Prior to the start of the World Cup, I had the good fortune to travel, over the past year and a half, to all twelve cities that hosted football games.
It took all of about one minute on the first trip in December 2012 to realize Brazil was one of the world’s special places.
I landed in São Paulo and was mesmerized by the look from the air of a city dominated by an endless sea of high-rise buildings.
Coming from New York I thought there couldn’t be a place as impressive as the Big Apple, but São Paulo has a wow factor.
From Recife to Fortaleza to Belo Horizonte to Salvador, each city in Brazil is so different from the others. A city like Brasília, with its stark Oscar Niemeyer architecture, has an intensely different feel than the beach cities up and down the East Coast and from an inland city like Belo Horizonte. Even the beach cities all have their own distinct vibe.
My trips to Brazil were done as pre-World Cup and Olympics planning sessions for Reuters when I was a global sports pictures editor there, and I jumped at the chance to return to produce a travel series for Flipboard about six cities hosting World Cup games, documenting it all on a Lumia mobile phone.
Relying exclusively on the phone to photograph the stories was a change from using professional cameras and lenses, but what I most enjoyed about it was not standing out.
The bigger the camera, the more likely people will notice you, make sure they walk around you, stop before walking through a scene you are shooting, or simply do what they can to avoid being photographed.
On this trip no one ever really noticed I was taking their picture.
The World Cup comes and goes in a month, but everything I tried to document will be there long after.
Brazil has clearly stolen my heart. I am drawn endlessly to the beaches of Rio, not at all as a place to swim but as a place to experience life and document it.
Anyone who knows me will tell you I am the furthest thing there is from being a morning person, but when in Rio I never missed the chance to be on a beach at sunrise. It is almost impossible to come up with the right words to describe the daily light show on Copacabana, but photos capture the hues of light that change every day.
You never know what color sunrise will be, nor can you ever predict what people you will encounter on the beach each morning: joggers, walkers, swimmers, sleepers, tourists and even a prostitute servicing a customer out in the open.
Life in its fullest sense is witnessed.
* * *
Gary Hershorn began his photography career in 1979 with United Press Canada in Toronto. In 1985 he transferred to Reuters, starting as Chief Photographer, Canada and then moved to Washington D.C. as a senior photographer in 1990. In 2000, he took over the helm of the picture department’s Americas division and in 2011 he became the global sports pictures editor. He currently works out of New York as a freelance photographer and photo editor.