Vida Difícil by Claudia Andujar

Born in Switzerland in 1931, Claudia Andujar migrated to the United States after the war in 1947, aged 16 and moved to Brazil in 1955. Initially, she worked as an English teacher, a job which allowed her to travel across the country. During her travels, she met anthropologist Darcy Ribeiro (who would later become a politicians and government minister) and found her calling in photographing and advocating for the indigenous people

She did a photo project on the Carajás tribe in 1958, and but she was not able to get them publish it locally in Brazilian magazines O Cruzeiro and Manchete, which were conservative and nationalist and did not like her portrayal of the poor, neglected indigenous communities. It was finally published by LIFE. In the 1960s, she began working for magazines Quatro Rodas, Claudia, and Realidade, and also did assignments for LIFE and Look. As a freelancer, she worked for Realidade between 1966 and 1971.

She recalled her time there and how she came about to do Vida Difícil, a report on prostitution in Sao Paulo.

I was known for taking on assignments, well, reports, that were hard to access. No, I’m not talking about because of the distance, but, for example, I don’t know. […] Prostitution, yes. Actually, the idea to cover prostitution came from the magazine, but they always assigned me to things that were a bit out of the ordinary. And I was always very happy about that!

The magazine took on the responsibility of allowing photographers enough time to create a beautiful essay, often working separately from the reporter responsible for the written content. That was precisely how I loved to work.

The photo essay opened with the interior shot of a brothel, and the subsequent pages were detailed character shots, showing the human side of the prostitutes, many of whom were from marginalized and indigenous backgrounds. One image shows a prostitute on her bed, hugging her child. Andujar said she was welcomed into the brothel and she stayed there for several days, witnessing the women’s daily lives and only retreating into background when clients arrived.

The essay was published in Realidade nº 28 (July 1968) and was swiftly denouced as immoral for portraying prostitutes. Realidade, established in 1966, was launched for social advocacy and was often controversial. It often got into trouble with the powerful Catholic Church, and one issue (another photoessay by Andujar on midwives which had photos of a baby being born, a first in a Brazilian publication) was called insolent and censored in subsequent re-printers. Finally in December 1968, when the military regime cracked down on the free press, Realidade was one of its early victims. The magazine folded in 1976.

Andujar continued to work on social change after the closure of the magazine, photographing of the Yanomami Indians who fought for their rights, the efforts which paid off in 1992 with the establishment of the Yanomami National Park.

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14 thoughts on “Vida Difícil by Claudia Andujar

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