames.

Os Amigos Velhos, Tiradentes in the state of Minas Gereis,  Brasil
Os Amigos Velhos, Tiradentes, Minas Gereis Brasil

The title of the image is Os Amigos Velhos, the old friends, and thats exactly as they appeared to me.  I had seen these two wander across to this spot and sit watching the sunset the night before, they hardly said a word to each other just sat in that comfortable silence that you only see with people who really know each other well.  It seemed like a regular ritual, so the next night i was there  photographing the street when they arrived.

This is not a posed shot, i’m afraid i didn’t ask permission, i just went about shooting the paving stones of the street as i had been doing when they arrived.  The thing i find profound about this image  is perhaps not immediately obvious.  We have two old men of very different heritage, one being European probably Portuguese and the other obviously African, living in a 15th Century Slave built town where one man’s ancestors would have been wielding the whip and the others would have been the back it was striking.  Now, 500 years later they are friends watching the sunset together.  I wonder if they ever talk about these very different yet entwined beginnings?

Santos Beach at Sunset

February 22nd, 2011

Another image from Brasil shot on the Hasselblad XPan (which i didn’t sell on the weekend), This is Santos Beach, the same beach as this previous post of the soccer players.  I lived in Santos for about 3 months back in 2003, as you can see from the buildings on the waterfront, its quite a big city, certainly by Australian standards.  Big and densely populated, with a big wide flat beach that is always packed with people running, playing football (soccer), swimming surfing reading or walking.  Brasilians love their beaches.

Santos Beach in Sao Paulo at sunset as two surfers head back along the shore
Sunset Surfers on Santos Beach-Brasil

This shot was taken just after sunset after a long hot day of tropical humidity.  Up the other end of the beach is a popular surf break and these guys had probably spent most of the afternoon catching a few waves before walking back along the shore to home.  The sky shows the typical colours of the classic tropical sunset with lots of moisture in the air really bring out the colours.

The city of Santos is built on an island in the middle of the river mouth of the busiest harbour in the southern Hemisphere, one of the 2 or 3 busiest harbours in the world, Santos is an island that is actually a sandbar… it’s made of sand.  What you can’t see in this image is that most of the high rise buildings along the waterfront are leaning at crazy and precarious angles.  They weren’t  built that way, they have sagged over time, like the famous tower of Pizza, as the foundations sank into the soft shifting sand they were built on.

Most all of them have been stabilised now, but fixed on the crazy angles they were leaning at, as it’s very difficult to straighten a high rise building.  So if you go up into some of the apartments, especially the upper ones, you can spend your day walking up and down hills.  A pen dropped onto the floor will roll all the way across the room, and falling out of bed becomes an everyday occurrence.  I think with time it would do some strange things to your sense of balance and perspective or perhaps your neck… as every time you gaze out the window the horizon is a diagonal line across your outlook.

I’m sure i have some images in the vast 5000 strong catalogue i shot in Brasil of those building from the waters edge where the angles are visible, i’ll have to make a concerted effort to find them, in the mean time enjoy the tropical sunset.

This shot was taken on the Hasselblad XPan with the 45mm f4 lens, i wish it had been shot on Fuji velvia, or even Provia 400, but it was taken on Fuji reporter pro, an ISO 800 neg film.  This film is great at what it was designed for, quick press work, but it’s not ideal for landscape, Negative colour film is not much fun to scan and requires a lot of dusting.  Still, it works, and i won a silver at the APPAs a couple of years back for this image.

A Garota de Ipanema

February 14th, 2011

Literally the girl from Ipanema, which is of course the title of the famous song by Tom Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes of Brasil.  It was the song that really created the whole musical genre of Bosa Nova, a mellow mix of Brasilian samba and jazz that embodied the  the feel and emotion of the Brasilian culture.

Garota De Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
A Garota de Ipanema – the Girl from Ipanema

That song was written about this beach in Rio de Janeiro, or rather about a girl walking along this beach, rather like the girl in this image, which is why this image, that i shot in Brasil a few years back, shares the same name.  It could well have been a scene like this that inspired Tom Jobim to write that famous song as he sat on the bench overlooking Ipanema beach all those years ago.

This image was shot on fuji Velvia 50 with the Hasselblad XPan camera, and i’ve just recieved an order for a 2.5m print of it!  I can’t wait to see this one really big.  I did a 1.8m print of it a couple of years back and it looked great, i think 2.5m will look stunning.  See this image as a 2.5m wall print.

The 4m print i mentioned a couple of entries back is now stretched.  It was quite an exercise, that i of course photographed and will put up here in the next entry.

Soccer Players on Santos Beach-Brasil

October 22nd, 2010

Back in 2003/2004 i spent a year travelling around Brasil, a country of amazing diversity.  Why i was there is another story for another day, but i took a vast number of images in that year (the majority of them on the Hasselblad XPan), most of which have never seen the light of day.  I put the first one up last week, and gradually i will be putting more and more of them here as i think the Blog is a great place to finally show them and eventually create a category on the website for that and other adventures.

Beach soccer on Santos Beach in Brasil

During my stay in Brasil i lived in a city called Santos for several months, which is on the coast of Sao Paulo state. Santos has the dubious honour of being the largest port in South America, with all the pleasures that brings… Santos also has a very long open beach, and on any given day there are always loads of Soccer games running, of all ages, from 3 or 4 year olds playing with 2 sticks for goals, to semi professional clubs having play offs.
Being Brasilians, most of them are great soccer players, so the games are exciting to watch and the sheer number happening at once  is a fantastic thing to witness.

This particular day was a Sunday, a big day for beach Soccer, and about 10am a dense fog rolled in off the sea.  Now fog is great for photography, especially Black and White Photography, and fog in Santos was totally unheard of.  So i grabbed the XPan and ran off to the beach.

These teams playing here are in fact one team split into 2 sides for the day.  One side wearing white shorts the other black. You’ll notice all the team shirts are the same and this is in fact the seniors division of Santos Football club, the team made famous by the magical Pelé. He’s not in this shot…

The official name for this image is “Futbol na Paraia, Santos” Soccer player on Santos beach-Brasil, but the unofficial name is “Caralho!” because thats what the goalie was heard to shout just as this image was taken.  I’ll leave it up to you to figure out what it means…

It was shot on Kodak Tri-X 400 on the Hasselblad XPan with the 45mm lens, which due to the extended field of view, makes it the equivalent of about a 24mm in standard 35mm speak.

The fog gives it a beautiful soft look with the background fading away nicely.  The white disk visible in the sky is in fact the sun, and if you look closely (click on the image), you can see the edge of the water on the far left of the image.

Can you guess which player kicked the goal?

The old Barman of Parati-Brasil

October 17th, 2010

I was looking through some  folders on my computer the other day (while i was supposed to be working) and i came across my images from Brasil that i shot several years ago and have never done anything with.  I have been promising friends over there that these would end up on the website, and so far there has always been too much to do to actually do anything about it.  Well, i’m an expert procrastinator, so while i was supposed to be doing other things i sat down and worked up this image a bit.

The first of many images from Brasil
The old Barman of Parati

I came across the old barman of Parati-Brasil, while walking through some magic coastal bush just out of a 15th century town of Parati (pronounced Para-chi).  The trail went out around some headlands covered in South American rainforest that ran right down to the waters edge, the coastline was craggy and beautiful with many inlets and deep, steep sided bays.

It wasn’t a particularly long or difficult hike, the path was pretty flat and the views were stunning, but it was certainly wilderness.

After about 4 hours of walking we suddenly came across this tiny house perched on the side of the hill at the waters edge, amongst the trees, and a bar… Yes, a bar.

Not quite what i had been expecting, but the beer was cold and welcome, and the barman had a great face.  If the face is the map of a persons life, this guy had been lots of places!  I had my Hasselblad XPan on this trip, its my standard travel camera, or was (until the 5D came along), and although not the usual portrait format i like the details of the mans life and work around him, it adds context.

I’m sorry to say i have forgotten his name, but i will always remember the experience

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