Photographers' Blog

The silent drummers

By Nacho Doce

A photograph may be deaf and mute, but it speaks through the interpretation and feelings of each viewer. We might say that feelings are among the few things not yet globalized in the 21st Century.

SLIDESHOW: MUSIC OF SILENCE

For the second time I found myself doing a story on handicapped children in Brazil, but this time deaf musicians were very different from blind ballerinas. What I found truly gratifying about the ballerinas was what they achieved deserved fame. Well after finishing that story, they performed in the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Paralympics. This time we decided to do a story on a music school for deaf children, only to find out after that they are invited to play Brazil’s National Anthem on their drums in the opening ceremony of the upcoming 2014 World Cup.

As the ballerinas always had their eyes closed it made it easier to portray them as blind, but with the deaf musicians it was more difficult. The majority of them don’t use a hearing aid which would have served as an obvious reference, and my pictures don’t have sound. I discovered their peculiar reason for not wearing the aid, especially those over 14 years old; they were ashamed to wear them on the street for aesthetic reasons, something I realized was natural at that age.

One day during a music class, I asked permission to take a portrait of a student named Joao Pedro dos Santos Teixeira. When they finished their class on the patio I was taken into a classroom where the wall was covered with posters showing the different sign language letters. Joao came in and I asked him, through an interpreter, to tell me what he feels when he plays the drum. He went straight to the blackboard, and drew a musical score, and then took a seat on a bongo. That portrait became the story-teller for me.

After having heard them practicing on the school patio with all their strength and joy, I was moved on the day of the concert when I read the name of their group, “Music of Silence,” embroidered on their uniforms. I could feel that name deep in my heart, knowing that although they couldn’t hear they could feel the music through the vibrations of their bongos.

Blind swans

By Nacho Doce

The sensations of those who can’t see or hear you.

When I learned of the dance school I knew it was for the visually deficient. But when I arrived I found myself with many who also couldn’t hear or speak.

It was one of the most difficult assignments I’ve ever had. I had to learn quickly the steps of their rehearsals so as not to get in the way of their dancing. They surprised me with steps and jumps in which I feared tripping and injuring them. One of the instructors was also nervous with my position, and although I soon understood their movements I knew they could change at any time. That could have been tragic for them.

What most impressed me was seeing how a deaf-mute dancer helped a blind one, and vice versa. They helped each other by holding hands to learn classic ballet together, with extraordinary simplicity and beauty. Simplicity describes the way they behaved together, and their young age made an even deeper impact on me.