Crown Heights, DUMBO, Chelsea, and others.
Loving: bookstores around every corner, pastries, reconnecting with old friends, and my new aerial dance home away from home.
The last few days in Rio felt like a marathon. Barely sleeping, we tried to cross everything off our list while Jose rushed to finish his mural at the surf school. While he worked, I tried surfing a couple of times, which is the most physically challenging thing I've ever done. I think I stood up for a grand total of around 7 seconds. My instructor gave me a helmet, which the language barrier kept me from questioning the necessity of. Fortunately, no photos exist of that incident. It was much more relaxing to watch kids half my age (and less) navigate the waves in a way that only comes from spending every afternoon in the ocean.
To take an extended break from painting, Jose took me on a tour of Rocinha. Despite being a pacified favela, keeping a camera around my neck wasn't the smartest option here. I could never have imagined a place like this with so many lives pressed together. Most of the alleyways were narrow enough that I could run my hands along the walls on each side, or reach up and touch the huge bundle of power lines just above my head. Homes were squeezed in between stores, up against schools, above restaurants, and stacked high on top of each other. Some were so tightly packed that the sun couldn't make its way through and we had to be careful not to trip over doorsteps and holes in the concrete. But then around a corner we'd find an amazing mural or kids playing soccer or a home with every surface painted aqua blue, right down to the grout in the tiles along the gate. We also climbed up to the ecological park, home of the very intimidating (not in appearance but in reputation) pacification police headquarters. Again, I was promised monkeys by Jose, and after searching for over half an hour we decided to leave and I started to pack up my camera. At that moment six little squirrel-sized monkeys appeared in the trees right at the exit of the park.
Leaving the surf school on our last night, fireworks burst over the favela.
Later that evening, Jose, Brett, and I bar-hopped with their volunteer coordinator in Copacabana. We met the physical therapist to a major football club, a hulk of a man whom we watched drink a bottle of red wine before he began giving out chiropractic adjustments and reflexology readings. From there we found ourselves in the bar of a brothel, undoubtedly the most uncomfortable and bizarre experience of my life. 3:30 AM had us rushing back to the hostel to get Jose sent off to the airport. Brett and I then headed up the favela to climb the Two Brothers mountains for sunrise, which we were running late for (literally running, since we were spotted jumping a fence to get onto the trail). Hiking is not my thing, and definitely not after staying up all night drinking, but somehow Brett kept me going and we made it just in time for what was without a doubt the most incredible view I've ever seen.
By the time I could finally force myself to stop taking photos, clouds had suddenly rolled in, some of which were well below us on the peak, so we descended the top half of the mountain without being able see beyond the trees around us. We were literally inside a cloud. I hadn't planned on sleeping, but the entire hostel was still quiet by the time we got back in. I napped for about an hour before being woken up by Jose, who was not on a plane over the Amazon like he should have been due to an extremely late bus. In order to match his difficulties in trying to get home, my body decided to become extremely ill around 4 AM on my flight back into the US. Not cool.
Anyways, still the most amazing thing I've ever done.
Partially because I finally saw the sun, these were some of my favorite days in Rio. We walked through the colorfully grungy streets of Lapa and into Santa Teresa, a bohemian neighborhood that I absolutely fell in love with. A haven for artists, the winding streets not too long ago featured a streetcar which I'm told was "held together by paperclips." Sweeping views, charming homes, and abundant street art. Absolutely wonderful. From there we made our way to Sugarloaf for a cable car ride to the top of the mountain at sunset.
After he promised that there would be monkeys, Jose and I also spent a day roaming the Botanical Gardens, checking out some of the craziest looking flowers I've ever seen. To my disappointment, a guide explained that the monkeys go back to the mountains in the afternoon, but he was very excited to show us a squirrel (apparently they're rare in Brazil). A short walk took us to Parque Lage, an old mansion-turned-art-school and the set for Ludacris and Pharrell's "Beautiful" video. For dinner, we took a recommendation from Anthony Bourdain and went to Bar Urca. Sitting along the edge of the water with 150 other people, we were blown away by how overwhelmingly perfect some cheap beer and a plate of fried provolone could be. Apparently Tony knows what he's talking about.
Oh, and one of those nights, we broke the law helping Jose put up some street art of his own and celebrated by drinking and playing on the beach. Actually, many nights of the trip involved a combination of drinking and playing on the beach.
I miss this place, I miss these people. I miss the noise and the chaos and the colors and the ocean.
If I had to choose a favorite color, it would be that perfect aqua blue of ocean like this. The whole gradient of it. On nice days, walks between Vidigal and Leblon beach took about twice as long because we couldn't help but stop and watch waves hitting the rocks. The weather was too cold to get in the water, so we did handstands and played pictionary in the sand.
We also went up to Christ the Redeemer for sunset, which we didn't watch because we were huddled inside the cafe to stay out of the absolutely frigid wind. It was beautiful, but looking up at Jesus gave me vertigo.
And after three caipirinhas each before 7 PM on a Tuesday, we found our way to the Maracana stadium to buy bootleg tickets for a match between Flamengo and Botofogo. I've never seen sports fans that wild or enjoyed a drunk snack quite as much as the cheese quiches from the concession stand. "Queijo" (cheese) became my favorite, most trusted Portuguese word.
This may be only the second time I've completed a major New Year's Resolution, since "stop biting my nails" is a lost cause. For 2013, I promised myself I would leave the country before the end of the year. To finish out my summer of really awesome post-college trips, I went to Brazil to spend two weeks with my best friend Jose, who had been volunteering in Rio for three months.
We stayed in a favela, basically a shanty town or slum, built onto the side of a mountain (this had my parents just a bit worried). Our home base was Vidigal, but we also spent a ton of time in Rocinha, the biggest favela in the city (the more crowded street views below), where Jose had been working. I absolutely loved the neighborhood and our hostel owners, Fernanda and Bruno, who made us feel like part of their family. However, every time we had to hike up the hill from the bus stop to the hostel, I was totally convinced I wouldn't make it. I hated the walk enough that I conquered a major fear and learned to truly appreciate the R$2.50 rides from motorcycle taxis that sped around turns and darted around cars with little regard for me hanging on to the back. Seriously, out of all our crazy ideas, being persuaded to hop on one of those was the scariest thing I did. Not including all the times I was nearly ran over by them.
And oh, the street art. Everywhere we went had the most incredible murals and tags written in places that shouldn't be accessible without professional equipment. The ones posted here are just a few from around Vidigal and Rocinha, but there's so much more to come.
All images available as prints.
This time next week, I'll be in Brazil making photos of gorgeous views like this one captured by Jose, the amazing friend I'll be traveling with. Since I'm so excited about making these images and sharing them with y'all, here's a print pre-sale! Reserve yours today at 40% off and choose your favorite image from a gallery when I get back in early October. Email me at email@example.com for more info and be sure to spread the word!
The really fun part about being a recent college grad is coming up with new ways to answer "Have you found a job yet?"
Explaining that no, I've been going on trips to the Caribbean and New York because I'm "self-employed" or something like that has probably resulted in at least one person leaving the conversation to talk about Lazy Millennials/art students. And figuring out how in the heck freelance life works has been disillusioning and scary and depressing. Did I mention I'm currently "staying with my parents because I'm in-between places?" Ha.
But I'm also really enjoying getting to hang out with my aging dog while I put together estimates and work on marketing plans. Cooking and watching netflix with my parents has been fun (while it is hilarious, I don't recommend Identity Thief as a family movie). And a mix-and-match crew of SCAD alumni barhopping through Brooklyn reminded me that I'm twenty freaking two, with few responsibilities, and I better stop worrying. We'll all get there eventually.
PS: No apologies on the TSwift title.
I've taken pictures of my family before: snapshots, group photos, even documenting a wedding, but I had never really created portraits of most of them. With some expired medium format Portra film and my uncle's Mamiya, I decided to try that on my dad's family's annual lake trip. We've been spending a weekend together every year since I was born, and all my memories of these trips look like my mom's old photographs. The digital snapshots I've taken since picking up a camera just never held the same feeling for me. I'm not sure if it was the lack of sleep while I struggled all night, or the personal connection and circumstances, but I got pretty emotional while printing them. Despite just one roll of film to get it right and a camera that I struggle with technically, I couldn't be happier with these 10 portraits.
Favorite trip ever, most delayed blog post ever (I'm aware this means I need to travel more and blog better). But here's some photos.
Oh, and Jack is one of the coolest friends ever for going and helping me find subway trains and picking amazing restaurants and taking a cool picture of me.