No Olho da Rua (In the Eye of the Street)
In 1995, artists Julian Germain, Patricia Azevedo and Murilo Godoy began working on No Olho da Rua (In the Eye of the Street) in the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte. Their objective was to put cameras into the hands of street children, young people living chaotic lives on the margins of society who had rarely, if ever, been photographed or made pictures themselves. They envisioned not a regimented, overly supervised process, but to grant them the freedom to independently make their own pictures, of anything they wanted, where and when they chose. Fifty young people were given the most basic plastic point and shoot cameras and shown how to use them. From the outset they not only enjoyed enormous pleasure from photography, but also produced astonishing images. As a result, the project has continued ever since, albeit on a sporadic and occasional basis, depending on availability of resources.
Since 1995, a unique photographic archive, consisting of approximately 15,000 35mm colour negatives as well as some audio recordings, interviews, writing and video, has accumulated. Since those 25 years, the ‘meninos de rua’, the streetkids, some who were already teenage parents, have moved in different directions. Some have achieved a more stable life, but several are missing, others incarcerated and many died from illness, injury or violence. 15 of the original group, now in their 40’s (some of them now grandparents), still live on the harsh same streets where they originally met.
No Olho da Rua is not in a position to offer participants social assistance but it has provided them with a photographic record of their lives, memories of their kids, friends and themselves, providing a fuller, more tangible sense of identity and value. While they can’t take this to the bank, it’s bankable for someone used to being ignored or avoided, who has been made to feel invisible.
One would hope that the number of homeless people in Brazil would have declined since the project began, but, in fact, the numbers have almost doubled, with similar rises in the UK and many other countries. Globally, we are seeing substantial increases in cross border economic migration as well as mass movements of refugees fleeing persecution, conflict and draught. The world is facing unprecedented numbers of marginalised people living precarious lives, meaning that sadly, No Olho da Rua is still a rough road.
A series of limited edition zines is available from Morel Books.