São Paulo – the view from the streets

It was the first time many of the photographers had held a camera – but the artwork in the Minha São Paulo [My São Paulo] calendar gives a strikingly colourful idea of life for homeless people in Brazil’s largest city.

Following on from his My London project, and his previous work with Vancouver’s Hope in Shadows, Café Art’s Paul Ryan travelled to Brazil in November to give out 100 disposable cameras to homeless people with the instruction to take a photo that showed their city, as they see it.

The results are both beautiful and revealing.

INSP covered Ryan’s similar My London project back in September. Since then, that Kickstarter campaign went viral – the video was viewed more than 150,000 times and they raised £17,500 to funding printing.

Ryan is currently incredibly busy co-ordinating the sale of the My London calendars online and in Spitalfields market in London, so why did he think it was worth taking time out to spread the project to a whole other continent?

“For me, it’s the joy people get from participating in the project,” he says.

The photos from London and São Paulo will come together for an exhibition for one day only on 1 December in Carousel, London. [Tickets are free and available here.]

“The similarities and the differences come through when you see the photos together,” says Paul. “In São Paulo, like in Vancouver, we saw a lot more portraits than in London. And of course the weather is hotter there and it’s very colourful.”

And homeless people’s lives are quite different in São Paulo too.

“In London many of the people we worked with have been homeless and are now housed. The people tend to come to the project though art groups run by homelessness organisations like Crisis,” Paul explains.

“In São Paulo, most of them were still sleeping rough. In London, there’s more of a hope that people are going to get out of it – get a home, get a flat. The poverty in Brazil is so extreme.”

There is hope in São Paulo, however. Following a series of horrific murders in 2004, the city has woken up to the issue of homelessness – it was the progressive city council that invited Paul to Brazil.

The calendar will launch as part of the third annual Human Rights Festival in São Paulo in December.

Just as in London, the São Paulo Calendar features mini stories alongside each story. Read some highlights below. You can order either calendar through the Café Art website, while stocks last!


Feet on the Ground

Rudinei Barbosa 
Feet on the ground

Rudnei took this photo of his feet and sandals on the street. The photo’s title, suggested by the photographer himself, alludes to the Brazilian people, always dreaming, but he stresses that, to achieve your goals, you need to set aside the illusions and put your feet on the ground.

Rudnei, 45, was born in São Paulo, has lived on the streets for 30 years. He describes himself as a cheerful friendly person, who always tries to help others. He says people should be more loving to each other. He currently works cleaning cars at traffic lights. Among his hobbies, he likes watching action movies. Rudnei says the photo contest was a “pleasant surprise, unexpected and positive”, and he enjoyed the experience and would like to take part in more like this one.


The man from Glicério

Matheus Leandro Barbosa
The man from Glicério

Matheus took the photo of this homeless man, called Mark Anthony Gabriel, sitting on the sidewalk of the Glicério neighborhood, which is a region known to be an area with a great number of homeless people.

Matheus was born in Bahia and has lived in São Paulo for five years. As he took the camera in his hand, he thought immediately about taking pictures of people living in the streets, because the project theme is exactly that, he thinks. The project helped him find out more about who these people are. His main goal in life is to work and have his own income.

House without window

Diogo Virolli 
House without window

Diogo took the picture of this windowless house with graffiti, in the Glicério neighborhood, central São Paulo. He was born “on a farm” in Bahia and has lived in São Paulo for five years. He took this picture as it reminded him of the house he used to live in Bahia, which also had no windows in its front. Diogo is employed creating handicrafts in Bela Vista with a collective of 30 people. He is currently taking a course as caregiver for the elderly.


Corinthians’ Trolley

Dino José 
Corinthians’ Trolley

Dino José says he doesn’t know this dog’s name but says that its owner, a fruit and vegetable seller on the street, is a fanatic Corinthians fan, a popular football team in São Paulo.

Dino arrived in São Paulo from Ceara, northeast Brazil, when he was 11 in 1968. Following a failed marriage he has been living on the streets 15 years ago. He used to work as a builder, but currently works collecting recycling materials to sell to recycling companies.

Dino is an arts lover, and loves writing, watching movies and attending arts workshops. He wrote the following poem about São Paulo: “I wish I had known you before / How I wish to know you better/ And beside you I always want to be / I swear! I do not want to lose you.”

Liberdade’s Reflexion

José Masc
Liberdade’s Reflexion

José took this picture of a modern skyscrapper in front of an older brick building in the Liberdade district of São Paulo. He says he was drawn by the reflection of buildings and cables in the blue glass. Born in Pederneiras, Bahia, he has been living in the streets of São Paulo for the past 10 years. His main goals are to finish school and, if possible, go to law school one day. He says the most important things in his life are working, being independent to buy clothes in the stores and, last but not least of course, his pet cat.