By Paulo Whitaker
The last time I took pictures in one of Brazil’s favelas my luck was very different. That was in Rio de Janeiro in 2010, when I was covering a police invasion of the Alemão slum. A bullet perforated the windshield and hit me in the shoulder as I sat transmitting pictures in the backseat of a taxi. Fortunately, I recovered quickly.
By contrast, this time I shot a feature story about a gardener cum architect in São Paulo’s second-largest slum, Paraisopolis. Although Estevão Silva da Conceição’s creation draws an immediate comparison to one by Spanish Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, he had never heard of Gaudi nor seen any photos of his work before building his own home here.
Estevão built his house that mirrors parts of Gaudi’s famous Park Guell in Barcelona, without dreaming that someone else so far away had his same style, a century earlier.
The Casa de Pedra – House of Stone – is built of stone but with the walls decorated with every kind of imaginable discarded object from plates, cups, statues, bicycles, and pieces of ceramic, to old telephones. I found ashtrays from hotels in Brazil and around the world, mugs of regional festivals, and antique toys.
What I found especially curious were some security cameras in the entrance to the house. I asked him if it was a dangerous place and if he had been robbed. He answered, “We have all kind of people living in the slums, but these cameras here are all fake, just decorative.”