Vila Mimosa - Rio de Janeiro - Brazil
Project info

Work developed with Pedro Farina & Marcelo Carrera

Video about this project :

Vila Mimosa is the oldest and most famous district of prostitution in Rio de Janeiro, it shelters in its houses around 1000 women that charge US$ 12 for a 15-minute service and it has been like that in the last 105 years.

The project called "Meninas da Vila" (Girls of Vila Mimosa, the secret postcard of Rio de Janeiro) began from the curiosity about this centennial district and from the need to know a little bit bother who these women are, what they feel, how they deal with the feeling of 'guilt', 'shame', 'fear ' and how they interact with their families and the predominant Christian morality.

After two years and a lot of visits, we found out that we have much more similarities with those women than we imagined at first. Our goal wasn't to judge them, but to portray these women. The look in their eyes, the emptiness, their fear, the abuse, the marks, the values and the local code of ethics. So it's a documentary work that will continue to, where we enter in the intimate life of these women, such as in the life of the pimps and of the customers.

We worked with "Environmental Portraits". In technical terms, only natural light, that means we used almost no light, because the rooms are tiny, just having most of times, a dim lamp, a window or a crack in the roof as a light source. With this, we noticed that this condition of the dim light gave us the possibility to highlight the colors and textures on the walls, as well as in many cases it contributed to hide faces, leveraging shadows, or even offering aggressive frameworks, translating unquestionably the reality we saw in in each session.

Lots of people asked us about the purpose of our project, others inquire what's the new thing we were bringing this time with it. They even asked about what would be the kind of the perversions that motivate us. We believe that the answer goes beyond the Photograph experience, because what really interests us are the people there and the documentation about that acid environment, rarely known out of those blocks, scarcely promoted to the public that don't frequent that place.

Therefor, we propose a reflection on ethics, values, human and women's rights, government neglect and hypocrisy, seeking to establish some communication between this universe often "swept under the rug" and this other one of which we make part, generating information, because ignorance is the mother of every kind of prejudice.

We consider it essential to point that the "girls" knew about our project and agreed with the Photos: the method was always explain the reasons of the work, pay the program of 15 Minutes and in this interval, in a dark and dirty room, taking pictures to portray the experience and these humans.

We witnessed drug use, as well as the action of local groups that sell security and services the rules of the Vila. Many times, we made photographs with film, using the medium format, but always with a big motivation to photograph.

We can say that this experience has affected us deeply, bringing us a whole new perspective and this encourage us a lot; it is the revelation of a new world, of new rules, new characters, although many of themlive in the sex industry, they don't reduced themselves to its practice.

We're not moved by any kind of sadism or perversion: we feel developing an sociological experiment in under all relevant aspects. Every Photo is of his work a person, which as you and me, crave for happiness. Maybe you're not interested in to know that there is a district in Rio de Janeiro, with more than 100 years, considered the largest knowing heterosexual prostitution zone of in the world, where circa 1000 women work 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. Maybe you don't like the resulting photos of our work... but our project was made for you to not deny that it doesn't exist, or who knows in the future, that it existed.

A Story (Mayara)

Mayara Santos is black, pretty, is 18 years old and works in Vila Mimosa for eight month. She was born in São Gonçalo - Rio de Janeiro, where she still lives until today. She loves her city, but has bad childhood memories. Her protestant mother forced her to do the daily household chores, suffering physical assaults and humiliations. She keeps few good conversations with her father in mind. "He was more comprehensible. He was gay. But the truth was that they didn't care about me."

Her parents broke up when she was five years old. From age seven to ten, she was raped repeatedly by her mother's husband, Carlinhos. She never told this to her mother, but run away to her grandmother's house, who used to give her affection and candies. Mrs. Lúcia was Spiritist and Mayara became interested into that religion. Curious, with thirteen, she received a "pass" of Candomblé (a religious ritual, in which is performed an 'energizing' movement with the hands). She fell in love with Rafael since the first time she saw him.

"When I first saw this strong guy, I knew it would happen right away". And it really did. Mayara, a thirteen year-old- girl, and Rafael, a eighteen- years -old man, had sex in a van. They fell in love and got married. They stayed for four years together. Working, having sex and sleeping. And cheating. The last year of marriage was a sham. "I knew, or at least I suspected that he was cheating on me and I accepted it. But it was really painful, when he told me that face to face. So I started to betray him, too."

Now it's making 10 month that Rafael left her with a three month old son, to stay with a girlfriend they had in the same street. Thereafter, Mayara starts to work in the Vila. It wasn't her first time. At age twelve, she had already worked there with a friend. Hated it from the first time and never returned until now. Currently, she is dating her manager, a woman. She is very disgusted with men, hates her work and wants to get out of this life to start working as a cleaner. Her son calls her girlfriend "Daddy."

Marcelo Carrera & Pedro Farina