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While prostitution is legal in Brazil, operating a brothel is not, so all the business — bars, pool halls, laundry facilities — are all fronts for sex work.
What drew you to this story? These women seem to live in very depressing conditions, is it like that everywhere else in that area, or are their circumstances particularly poor? These are particular circumstances, some of these girls do live in depressing conditions, but others live reasonably well, with a house, a car, etc. When they allowed you to photograph them and spend time with them, what were their expectations of the pictures? Most of the time the perspective was to make good photos, but the problem was having the time and space where I could shoot.
Time is money for them, and it is not anywhere that can I point the lens. So there were rules, and these rules I had to obey severely. A lot of the time I left home imagining the possibility of making a good picture, but then ran up against these problems. What were your expectations when you started taking these pictures?
I knew I would not find it easy to shoot there, and there are still many barriers to be broken. What struck me is that a number of these women are completely naked, this is the norm in Brazil for prostitutes, or just in this area? Really, until very recently women would walk naked in the street, but this method was repressed by the neighborhood association of Vila Mimosa.
There are families living in a building that was raided. I do not know if elsewhere in Brazil they walk around naked on the street. Are these women subjected to violence? What can they do to protect themselves? Within the Vila Mimosa, protection is given by armed guards, who are aware if someone uses force or violence against some of these girls. If that happens the perpetrators have an unpleasant surprise. The rate of violence there is almost zero.