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[Flavio da Silva and his brother Mario on the boardwalk during their first trip outside the favela, Rio de Janeiro]

Date 1961
Location Rio de Janeiro Brazil
Dimensions Image (Paper): 10 5/8 x 10 7/16 in. (27 x 26.5 cm)
Print medium Photo-Gelatin silver

April 7
This was the day I had promised the trip to Copacabana Beach. When I arrived this morning at 7, Flavio and Mario were already waiting at the entrance to the favela, waving and jumping excitedly. They had made no attempt to dress up so the dirt from the day before still covered their bodies. Excepting for soiled, tattered pants, they were naked. I started to suggest their tidying up a bit but their eagerness had got the better of me. They scrambled into the back seat and pleaded for us to go on. As we drove through the valley of gleaming white buildings Mario's hand closed tightly about that of Flavio's and the two of them sat close together, wide-eyed and silent, in the center of the car seat-looking.
Suddenly the whole of the vast, curving waterfront and the thronged beach came into view. The car drove slowly along it.
"Look, look, look," Mario cried. Hundreds of multicolored umbrellas cast pools of shade over the long strip of blinding white sand. Children of the same ages as Flavio and Mario ran about, eating, laughing, playing leapfrog, and flying large colored kites.
"Flav," Mario said, turning to his brother, "is this here all the time?"
"Yes, yes, yes of course," Flavio practically shouted.
At first the two were afraid to move about out on the wide, exposed serpentine walks and the expanse of sand beyond. They were just feeling bold enough to move off to the water when a jet liner roared over from behind the buildings. The boys ducked and cringed. After the din died away they joined hands and warily approached the water. The first time a wave broke against the beach they screamed and ran. But within minutes they were skipping joyfully and unafraid in the foamy surf.
Later they walked along, gasping at the elaborately dressed windows of Rio's expensive stores. I bought them food but they were too excited to eat it. When finally it was time to go they begged for one last ride along the waterfront. So we turned and circled and Flavio and Mario sat silently as we swept past the vision of the beach and sea.
Gordon Parks, "Photographer's Diary of a Visit in a Dark World," LIFE, June 16, 1961, pp. 96, 98


© Gordon Parks
For reproduction please contact Gordon Parks Foundation, a division of the Meserve-Kunhardt Foundation

Credit line

The LIFE Magazine Collection, 2005

Feedback Accession No. 1617.2005