Cidade da Garoa: The Adventures of an Italian in São Paulo
Luca Meola moved to Brazil for his girlfriend, and ended up doing a project about how people live, love, and die in the streets of São Paulo.
Born in Milan, has a degree in Sociology. Moved to Bolivia where he worked with a human rights organization. Is an author of long-term projects on Senegalese wrestling, transsexuality, myotonic dystrophy. Since the end of 2014 has lived in Brazil where he started a project called Cidade da Garoa. Published his works in LensCulture, P3, Privatephotoreview, iGNANT, and Q Code Magazine. Received prizes from IPA — International Photo Awards, MIFA — Moscow International Photo Awards, Street Photography Awards.
I met a Brazilian girl in Italy and I decided to move to São Paulo for a time to stay with her, with the idea of staying in Brazil for about 6 months. I did not have a lot of work and I had a lot of free time. I began to discover this megalopolis walking and taking pictures, and after a while I had the wish to build a more structured project.
São Paulo is the largest and most populous city in the Southern Hemisphere. The majority of its 20 million inhabitants point out that commuting, safety, and weather are the main problems of the city. Because of the weather, São Paulo is also known as the Cidade da Garoa, or Drizzle City.
São Paulo is perceived as a very dangerous place. Safety issues are linked to a very unequal society: some people live in the streets, others fly their personal helicopters.
In order to live happily in this megalopolis, a person should work and find a partner in the same neighborhood where they live. For this reason, some areas of the historical center of the city that once had a bad reputation now are going to be repopulated, especially by commuters from the emerging middle class, tired of spending most of the day on public transportation.
I have been most inspired by Bruce Davidson and his photos of the New York City subway out of all the street photographers I know. In the preface to his book, Davidson explained that he got up early in the morning and exercised before diving into the subway. He was doing this because for him it was an unknown and dangerous place, the same as São Paulo was for me — so I started exercising, too.
Sometimes I come back with something interesting, sometimes with nothing, and on rare occasions with a great picture. But such is street photography: you never know what will happen, even though São Paulo for me was a beautiful stage where amazing things were happening every day.
I felt very free taking pictures in the street, like a fisherman who cast a hook and does not know what it will bring out. When I took the pictures, my only worry and rule was to traverse a different district of the city every day.
I met many couples kissing in public spaces, especially on the subway. I always interpreted these kisses and exchanges of affection as an act of resistance and resilience to the difficulty of living in such a hard context. And so metropolitan kisses became the main through line of my project.
São Paulo is the economic capital of Brazil, a cosmopolitan and very dynamic city. It is very different from the cliché of Brazil that we have: bronzed bodies, beaches and icy caipirinhas.
In the beginning, I didn’t like this city. It seemed gigantic, monstrous and chaotic. Through this project I learned to know and appreciate it. It’s still gigantic, monstrous and chaotic, but now it it has also become my second home. And in the end, I’m very happy to be here.
This city is crazy and awesome by day and probably it will be even more by night.
Cidade da Garoa is an ongoing project. I can not say when it will end.
I love photographing in the street and I think I will do this until the last day I’m here.