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  • Writer's pictureCarl van der linde


Updated: Jan 20, 2019

An afternoon in Rio De Janeiro captured in Black and White

I left an expensive, yet comfortable and well located hostel in Ipanema called Mango Tree and exiting the cool interior of the Uber, I stepped out in Central Rio and entered Books hostel. I had to leave Mango Tree as the rates in Ipanema for dorms were much to expensive for my lean travelers budget. The heat is inescapable and clammy humidity clings to your skins like babies to their mothers. I was early and check-in time seemed to be pretty flexible as I heard the receptionist / friendly local traveller say I can settle in around 2pm-ish. I dropped my bags under the stairs, locked my valuables in a extravagantly painted school style locker and as any traveller would do, I sat in the common area outside on my phone to see what happens next.

Books is somewhat notorious for having a great reputation amongst travelers, both online and by word of mouth, with very rare instances of bad reviews. The hostel staff are very close-knit and inclusive, the owner is a restless beast always looking to show someone a great time time and travelers keep extending their stay, vowing to leave after just one more night. It wasn’t long before the grapevine spoke and her words were clear: “One of the staff members is having a pool party for his birthday, wanna come?”. I had some admin to do regarding fixing my camera, having film developed and looking for a replacement camera to take some snaps while my Nikon is at the doctor.

I took down the address and said I would meet the crowd from the hostel there. I found tucked away gems of film camera sales stores and a professional lab hidden high up in skyscrapers, as if they were trying not to be found. The photo lab had one camera for sale, a Mekai EL, which I have never seen before. After some research I found that the camera was produced by a Japanese company in the 60’s and was sold as a toy camera in toy and hobby stores. It has three aperture settings indicated by small icons for cloudy / flash sync, sunny, and very bright indicated for some reason by a small scribble of a sail boat. The camera feels a bit scrappily put together compared to it’s more superior Olympus Trip 35.

Nonetheless, I got back to the hostel after my frenzied run around central Rio and caught a lift with some people from the hostel. We were on our way to Copacabana and I wasn’t expecting anything more than a couple of beers and a Brazilian Barbecue for birthday celebrations. Upon entering the apartment, a multi-level stroll revealed a strikingly encompassing view of Copacabana, with beaches and favelas peering out from the panoramic scenery. The sun was scorching and what better place to celebrate this magnificent day out in Rio than in a pool with a pair of sunnies and what seemed to be an endless supply of beer. I was skeptical at first when coming to Rio, thinking that I would get stuck in a routine of only going to the beach and seeing standard sites, but I was blown away by the pure euphoria of having my mind blown from all corners of the planet.

I decided to load some Kentmere 400 black and white film into the camera. I believed that this would be a good test for the camera with relatively lower risk of images looking shit after potential under / over exposures. Before coming to Rio I also decided that shooting in B & W that my images would be more authentic and inline with the true feeling of Rio, an image morphed in my head mostly by popular culture such as City of God and Brazilian funk music. Brazil is sweat dripping, breakbeat funk pounding, asses shaking and bodies swinging. Beers spraying, sun burning, strait from the bottle drinking, skin showing and lime cutting can also be expected on any day of the week. The city has an enigmatic allure with an energized beat and intoxicating rhythm to what it moves.

The next day I travelled with my thermo aggravated hangover to the photo lab, not expecting more than a few blurry duds and some nice photos of the view. The result, on the contrary, were grainy black and white images capturing the moment so uniquely and authentically that after assessing the photos, I would not have wished for any other camera to take accompany me to this solar flare of an event.

All photos were taken by me and are left unedited.

Shot on a Mekai EL

Photographs by Carl van der Linde

Story by Carl van der Linde

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