[slidepress gallery=’andrewsullivan-sambadabahia’]

Hover over the image for navigation and full screen controls

Andrew Sullivan

Samba Da Bahia

play this essay


After a friend, who lives in Rio de Janeiro, hired me to photograph her wedding last September, I decided to take five days after the celebration to begin a project before returning to the U.S. Choosing a subject to photograph in a country as large and overwhelming to the senses as Brazil humbled my planning abilities. As Tom Jobim, composer of “The Girl From Ipanema,” once said, “Brazil is not for beginners.”

I had good luck with an earlier story about Harlem Jazz, and found the links between music, culture and history to be great subject matter to photograph. Then as I saw the connections between the musical genres that the African diaspora carried to different parts of the world, samba beckoned me to Bahia, where I chose to try to photograph that musics inspiration.

As fishermen work on the beach, the icon of a Candomble god stands by their overturned boats. Sugarcane arrives at a market. A street cleaner steps through smoke drifting into his backyard. A young woman waits alone. And into the night, a crowd gathers outside a samba bar to look, to search.

As much as jazz can be identified with Harlem, samba can be seen as a metaphor for daily life in the city of Salvador. Its origins and symbolism reflect the history of the region, as the songs honor the labor and loves of the descendants of African slaves while also blending the influences of indigenous Brazilians and their Portuguese conquerors.

I hope to return to Bahia to continue work on this unpublished project. I also want to thank Randy Roberts of Cana Brava Records and writer Ben Paris. The two expatriate Americans living in Salvador provided me with friendship and generous support while I put frenzied demands on their time during the week that I visited. Without their help I would have been in trouble. Muito obrigado, meus amigos.



I am a reformed newspaper photographer living just outside New York City in Connecticut. I graduated from American University in Washington, DC with a degree in literature and a minor in journalism. After a year of writing and photographing for a small paper in South Carolina, I decided to specialize in photography.

After a workshop with James Nachtwey, I worked for Associated Press in New Hampshire. I attended the Eddie Adams Workshop and moved to Connecticut, where I photographed for over 10 years at The Stamford Advocate.

A major turning point in my career came after attending David Alan Harvey’s loft workshop in 2007. His advice? Quit the newspaper. I’ve been freelance for over a year and see many opportunities for the future.


Related links

Andrew Sullivan


Editor’s Note: Please only one comment per person under this essay.. Further discussions should take place under Dialogue..

Many thanks… david alan harvey

36 thoughts on “andrew sullivan – samba da bahia”

  1. I adore #5 and #10

    Great stuff Andrew.

    You have a wonderful sense of graphics and colour. Awesome stuff on your site.
    Good luck with your new career, you’re a brave guy and an ispiration to young photographers to just go for it.

    I hope you get a chance to continue this project.

  2. I think your strongest work is when you shoot things like #5 and #11. #5 especially is a stolen moment which is also intimate, love it. And then #11 is that cool thing you do with color, its all about the color.

  3. Andrew, I was born in Venezuela and grew up traveling all around south america. Salvador has indeed a different light, different colors, different smells…. And let me tell you, last time I visited Salvador de Bahía was 5 minutes ago, watching your pictures.

    Simply congratulations!!

  4. Great! Strong, vibrant work! Hard to go wrong though with such a topic! The colours are awesome and I’m really looking forward to seeing more!
    Good luck with it!

  5. Wow, when I asked this morning why there were so little work celebrating the photographic stance you have followed all your life, david, I had no idea my wish would be answered so fast…. :-)))

    I am wondering if anyone is going to pooh-pooh this one.

    Andrew, what a trip, and only a preview. Really inspiring… Thanks!

  6. Maravilhoso!
    Oh…I simply LOVE these images! These are the sort of images that inspired an entire generation in photography (including me) to take up the camera at the first place…like that of DAH on Cuba! I can’t ever get bored looking at them…and these are the sort of images that I always dream of capturing…

    Bravo amigo Andrew!!!

  7. BEAUTIFUL images…
    great color…
    I would definitely encourage
    multi media…
    to hear the music…
    your photos by themselves,
    are strong
    and have a song of their own…

  8. Great work! #5 is fantastic; so is #8 (great lighting IMHO).

    The photographs remind me of some of David’s and Alex Webb’s earlier work. Hope to see more soon!

  9. All this in five days: congratulations Andrew; hope to see more.

    Best wishes,


  10. Andrew you are off to a wonderful start here. Only five days of shooting and some really nice work.
    #5 is killer. We have seen this image already…where? Must have been on burn? Unforgettable.

    Get back down there asap and show us more. Great job!

  11. Nice! You can feel a soul in these photos. It’s not easy to master composition, color, and catching the moment. It’s definitely obvious that Andrew has a good sense of space and movement. I like 2 because of the arched tree cutting the frame and the very dark silhouette at right contrasted against the neon green swim trunks at left. I like 3 because of the blue/touquise, but there’s something that just doesn’t quite work….? 5 is great, again the way the frame is cut into 4ths, with the two girls glancing in opposite directions. I like 6….Spanish colonial architecture in background, sugar cane, exhausted worker…tells a bit about history in one photo..The colors in 11 are wonderful.

    great stuff…

  12. Hi Andrew, looks like you’re having fun with your work. You’re really finding your groove. Keep exploring and listening to the beat. By any chance have you seen work by Bill Allard? (winknod)

  13. Wonderful! Andrew, as always I love your color…and the mood in these is just right. Can’t wait to see when you have more for this one!


  14. Full of life, energy and, of course, color. Andrew, I sure am glad you listened to DAHH and left the newspaper world. You bring the eye and heart of an improvisational musician to your work and you need to be free to go wherever it takes you. And I love going along with you. This essay sings its own song. Looking forward to more…


  15. Your sense of graphic colour is really appealing – I really like the intimacy of 10 and the vibrancy of 8. And I’m really with Wendy – mixing these images with a sound track would be incredible… Well done!

  16. Nice stuff andrew.
    Colour works really well on these. And you use it well. Nice look. I get the feeling that ive seen some of the shots before, but not in any hackneyed way. odd how the last shot changes the vibe a bit darker though. reason??


  17. I love seeing everything that comes from you Andrew..even though I am familiar with a lot of your work I never tire of seeing it. I see this work as part of a book or something wider, and I celebrate, and learn from, how you are in it for the long haul. Shoot on, brother!

    (You are getting out of here unscathed..that in itself is an art form!)

  18. andrew sullivan

    Thanks everybody for the feedback so far. I guess I have to buy a plane ticket and try to finish this story!

    Cathy and John Gladdy- Last October or November I put an edit of this work up on my site and asked the Road Trips crew for feedback. Maybe that’s where you saw the images. This edit was my EPF entry minus one picture that I should have cut from the original entry.

    And John, here’s a few thoughts about the last shot. After 10 years photographing in suburban Connecticut, I started a major transformation not only in my life, but also in my work, from the preconceived notions of what a “good” picture is to something more interpretive and looser (cheers to Panos!). Even though I’d often get into the “why do we have to be literal?” argument at the newspaper, I didn’t realize how far I still needed to push to take pictures that didn’t necessarily answer every question. And maybe it’s better to strive for more mystery in our pictures anyway.

    The image in question was one of the final pictures from my time in Salvador. During the five days there, I was finding my way with the subject matter and sketching out what I hoped to say about it. The photo of the man walking through the smoke in his backyard was a turning point. It made me think of the mysticism that flows through samba culture and how that informs and colors daily life there. Gods and spirits walk the streets there, and I often heard talk of orishas, the Candomble deities. I wanted to capture some of that spirituality, and not all of it is pure benevolence. Google Exu to learn more. It’s fascinating.

    Also, the history of samba is fraught with pain, suffering and exploitation. It was born out of rebellion and was once enjoyed only in enclaves. I think the story would be less interesting and less accurate without the darker vibe.

    And if I get the chance to continue with this material, these ideas will hopefully be more well formed. Thanks for asking the question.

  19. frank Michael


    Beautifully photographed. I really enjoyed it and hope to see more like this posted on Burn. Others have said it and I was thinking the same thing as I watched the sideshow, very DAHesque. Very well done and congratulations.


  20. Andrew,

    I enjoy your works very much…. feel music and beautiful color.
    Hope to see more of this…

  21. Really wonderful stuff. Brazil’s always been a place I wanted to visit, but couldn’t get to. Your images looked exactly as I hoped it would…

  22. Carrie Roseman

    Love. Love! Majestic, colorful, alive. Found myself (or rather heard myself) going “HMMMMMMMMM” many times while viewing this. Yes, that’s a happy noise of approval. #7 might be my favorite, followed closely by 6 and 5. Hard to pick from so much brilliance. Bravo!!

  23. Colorful, genuine capture of Salvador’s soul. I am impressed with your work. Keep on going!

  24. Oi Andrew! Parabéns!

    This is a beautiful set of images of the brazilian culture! As a brazilian myself i haven’t been to that part of the country yet but you’ve done a great job. looking forward to seen more of that when you come back!!

    well done!!

  25. Pingback: Andrew Sullivan; Samba da Bahia | Travel In Mintue – Travel News – Looking For Tour – Trip Around The World

Comments are closed.