Excursion 3: Recycling & camera as extension of the eye

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

We have our next excursion today back to Av do Contorno and the recycling plant. We made it precisely to that point yesterday, walked a block and then turned around because Pilar’s leg & back were hurting and we were both tired after walking around and shopping. This one particular street of Contorno is very intense. There are a number of recycling centers for paper, etc.. Tucked in between these is a little cafeteria, more like a hangout spot with lots of people singing and laughing, many seemed young. Both Pilar and I were very curious, and I’m sure such wide eyed foreigners caught the attention of the people nearest the door. Pilar and I talked yesterday about the unequal power dynamic and our place of privilege in coming here and studying and photographing people with less resources and agency and also the fine line between bringing attention to the issues these people are facing and the exploitation of their image.  Inevitably we carry these thoughts with us on our excursions along the Contorno and as we walk around the city in general.

11AM – 2:10PM
Excursion 3: Recycling and camera as extension of the eye

After a false start yesterday, filled with other adventures that kept us away from Av do Contorno, we are back today. We give ourselves directives NOT to stop in any stores along the way and to conserve our energy for the planned excursion so we take the shortest route to Av de Contorno, Rua Dos Tamoios, which takes us right back to where we left off last time. Pilar asks if I’ve decided what I will shoot with today and at that point I’m still not sure.

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We approach the same triangle with a number of beds lined up with the trees along one side of the triangle. One man seems to be sleeping there but all of the other beds are empty. We walk slowly and discuss the possibilities for interviewing the people who live in these public spaces, Pilar takes a few photos.

We continue below the overpass towards the recycling centers, where we quickly run into Marcos, the man we talked with the last time we were there. Pilar starts recording audio and another girl comes to join in the conversation. When it seems they are really interested in talking with us, I ask if it’s ok to film. There’s another man on the sidelines, who says something but Marcos waves him away. I only have a general sense of what he’s saying but try to be attentive and roughly imagine what the camera lens is recording. I will skip outlining the details of this section as most of it is documented in some form or another in the video and I will continue to write about the internal experience. Generally, I felt better with the gopro filming process, after my discussion with Pilar the other day regarding my “existential crisis” about filming. I film today with the camera in the palm of my hand on an improvised wrist band that is knotted closer to the base of the enclosure.

We spend what feels like quite a bit of time talking with them. Another girl comes by with a baby and talks to us. She tells us she doesn’t have any more diapers for the baby and we walk with her to the pharmacy to buy them. Pilar carries the baby to the store. Diapers, like most other things here, are really expensive. She says she’s not living in the street now but she used to. We return to the recycling center and the first girl is eating her lunch, and she offers us some, which is very sweet. She feeds some to the baby. They pass the small child around from one person to the next and everyone is very comfortable and caring.

After a while things seem to the winding down, we don’t have specific questions and people are distracted with other things. We ask Marcus if he’d show us around the centers, he tells us to wait and talks with some of the workers, but they don’t seem very amenable, so we head on our way.

The next street has a completely different feeling to it, it’s empty and clean, and from what I remember is back to being mostly parking garages. The previous block with the recycling centers seems to be its own world, a hub for the recyclers who otherwise move throughout the city collecting recycling and delivering it here. There’s another recycling center on the corner which feels like more of a processing center than a delivery point. The inside is full of recyclables but there are no people hanging out and no carts like at the other ones, only one man who seems to be working inside.

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We continue on our way and stop into a store selling various construction safety equipment. I look for some of the yellow and black stripped caution tape that I’ve been seeing everywhere.  Pilar hangs out with the guy at the door.


We pass by a hospital and wonder if this is where our friend Ali works. I notice some construction on the side of the hospital; a bucket pulled up by a rope which I try to film until some paramedics wheel a patient out of the hospital and into an ambulance on a gurney.

There are a number of hand painted signs and now with less people around I experiment dancing with the camera, moving it the way my eyes engage to take in the space. I’m not sure what the visual results will be like but I’m having fun playing with the camera, which definitely feels like a step in the right direction. There’s a big building with signs for an indoor skate park and across Contorno there are a number of large buildings that seems to house party places for children. We pass a large petrol station and a number of motels on the next street with amusing painted signs including horses and hearts. As we approach another overpass, we sense that this is another natural breaking point, which in fact lines up with the larger grid of the city.

This pedestrian overpass has a number of people walking on in both directions and a long line of people underneath it waiting for something. We stop on a bench there to rest and take look at the map. A woman asks if we’re lost and after talking with her for a while and telling her where we have to go, she says its a long walk and suggests that we take the metro (the station being across the overpass.) She explains that all of these people are waiting for military inscription, which is required for men at 18 in Brazil.

A few photos from the way back, after we’re done with the Contorno for the day…

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Back at the studio now, transcoding footage. I’m very curious to see how it turned out. I was feeling uncertain about what I’d do or use today and made the decision to leave the point & shoot home but otherwise be ready for anything…and I actually ended up using everything at least once: 2 photos with the t3i, recorded audio & used the h3+ without the harness, and then shot a few still photos with the iPhone.
Later that evening, I assist Steffania on an interview for her project.  It’s nice to be able to focus on shooting while listening to the flow of the conversation and starting to get a feel for the Portuguese.  I’m the way home, one of the men who works at the front desk of our building asks where we’re from, and more specifically if Steffania is Italian and if I’m Chinese?  This is not the first time this has happened, but that’s a story for another time.

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