My name is Pedro Oliveira, and I am an editorial and advertising photographer out of Portland, Oregon, and Orange County California.

Even though I have lived most of my adult life in the USA, I spent my childhood living in a small town called Pedro de Toledo, part of an Amazon reserved land, in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

After several lovely years of childhood playing soccer with friends, swimming on the river, adventuring into fun fishing day trips, or hiking in the forest, I had to leave my hometown seeking academic education and longing to further my career.

After finishing my first undergrad in a tech degree and briefly working as a computer scientist for IBM in Sao Paulo, I took up a collection from close friends and made my way to the US where I learned English and ended up graduating in Communications and Advertising in Portland, Oregon.

While pursuing my academic education, I fell in love with photography and started doing it professionally after a few years of training.

As a photographer, I had won several prizes and was published in a handful of magazines, newspapers, and galleries, all thanks to another project I published, entitled “Careful: Soul Inside”. I was proud of myself after being brought up by a single mother in a 3rd world country but something was missing. 

Being born in Brazil, I never had the chance of photographing the beauties (and ugliness) of my own land. In 2016, I finally made my way back to Brazil and photographed the photo essay below, which I entitled “Ribeira: A Brazilian Tale”, named after the region I grew up.

The two-week long project was photographed in different parts of Brazil. Most of the subjects were former childhood neighbors, some others were photographed in Sao Paulo City, and a few others in Rio de Janeiro’s largest favela, Rocinha.

The images and stories are from several regions of the country, but they all come together in one sense: in spite of the poverty and political corruption that ruins and bleeds the country, Brazil is a beautiful place and its people lovely, colorful, and happy. Brazilians have a big heart and are always trying to find a reason to smile and see positivity regardless of adversity.

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Mrs. Maria waits for her husband to come back from work every afternoon, for over 30 years – the time they are together!

Mr. Manoel is the husband of Mrs. Maria. “We were never close friends, but I have known her since I was 7 years old, until when we finally noticed each other.”

Living most of his 68 years of age in the countryside, Mr. Manoel told me that this was the first time he had his picture taken by a professional photographer and was enchanted by the “high-tech”. I’m so glad and honored that I was the one pushing the button. Big shout out to my local assistant, Christian Camilo.

During my last trip to Brazil, while exploring downtown Sao Paulo, I came across Fidel and his loyal owner. “Fidel (it means “loyal” in English), is my everything. I would give my life for him.. and I’m sure he would give his life for me as well.”

“I’m famous, kid. You can take a photo of myself because I am famous.. How could I not be with a stylish hair like this?”

“Hey, hey. Let me tell you something about the energizing power of the moonstones. $15 reais later (for one of his rocks), and a long lecture about the benefits of it.”

Mrs. Isabel was the oldest person on the Valley. In spite of her old age, the 104-year-old lady was sharp as a blade and knew all the new stories of the entire neighborhood with dates and also names! Sadly, Mrs. Isabed died this year at the age of 107 years.

Dito was the son of Isabel and the person who took a good care of her until almost the end of her life. Sadly, Dito passed away one year before Mr. Isabel.

Miguel is a local banana producer, the most common form of agriculture in the Ribeira Valley.

Art seller at the Rocinha, largest Favela in Rio.

Paulo, the resident of the Rocinha, the largest Favela in Rio.

Favela da Rocinha, once the largest favela in South America, and currently the largest in Rio de Janeiro.

“The silent army” workers at a landfill. In order to provide food for their kids (which they refuse putting to work) workers collect recyclable materials for $3 dollars a day.

Worker posing next to vulture among a sea of trash.

Worker of a landfill sitting on a pile of grammar books.