São Paulo

São Paulo, originally uploaded by Aaron Michael Brown.

I took so many photos in New York in black and white, and why not? Winter in The City means short days, lots of artificial lighting, washed out condescent-lit faces, and shooting black and white (especially with contrasty settings and high iso) helps photos take on that gritty, blunt, stiff aura about The City that I wrote about a few days ago. New York in January, not unlike in many other months, is the product of an almost entirely man-managed environment forced to deal with extreme temperature, unpredictable weather, and even snowfall, all of which are natural features that mankind is only starting to learn to manipulate and to which we are largely at the fate of mother nature. While residents of New Orleans and other sites of natural disasters can justifiably claim that there is a spatial, social logic as to who takes on the blunt of environmental hardship, we have obviously not found a way to prevent the environment from figuratively/literally raining on our parades and adversely impacting ourselves, especially those of us in cities, the places that are seemingly the farthest removed from nature in the first place. But I digress. Even on the crisp, sunny days we enjoyed during my stay in The City, I found that shooting in color didn't represent the way the Brooklyn Bridge, the 1 line Subway or the South Bronx and the people who inhabit these spaces defiantly built, shaped and reshaped their environment. The 125th St Subway station in New York is such a testament to audacity; who dreamed up building such a large lattus of steel to move the subway above the smaller valley? Similiarly, the efforts to pull the South Bronx out of disinvestment and urban blight are best viewed through black and white; the racial disparity of urban society are still clearly demarcated, but the film exposes all the shades of grey that exist only when you look for them.

And yet, after a ten hour sleepless flight and waking up in São Paulo, all I see is color, color, color. The different colors of skin on the streets, where race is also heavily contested yet constructed in so many unique ways, the colors of the absurdly potent caipirinhas and other drinks at The City's voracious bars, the vibrant colors of the sunset that sneaks through endless lines of towers, the colors of the delicious mangoes I am graciously fed by my host family with every meal, the colors of graffiti and murals on every wall that, not unlike New York's own citizen initiatives, hint at an underground meritocracy where anyone with creativity and drive can have a lasting impact on the built environment, or even the figurative colors of portuguese, a language that is as much about expression and emotion as it is about grammar, where the innovative pronounciations of the letters C, J, and D keep the language bouncy and keep me on my heels as I navigate a country and language in which I'm inescapibly, entirely immersed.

But perhaps most prominent are the colors of a warm, southern hemisphere summer and an oppressively hot sun that watches my every move and oddly sets in the North. Things have been cold for a while. If you look at this blog, I've been posting my favorite photos since December, almost entirely in black and white, photos that look great on a bleak, black background that tried to convey that blurry-eyed bon-homie from late night hotcakes and coffee back in Portland. But in so many ways, I'm not there any more. There are just too many colors in São Paulo to rely on those quiet nights for entertainment, to dwell on the harsh, dark urban landscape, and above all, to shoot in black and white.

In other news, I definitely scored the email address of an attractive brazilian girl at a bar last night. As they say in Brasil, Tudo Bem.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Haha.. despite the eloquent language and blog style of writing you have apparently picked up from all those essays you wrote in school, I knew there had to be an aaron(2) brown somewhere in there. The last line proved it. Congradulations, though I cant imagine how that conversation went down, especially if she spoke Portuguese. Perhaps you will find some international love via the world wide web. Good Luck buddy. Hope you're having fun.