Children of the Favela


Top row (left to right): Checkers girl, boy, Isabella; Middle row (left to right): children with kite, Isabella, kids, Bottom row (left to right): drinking girl, table soccer, and soccer boys. Photo by Dominique Elie

Adults with the Body of Children

By Dominique Elie

In Rio de Janeiro, I spent my time with children of the favela, both on the streets and at the community center Espaço Criança Esperança created by Viva Rio serving the Cantagalo/ Pavaõ/ Pavaõzinho favela. These images gather up cultural icons that I feel define Rio; the graffiti, the favela, the fishing docks, the botequim, the Catholicism, Corcovado, the street beggars, and the newsstand—all part of my everyday surroundings. The children I photographed all belong to the lower class, most of them living in the nearby favela. The exception here is the one girl that comes out repeatedly in my photos: Isabella; the daughter of my host family’s maid. However, all of these children share a similar particularity in their character. To me they all seemed like adults trapped within the bodies of children. They were extremely open to being photographed and even directed me more than I did them at times. They all possessed maturity and a lack of innocence that’s common in children from their backgrounds. They took to me easily; a complete stranger with an intimidating machine in my hands at all times. I think the first photo I took, the one of the girl drinking from the sink, is a perfect example of this; she looks straight at the camera after knowing me for only twenty minutes and reveals so much about herself with a single stare.

Dominique Elie is a sophomore History and Literature concentrator in the North America and Latin America department. She received a DRCLAS internship grant to work with the NGO Viva Rio this past summer located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.