When most people think of beaches in Rio, images of the beautiful Copacabana or a sunset in Ipanema usually come to mind. But a few miles from these icons of Brazilian landscape is an artificial salt-water lake located not far from a more prosaic beach. Julio Bittencourt (1980, São Paulo) went to visit this Piscinão de Ramos, or ‘big pool of Ramos’ several times. It is where thousands of people who live in the surrounding favelas of Rio choose to go every summer. On the busiest summer days, the shallow lake – polluted and more suited to wading and paddling than swimming – is jammed with bodies of all shapes and sizes.

The immediate vicinity of the park is surrounded by 15 different favelas, run by competing factions of drug-trafficking gangs who operate as de facto governments within those communities. Although violence still plagues many of those favelas, the park itself has been mostly free of such problems, and here, visitors can forget about the sorrows of the shantytowns and just enjoy a day at the beach.

Contrasting with the all too familiar narcissistic crowd that inhabits the more mundane beaches of Rio de Janeiro, the Ramos visitors come with a completely different set of beauty standards. More apt for a Rubens painting than a fashion magazine, the women’s succulent curves are proudly displayed, their breasts miraculously squeezed into colourful but seriously undersized bikinis. Those who go to Ramos beach are of a different sort, indeed, and so are the photographs of Julio Bittencourt.


Julio Bittencourt was featured in GUP #40 - The Brazil Issue.