By Candy Pilar Godoy, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Every year, photographers enter Rio de Janeiro’s favela communities and capture images depicting urban culture and life. Residents are showcased through filtered eyes, with professionals manipulating viewpoints. Recently, NGO (non-profit organization) Banded decided to shift the lens and change perspective, and put the camera in new hands.
Founded by two sisters in 2008, Banded was created to link curators with artists and develop exhibitions and events. After becoming heavily involved in community work their aim evolved and expanded to include children in impoverished areas.
They began to work in favelas, Rio de Janeiro’s poorest communities, to teach workshops for children. The artistic sisters’ work aims to educate, empower and connect young favela residents, as well as the public audience.
Recently, the NGO started Peeps from Within; a project designed to give favela children a voice through film and photography. The project allows viewers a glimpse into their life through their own two eyes.
“[Our] aim is to give the children a voice and to give the audience a true, live, honest view of life, the people and news from the favelas of Rio de Janeiro,” explains Banded on their website, “Straight from the horse’s mouth as it is, so no tainted media vision’s.”
Children attend a bi-weekly ten-week workshop entitled ‘Digital Depiction’. They are provided with digital cameras and given instruction on camera techniques. The course explores topics such as lighting, experimentation, and composition, and the children experiment with camera work and themes. They are encouraged to document their lives in the favela and to highlight their own personal views.
Each week, viewers can track the workshops progress and vote for their favorite photo on the Banded Facebook page. The weekly winner is published on Banded’s site and Facebook page.
“You can really see their progress and that they are really thinking about and planning these shots. They’re doing a great job! Beautiful photos!” remarked one Banded supporter.
At the end of the ten-week program, the children select their favorite photos to showcase in exhibitions in their community, Rio de Janeiro’s center and an online gallery. The ongoing project was completed in the Pereira da Silva favela community, in the South Zone of the city, and is now underway in nearby Julio Otoni community.
In conjunction with the photographs, Peeps from Within includes three-minute video shorts exploring the childrens’ perspectives of various topics, including an introduction to themselves, rubbish in Rio, and every penny counts.
“It’s a way of educating both the children and the audience,” explained another Banded supporter, “We get to see their side of the story, and they get to learn about the capacity of art.”
Besides giving audiences an inside look into a child’s vision of their community, the project awards confidence and self esteem to participating students. They garner pride in their work, their community, and in the technical skills and English language skills they acquired.
Banded’s workshops teach invaluable lessons on the power of an image, but more importantly, they teach children the power of their own voice.
To learn more about Peeps from Within, as well as other Banded projects, visit their website at www.bandedarts.co.uk.