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Noah Addis

Sempre Jardim Edite

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The Jardim Edite favela, located at the foot of the landmark Estaiada bridge in an affluent section of Sao Paulo, Brazil, was once home to more than  550 families.  Most are gone now, as the government of Sao Paulo has forced them to leave their homes to make room for a new development.

Many of the residents of Jardim Edite came from the countryside, many from poor rural communities in the North, seeking opportunity in the bright lights of the city. They built their homes first out of scrap wood and cardboard and whatever else they could find, but over the years some of the homes have grown into reinforced concrete structures with running water and electricity.

The neighborhood was home to several bars and restaurants, a barber shop and beauty salon, a bicycle repair shop and several other businesses. Other residents supported their families working for businesses outside the favela, many worked long hours collecting recyclables to take to a nearby sorting facility.

City officials have long wanted to remove the ramshackle homes that make up Jardim Edite to build a modern housing development. In September of 2008, a court order sealed the fate of this tight-knit community when a state tribunal judge said the project could go forward and the occupants should be evicted.

An architectural drawing, posted in the window of a nearby building used as a base for the social workers, demolition crews and others hired by the government to work on the project, shows eight new buildings with a park in the center. Government officials declined repeated requests for interviews about the specifics of the planned development project or a proposed time frame for its construction.

Some residents, those who were previously registered with the city as official occupants of the favela, are eligible for rent subsidies or cash payouts if they leave their homes.  But these payouts are often not sufficient to find suitable housing , so many families end up moving to other favelas.  Meanwhile, the neighborhood, where some have lived for more than 30 years, is slowly being demolished.

This story will be part of a larger project focusing on life in the world’s urban squatter communities. While much is written about the crime and poverty endemic to squatter settlements, the realities of everyday life are often lost in the headlines. Many squatters are hard-working citizens who, through lack of education or poor job opportunities, are forced to work in low-paying jobs and do not earn enough to rent or purchase a legal home. The vast majority are not criminals and are merely looking for a safe place to live. As one squatter living under high-tension power lines in a favela in Sao Paulo told me, “my dream is to have a legal address”.


Noah Addis is a freelance photojournalist based in Philadelphia, PA. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Drexel University in Philadelphia with a degree in Photography in 1997. He worked as a staff photographer for the Star-Ledger newspaper in Newark, NJ from 1997 through the end of 2008.

He has covered such stories as the growth of Christianity in Africa and the war in Iraq. Noah has won numerous regional and national awards including the New Jersey Photographer of the Year award three times. In 2001 he was the runner-up in the portfolio category of the National Press Photographer’s Association Best of Photojournalism contest and he has won General News and Feature awards in the Pictures of the Year International contest. His work has been shown in galleries in New York and Philadelphia.


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Editor’s note:

Please only one comment per person under this essay.. Further discussions should take place under Dialogue..

Many thanks… david alan harvey

33 thoughts on “noah addis – sempre jardim edite”

  1. Hi Noah.

    Really interesting work. I also like the way you see and frame these images.

    Had a look through your web site , just wish it wasn’t so slow, seemingly taken a drag to wait for each image to come up. Which is unfortunate as I think many people might not have the patience and miss out on some nice interesting images.

    Keep up this depth of photographing.


  2. i think the essay flows really well and illustrates the text almost directly in places… one thought i had is that the population seem rather numb.. perhaps this is the reality of the experience they are going through.. lots of blank faces and dull resignation – i wonder if there is more emotion to be seen?
    anger maybe.. confrontation..

    land issues and regeneration seem to be everywhere at the moment – in the u.k. to far flung places, and i think it’s an important issue to think about, given rising populations and rural urban migration still on the up.

  3. Nice work, Noah, I think it’s a story worth telling and you’ve told the story well.

    The thing for me is that there does seem to be alot of documentary work that all ends up feeling very similar and I think I need more than this to actually grab me and wake me up to what’s happening.
    It can all blur into one tragedy of another human crisis and it’s easy to feel that it’s so familiar that you stop paying attention. Another homeless family, another starving or abused child etc.

    I know I might be sounding hard but i think i need to be faced with pictures that pull me in and make me look deeper because they are so beautiful or unusual….and i’d like that they still leave questions to be asked, that there are still things to be explored and discovered.
    You’re obviously a very accomplished photographer but it’s possible that your essay is too literal for me if that makes sense?

  4. I seem to agree with Vicky regarding the fact “that there does seem to be a lot of documentary work that all ends up feeling very similar”. From what I read in your project description, you want to communicate the daily lives of these people and the fact that self sustained micro economies exist in the favelas. To begin, do you know Jonas Bendikson’s project “The Places We Live”? His photos seemed to convey this notion that despite the drugs, the violence, the disease…on and on, life does go on in such communities. Your focus on this favela in Sao Paula also draws parallels to Dharavi in Mumbai, where the government and private investors want to construct new buildings that will occupy the current site of the slums. I saw a wonderful documentary about Dharavi a couple months ago that really pushed the notion that despite the hardships, most of the townspeople are very happy and do not want to leave even if the government were to provide them with modern high rise apartments. I know you cannot directly compare the favelas in Brasil to the slums in India, but some parallels can be made.

    Going back to your essay, I really think combining video with the photos would make this story more interesting and stronger. The photos are nice, but perhaps movement and sound would bring us in closer to the lives of these people.

    Why did you choose to photograph in b/w instead of color? I would prefer to see the warm colors and soft hues of these places.

  5. Noah! :))

    congratulations on having the story published at burn. It’s strong, and thoughtful work and i too think the first image is a knock out….and in one sense, i never got past the mystery and the heart-ache of the opening shot…and, i’m not certain why, i thought this was going to be a story on war….(i always look at the pictures 2 times before reading author statements, including my own ;)) )….so, strangely, i was expecting some kind of hypnotic, loss-journey of death and savagery….the carnage of pakistan/afghanistan or the rife and vanquished amid the rubble of haiti…that is the power and the ambiguity of that first photograph….from there, it settled into something i’d been prepared to see, having seen work on favela’s (check out my friend carlos Cazalis’ work on Sao P)….

    I also, had wanted to mention Jonas’ extraordinary book (one of my favorites of 2008) The Places We live, too, thought see David’s beat me to the punch: necessary reading:


    Jonas’ has an extraodinary gift to combine both the squalor and the inhuman living circumstances with the real and honest strength AND joy with which people still live there, amid the detritus and polution. In other words, Jonas doesn’t separate ‘us’ from ‘them’ by making the families and children objects of misery or poverty (which they are) but simply people, struggling with the same, essential needs that all families struggle with: happiness and shelter and expectations and hopes for children. By refusing to discard these families and children as merely objects of misery, Jonas more strongly unites the viewers with the families, by seeing the connections we share and by extension the enormous gap: housing, wealth, food, environmental dangers, etc…..that book should be necessary viewing by all who wish to photograph and tell the stories of families living in impoverished conditions, particularly the impoverished conditions of the urban global sprawl…..

    All that said, you have an extraordinary and powerful eye for detail and for conveying moment and emotion and metaphor with visual tools: shadow and reflection, cutting up the frame with lots of contradictory information and lines and planes. this is the kind of visual sensitivity that i personally crave but also i think alows the viewer to become more bound and bonded with the subject matter. how does one continue to photograph poverty and malnourishment and squalor and still make it humane and still sensitize the audience enough for both them to care and to care about these people so that the story sticks in their crawl and maybe they see anew? I think you accomplish that through not only powerful visual story telling (which you do) but also harnessing their voices (if possible) and also the full range of emotions: including laughter and joy and sorry and moments of the life that doesnt look like a favella….i’ve had some students who have come from both the favella’s of Rio and Sao P and you know the remarkable thing: they had the same vibrancy and joy for living as the rich kids i’ve taught from brazil too…..that is what we also need to see…

    the issue of b/w vs. color, for me, is a non-issue: i see what ever the author sees. You have a beautiful and sensitive feeling for shadow and light and it’s relationship to each other…and when B/W is done right (as it is here), the question of ‘color’ never comes up…it is as hypnotic and as real (in the power of both its convictions and what it conveys) as jonas’ great colors…..while the colors in brazil are undeniable, this story for me is about the ‘interiors’ here and that works magnificently in your beautiful photographs….

    I look forward to seeing more of your work with this topic Noah…..

    powerful, heart-felt, compelling, rich photogrpahy….

    now, give me that laughter in the dark too :))))


  6. Noah

    Congratulations on your appearance here, and on your project. Good stuff, good project, important work.

    I especially love #4, the sleeping child. This is a beautiful, tender, poignant photograph, and, as a parent, brings a lump to my throat for all it says about the innocence and vulnerability of young children.
    This is why we make photogrpaphs.

  7. I think this series is excellent — very technically accomplished, engaged, and humane. I would like to see, however, less of the classic photojournalism and more Noah’s personal vision. It’s obviously informed by classic photojournalism, but it doesn’t have to be dominated by it. The final shot of the boy’s head, foreground center, with the wide expanse behind him has been used so many times as to be a cliche. It’s obviously not a Noah Addis photo, which would be more interesting. The same might be said of #12 (little girl on left) and #15 (Che Guevara / Mickey Mouse). They don’t advance the narrative.

    But I am sounding too negative. I admire the photos that are both intimate and formal, beautifully composed moments of human interaction.

  8. Hey man … nice work … looks great. The last image I could go without, just because that composition has been done too many times before, myself included, but otherwise I am impressed.

  9. I think everyone is struggling with a fresh way to tell these same old stories. We want to see something different. A way of showing old stories in a fresh light. Something that will shake us all up a bit. I don’t know what the way to do that is anymore than you do but its what i think people here are repeatedly hoping for.

    I like the way you’ve chosen your topics. People say its literal but when they are less literal, they somehow seem pointless. The pictures in those attempts to be less literal show us nothing new, and don’t live up to the statements.

    For this particular project, I personally would have preferred to see more of the slum buildings and practically nothing about the people. I don’t know if that would have achieved your intentions any better but i found it was what I wanted to see in looking at this series. Your statement was so good, i don’t care about reading the captions. though of course it specifies the suffering. I just thought them unnecessary but i guess if you’d done that that most viewers here would complain that you were too distant and so on. The thing is that that is exactly why your pictures look like all photojournalism. I appreciate that its a personal choice. I’m also bored with black and white. It makes all the essays look the same.

    Of course you know what you are doing with a camera.

  10. Thanks for all of the kind words and helpful constructive criticism!

    I first became interested in the issues of urban migration, squatter communities and unplanned urban growth during a trip to Nigeria in 1999 for an unrelated assignment. I could never find the time or support to start my project while I was working at my staff newspaper job, but once I left I knew I needed to start the project I had thought of for years.

    This story represents a very small part of the work I’ve done in Brazil so far and I’m planning visits to many other countries for what will be a very long-term project.

    To those who have questioned the choice of B&W, so have I. In fact a few weeks ago I made some color prints on a whim and I decided I actually prefer them. Since college I have always done my documentary projects in B&W. A few years ago I started experimenting with color large-format work with an 8×10 camera. For a while I was stuck between these two very different bodies of work. I think I’m finally working it out and even though as I was shooting this story I planned to present it in B&W, I think some part of me was thinking about color and now that I’ve printed the work I prefer the color. This project will proceed in color.

    I’d like to get away from purely literal photojournalism (and the requisite cliches, which after years of working at a newspaper I still admit to falling prey to in a while) without losing the integrity and honesty of documentary work. Lately I find myself shooting more architecture and urban landscapes and focusing on how people interact with their environments.

    I plan to update my site with new work, as well as this work in color, in the near future. In addition, I plan to make a dedicated website for this project with my photos as well as other stories, data, resources, etc. If anyone’s still paying attention, I’ll post links here once I’m done.

    Additionally, if anyone is close to Portland, Maine, I’m having an exhibition of this work at the Salt Center for Documentary Studies from 5 March-7 May with a reception on 5 March from 5-8PM.

  11. I am sometimes divided by photographs of war, disease, poverty, etc. Not with these. They do not appear intrusive to me, just observant, involved and truthful; also alert to all the elements that make an excellent photograph, and therefore beautiful. Bravo.

  12. Noah – Outstanding essay. It tells a strong story and, I find, makes a good case for combining words and photos.

    Like Bob, the first time that I looked at it, I did not read anything – not story, not captions. I just went through to get the essence of the photographs. I thought “these are truly excellent,” but I also felt some of the same feelings expressed by Vicki and others, a thought that so many photographers are delving into misery and creating images of hardship and suffering that after awhile they all begin to feel the same and cease to provoke outrage and the desire to do something about it but rather cause one to say, “oh well. It’s how the world is. Nothing I can do about it.”

    I went back, read the text, then viewed the photos again and read the captions. This time, I found it completely compelling and that sense of fatigue was not there.

    No offense to David, but I strongly disagree with the idea that you should blend video in with this. I realize that some in the population cannot be reached without video, but I do not think that is a good reason to do it, anymore than it is a good reason to publish books that have only words in them.

    The still photograph carries its own impact and carries a certain kind of strength and power that video does not. Video can sap the strength away from the photograph. In general, I much prefer to let my eyes dwell upon a photo for however long they want.

    I am also certain that there is more happiness and joy in the people than you show here (although you did get some of it) and I think that if we saw more of this happiness and moments of joy, we might feel even more empathy to their being forced to move. I don’t at all like the idea of you shooting the story without people, to focus instead on buildings. That would be a good project for Andrea, perhaps, but not for you. You got just enough of those kind of pictures to give the context that was needed.

    Isn’t modern photo technology great? You have the choice to shoot in color, convert it to black and white and then go back to color at your whim.

    Congratulations on putting together an outstanding essay and getting it published in Burn. I hope it will do some good for the people of the favela, but I wouldn’t count on it.

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  14. Noah, congratulations on being published here. Your photos have an easy kind of intimacy with your subjects that I really appreciate. Unlike some here my broadband is obviously excelling itself this morning – I had to slow the show down to let the images do their work. I hear the voices that say b/w documentary shots like these are becoming formulaic – yes maybe… and so I look forward to your use of colour. I would be very interested to see how the warmth and tone touch my felt sense of the subject. All the best!

  15. Good.

    But! What about “to leave their homes to make room for a new development.”? I don’t see this new development clearly anywhere except 18 where a house gets demolished. You mention certain things in your text and captions that makes me curious… “Court order”, “architectural drawing”, “government”. I can clearly see those things as important to the story, so I think it should be included. I want to see those people who are in charge of the city or at least the place where they work. Maybe a closed door where they wouldn’t let you in, if that’s the case.

    I noticed repititions of mirrors+reflections, maybe too many, although I think they are all strong (always a fancy effect). 09 is probably my favourite. That’s an example where the caption adds something useful for me, it’s not too obvious in the photograph that she is having an argument, she could be telling a story of whatever, but when I read the caption it makes me look at here differently. The way she holds her hands. Dramatic body language. Great picture.

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  18. i really felt like i was ‘in’ this essay. i could smell the smells and hear the sounds. i was ‘there’. this is obviously a result of some very fine images and i think the captions helped to transport me.
    yes, some cliched images in this piece but they don’t do a lot to hinder it i think.
    a few people have mentioned that there needs to be a new, fresh way of seeing and displaying these type of documentary pieces. i am eager to see HOW they think this should be done. if they are going to say this, i think at least they should share some of their own ideas!!

  19. Thanks for sharing Noah. I think the world will be turning it’s eye increasingly to Brazil with the Olympics coming their way, as well as their leadership role in global climate change talks.

    I think you’ve got some great photographs here, and am glad to hear you are continuing in color. I felt a bit tired after looking through 24 images, and color could really help to tell the story. I also think the edit needs to be a bit tighter, mixed up a bit more maybe, but overall, it looses it’s power several times. I love the reflective moments here, but maybe a few too many??? I really want to see what these people do for celebrations and the more societal interactions. Everyone feels so disconnected here, and maybe that is how it really is. However, if that is true, I think there might be better ways to show it. I’m dying to see a wide angle shot from up high, I really don’t have an idea of where I am in relation to the rest of the city/landscape.

    Looking back, a few notes on the edit. My favorite shots here are very front-loaded in this edit. The community shots really bring me in, but are cut off halfway through. #14 with the baby is absolutely stunning, and I instantly get more involved in the story. However, after that shot, I see the same thing a few times, and get tired pretty quick. I am so glad you are seeing this as a work in progress, because I feel there is a lot of interesting content we’re not seeing just yet. Please keep us updated!

  20. Jonathan
    “a few people have mentioned that there needs to be a new, fresh way of seeing and displaying these type of documentary pieces. i am eager to see HOW they think this should be done. if they are going to say this, i think at least they should share some of their own ideas!!”

    Are we not supposed to give our thoughts on anything unless we have solutions?

    Here’s a link to an essay by a chap called Lung Lui that i really enjoyed…i’m not holding it up as some perfect example but it really grabbed me ..


  21. I should have mentioned that this is a work in progress. I’ve been back to shoot more since I submitted this work to Burn. The neighborhood is gone now, but I will continue to monitor the situation to see what, in fact, is built on the land that was Jardim Edite.

    I appreciate the comments that point out that there are not enough upbeat images and those that show the spirit of the community. I agree with that criticism and will be going through my early work to re-edit and try to pull out more of those kinds of images. One of the main weaknesses of this story is that I started too late. When I first visited in March 2009, the demolitions were just starting. I went to what was the last real street party held in the favela. These parties were common in better times, but they stopped once the demolitions started. While I saw the mood of the place shift dramatically between, say, March and April of 2009, even in March it had already become a more somber place than I’m sure it was before. Even on my first visit I could tell some of the spirit of the place had been taken away.

    In any event, as I continue to work on the larger project in other communities, I will keep the advice in mind.

    I do have some wider views as well as aerial views of the community…they either didn’t make my edit or Burn’s edit. But in any event I think they are helpful.

    Thanks again for all of the kind words and advice!

  22. Being a da Silva myself this really hits home, especially after seeing Madeira Island lose over 40 people in the mudslide. My paternal grandfather was born in Sao Paulo…he went to Madeira Island for a better life. He then met & married my grandmother who was born in Madeira, and together in the late 1950’s they emmigrated to Canada. The very reasons my grandfather wanted to leave are clearly outlined in this photo essay. This really tugs at my heart. I always wonder how many of those da Silva’s are directly related to me.


  23. great job, some pictures are really amazing. I particularly like the outdoor shots, whereas most of the indoors are a little flat lightwise. Altogether, a very nice collection of images on the life of a favela and its residents.

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