1950. That was the last time Brazil hosted the World Cup. Back then there were only six stadiums and zero protests. In 2014, things are a tiny bit different. The international spotlight is larger than ever and it’s been pointed right at Brazil since the late 2000s, when they won both the World Cup and Summer Olympic bids back to back. Scrutiny, doubt, controversy, and protests have plagued Brazil ever since. But that was all before the games began. Now, the story has changed. 12 cities stretched across 4,000 miles have played host to the matches and the festivities and throngs and throngs of futebol fans. And I went to photograph all of it. And everything in between. And create a living, breathing document of this historic period for the nation. This is a road-trip photography project. From São Paulo to Fortaleza, this is what I saw.
But Brazil is huge. Fifth-biggest country in the world. So big I couldn’t see it all in one month. Sorry Porto Alegre. Sorry Brasília. So so so sorry Manaus. The path ended up being south to north. São Paulo to Rio. Rio to Belo Horizonte. BH to Salvador. Criss-cross my way through Bahia and Sergipe to get to Recife. And then a straight shot from Recife to Fortaleza. 3,000 kilometers as the crow flies. But I’m not flying and my Citroën Sandero is no crow. We zig-zagged and slept in towns with names like Caruaru and Aracaju and Vitória da Conquista and Imbassai. And I photographed whatever we could find. Everyday images of football fans and quadrilha dancers and fishermen and favelas and forró and festia junina and protests.
In Brazil, “Tudo bom” roughly translates to “all good.” It’s used both as a question and an answer. Tudo bom? Sim, tudo bom. Just like the World Cup. The World Cup in Brazil has been both a blessing and a curse. The joy of sport but at what cost?
The beautiful game. O jogo bonito. Pelé claims he was the first to coin the term. British commentator Stuart Hall disagrees. Mostly, who cares? Football does something that no other sport does. It’s the great equalizer. Everyone everywhere watches it. (Yes, even Americans.) And not a day goes by here in Brazil, where the universal nature of futebol can’t be seen. Manic Algerians aggressively chanting on the streets of Belo Horizonte. American flags hanging from balconies in Recife. Nigerians waving Brazilian flags. Germans waving Brazilian flags. Ecuadorians waving Brazilian flags. An entire stadium in Salvador singing “Allez allez allez” after France scored goals four and five against Switzerland. The tricolor flag of Mexico hanging from a random guy's neck in a São Paulo subway. And then there are the Brazilians. Every time Brazil plays the country has a national holiday. 200 million people simultaneously willing Neymar to score another goal. Even I have to remind myself that I’m there to take pictures. Not to scream at the television. At the end of the day, sports always win.
France takes on Switzerland at Arena Fonte Nova, in Salvador, in the first round of play. My first-ever live professional football match played more like a basketball game. 100 goals for the French. 2 for the Swiss. The Portuguese say estraçalhou. The Americans say blowout. Either way, it wasn't pretty.
Algeria versus Belgium. Les Fennecs versus The Red Devils. Mineirão Stadium in Belo Horizonte. Honestly, I have no idea what happened in the stadium but outside was intense. Screaming ecstatic football fans were swarming. The passion of the World Cup in all its glory.
Brazil vs. Colombia in the quarterfinal at Estádio Castelão, Fortaleza. Sorry for my lousy translation, but this is what the Brazilians scream all game — every game, no matter who they're playing: "Score 1,000 goals! Score 1,000 goals! There is only Pelé. There is only Pelé. Maradona snorts cocaine..." Pretty clever if you ask me, and it seemed to be working — for a while, anyway. Colombia went home, and Brazil went to the semifinal, only to be defeated by the Germans, 7 to 1.
But the stadiums aren't the the only places where futebol is being watched and played. Brazilians gather to watch the World Cup matches in stores and wave their flags along the street. And they play the game almost anywhere: in fields, on concrete, even in water.
Identity has never been an issue in Brazil. 221 types of original music. 174 annual festivals. 74 dance styles. 432 pristine beaches. Religions from every corner of the world. People from every corner of the world. A prolific art scene. A unique history. A high percentage of super models and legendary football players. 500 million thumbs-up gestures per day and one sport to rule them all. Don’t quote me on those numbers but I’m pretty sure I’m in the ballpark. Not even the World Cup can stop Brazil from being Brazil.
Welcome to Festa Junina! Long story short, it's Carnaval in the winter. Dia de São João on June 24th is the culmination but that didn't prevent everyone from bonfiring, fireworking, forró-dancing and caipi-drinking every other night that week. The apex of traditional Festa Junina is the quadrilha: country line-dancing with better costumes.
We encountered lots of people on the water. A fisherman in his boat in Recife. And Jefferson, who may just be the coolest teenager in Brazil, on a remote river in North Bahia State. My goal was to find traditional crab fisher-women on a Sunday morning during a holiday weekend in the laziest beach zone of all of Brazil. Big surprise, no one was crab fishing. But Jeff was there. First thing he said was, "I'm a total badass. Want to photograph me bird hunting from a canoe with an archaic single-shot hunting rifle from the 1930s?" Maybe I'm paraphrasing a bit but next thing I know he's plucking the feathers of a local Garça bird. Then he showed us his personal collection of blue crabs that he's been fattening up for a special occasion. Then he re-loaded his rifle and headed back to his boat. And a fisherman in Jequié, a small town in inner Bahia, who was fishing in a river during a Brazilian holiday.
In the state of Sergipe, laborers clear a sugar cane field in preparation for a new planting season along the BR-101, the longest highway in Brazil.
Every weeknight after 9 pm and all day on Sundays, the Minhocão, an elevated road cutting through the middle of São Paulo, is open to pedestrians. People sit and talk, walk their dogs, and, of course, play futebol.
It’s officially called a Bid Book. If you want to host a World Cup, you have to make one. It’s basically a cross between a business proposal and job application. Brazil submitted theirs back in 2006. It detailed their plan to host in 2014. The next year the World Cup was theirs. Mind you, they basically ran uncontested (Colombia dropped out). Since then, 7 years of controversy. Misappropriation of public funds. Questionable forced eviction strategies. Insane inflation. Dubious public-private partnerships. Every single thing about pacifying the favelas. Let’s just say it hasn’t been easy. By all means the 2014 World Cup will be seen as a success. But the cost has been high. And with the Olympics creeping closer and closer, it’s far from over.
There have been two different types of protests in Brazil lately. One is for workers on strike. Those are usually fairly peaceful. The other is a general, "we're sick and tired" type of protest. Those usually end in violence.
This was one of the violent ones. The police used tear gas and sound bombs to try to stop the protest. And then there is this group called Black Bloc, which is always ready to fight back. Black Bloc is a group of anarchist, punk rock young people who either believe in fighting for a cause or just like to fight. It's hard to say. But when everyone else runs, they stay and fight. But in most cases, like this day, there are usually only 100 to 200 of them, and they just can't compete against the police force. So once the chaos descends it's hard for them to regroup and start again. This one ended like that, basically. Petered out once the Black Bloc kids got separated from each other.
Chuva! Floods are an inevitable part of rain in Brazil. A few hours of hard rain can shut down a city here. Which was almost the case in Recife on the day of the USA-Germany match.
Copa do Mundo, I'd like to introduce you to Copa do Povo. The cost of living in Brazil, especially Rio and São Paulo, has exploded since the announcement of the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, and for the poorest it has been too much to bear. Copa do Povo is the result. A tent city sprung up on an abandoned hillside earlier this year and now it houses approximately 5,000 residents. Living in plastic shanties, the families survive on donations and the support of the MSTS, a local organization that supports homeless people in São Paulo. The hope is that there will be a new housing development that they will be built to permanently house them, but in the meantime, the community is making the best of it.
The poor living conditions aren't confined to São Paulo. A young boy squeezes through the roof of the Vila Nova Cachoeirinha, a favela in Belo Horizonte. And in Recife, a protestor has written Copa de Sangue — "Cup of Blood" — on the highway overpass where the Occupy Estelita movement has taken up camp. #OcupeEstelita is meant to prevent developers from building new luxury high rises on Pier Estelita in Recife. The protestors were violently removed on June 18th and then they camped across the street, documenting any activity at the Estelita site.