Thiago Dezan is a photographer and a documentary filmmaker from the city of Cuiaba in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. Ever since the age of 16 he has traveled throughout Central and South America as part of the Fora do Eixo network, developing projects to empower collectives through alternative communication platforms. His photography and videos have been featured by Al Jazeera English, The Guardian, The Intercept and The New York Times.
This selection of photos focus on the poor and homeless people Thiago met during his time in Rio de Janeiro and various parts of Mexico. His willingness to not look away from the less attractive, less desirable things he has seen during his travels, has allowed him to immerse himself in the world of his subjects. The result is a commendable series of raw, candid and moving photos.
After holding a camera for the first time when I was a teenager, I realized that I did not need much to get through in life, trying to make a difference in the world around me. At first I thought I had found a way of expressing myself, and I did, but then the camera also became a tool for creating powerful narratives, telling stories that were not really present in the usual media discourse.
I was lucky to find that out early because since then have been traveling around pretty much non-stop searching for untold stories. I always seek to go deeper into a city or a person’s culture, always keeping myself open rather than planning too much. I want to develop an emotional connection with the subject to find out everything I possibly can, to see the picture from a human point of view.
If I have my backpack and my set of cameras then I am content, just point me in the direction of a mattress somewhere and I will be at home. After some time I started applying this kind of simplicity to my equipment, I was really tired of depending on heavy and bulky gear to get my job done, and when I changed my cameras it also changed the way I would interact with my subjects.
Nowadays I use mainly my Leica Q and an M6, and even though they are really different cameras it does not feel like it when you are shooting. They have a great range of advantages, which suit my travels and my close-up photography. They do not get in the way, they are really fast to set and shoot, they do not attract much attention, they are light and they are really strong pieces of kit.
During my time in Rio de Janeiro I shot almost exclusively with the Leica Q. I found myself drawn to the people who call themselves “miners” or “diggers” as in gold-diggers. They make a living out of going through the garbage of rich neighborhoods and collecting items to be sold at a type of flea market called a “floor mall”.
In the past 4 years a small village of homeless people has grown within the heart of Rio. As a result of the catastrophic financial crisis and ensuing political instability, this settlement has swelled considerably in size, despite the fact it is held together by nothing but cardboard and old blankets.