I was walking into the restroom at Passeio Público park when I crossed paths with a kid in a black leather studded jacket. His 8-inch mohawk, band patches, and military boots gave me immediate indications of his punk affiliation. Seeing him reminded me of my 15-year-old self, and I was instantly transported back to an era of gutter punks, safety-pinned jackets, and rebellious attitudes.
As I exited the restroom I saw him and his girlfriend having a conversation with a homeless man. Instinctually, I knew I needed to take photos of them, but at times it’s hard for me to find the courage to approach strangers. I had a different relationship with my artistic practice back in Los Angeles, which now seems a bit sterile and disconnected. I would generally stay within my comfort zones and primarily shoot in a studio space where I could be in control of all the elements. Unconsciously over time, I started to lack spontaneity and passion. My instincts dwindled as I felt the monotony of life starting to dampen my senses. Living in a large metropolis my entire adult life taught me a lot of modern survival skills. But I also allowed other people’s projections to etch indelible marks onto my subconscious.
Traveling long-term has taught me a lot about my identity, as I am trying to redefine this psychologically threaded needle. Now when I think about asking strangers to take photos of them; I know I ultimately have nothing to lose, but everything to gain from the energetic exchange. By letting my guard down, a portal can now exist between worlds. I now can recognize the potentially missed connection if I don’t allow myself to be vulnerable.
Saying, “yes” to situations where one has the opportunity to learn and grow can only lead to positive results. Even the seemingly smallest decisions are significant, as it further encourages one to create new patterns resulting in changed habits.
After a minute passed, I turned around and found the courage to approach them. To my surprise, their energy was extremely positive. They both lit up at my interest in taking photos of them. I too felt the magic at the moment.
A few days later we met back at the same park. As we began to find a rhythm, they told me how they met a few months back at Largo da Ordem (aka the Historic Center of Curitiba), which is next to the Cavalo Babao fountain. Apparently, this is a place where younger people in Curitiba meet to hang out, drink, party, hook up, etc. Germain was trying to find the words in English to translate what Cavalo Babao meant. After a brief moment of repetitive hand gestures and awkward expressions, he eventually said, “it’s like the spit that drops down from your mouth.” I responded, “oh you mean like drooling?” Germain, “yes that’s what it’s called, the Drooling Horse Statue!”
As I was documenting them rolling joints, Germain turned to me and said, “do you know what a pasteleiro is?” I had no idea what that word meant as I only speak English and a little bit of Spanish, so I asked him what it meant. He smiled as Melanie started to chuckle in the background, “it’s a shittily rolled joint like this one that I just rolled.” He smirked and began to light it up, as I snapped pictures of them in this intimate exchange.
We parted ways after taking photos at the park. A few hours later they invited me out to Bec Bar, which is only a 3-minute walk from my apartment. They welcomed me into their gang of misfits and I bought them all 40 oz Damas. Not my personal choice. It was the beer they requested, which didn’t taste too bad to me. It was certainly much better than a Mickey’s 40, something that I used to drink a lot of in my youth. They also introduced me to Corote, which is what I imagine a carbonated Mad Dog 20/20 would taste like, although I’ve never tried it before.
What I noticed is that behind their tough exteriors resides a very sweet and welcoming energy. In fact, I’ve been experiencing that a lot among the people in Curitiba. The vibration has been high and I’ve felt that throughout my entire stay here.
As we continued to drink in the streets, they educated me on the punk scene in Curitiba. That night there was a punk show that most of them were going to go to, but since it cost R$25 reals ($4.77 US) some of them didn’t want to go. They told me sometimes the club owners would charge for entry in order to keep the crowds down. I wanted to go with them, but I decided to head back to my apartment to process the images and to write about the exchange.
You always seem to find the positive in people, that is a beautiful gift. Your article inspires myself to be more outgoing and take more chances, so thank you! =)