In Rio de Janeiro, sports are life and life is not a spectator sport. Little playing fields steal back space from the asphalt and traffic circles, defying cars and buildings alike. They creep in amongst the steep and winding streets and are sketched into the golden sands that have made this city immortal. Rain forests and granitic cliffs are a testing ground, where distinctions of gender, race or religion cease to exist.

In sport, the differences between high and low are made level. Kids from the favelas that cling to the hillsides come down into the city, losing themselves among the upper-crust, bourgeoisie well-heeled from Ipanema and Leblon. A surfboard, a soccer ball or a skateboard is all it takes to make them indistinguishable.

Social background doesn’t matter for the players of the Flamengo basketball team portrayed in one of these pictures; meanwhile the girls from the Brazil national synchronized swimming team float over indistinguishably in the water. Sports blend favela boys in love with football, bikers rolling down the seaside and surfers resting on the beach, as those shown in these images.

—Edoardo Delille, Gabriele Galimberti


Editors’ Note: Don’t miss the work of all the other winners and finalists from the LensCulture Exposure Awards 2014. In total, you’ll find 31 visually delightful works from across the world.