The Architecture of Cities: Oscar Niemeyer in Rio

Niteroi Contemporary Museum by Oscar Niemeyer.

I landed In Rio one afternoon: My dreams became my photographs: My photographs reflect my imagination: Dream with me. If you have ever heard of Brazil most likely the sounds of the Amazon forest, the musical timbre that might be Rio de Janeiro might have come to mind.

There is a well-founded mystique about Rio de Janeiro: It is exotic.

Rio may not adjoin the Amazon rainforest: But you might imagine hearing the dissonant sounds of the black panther: the vocal warbling from the white throated toucan: the solitary hiss of the green anaconda: The thirteen-hundred fowls: And more inexhaustible gatherings of nature’s wonders waiting to never be discovered: Two and a half million miles tickle our fancy, trigger our imaginations.

The sounds of the rainforest live in the streets: There is the darkness of the streets that seem to live  in bright lights: There are nightmares and adventures that fly about: Music is not merely a sound in Rio: Music is bound to the way movement is seen: Ten million or more move to an unconscious rhythm: You merely have to trust the music that moves a nation: It belongs to them and nowhere else.

There is a rage that consumes me: What may I miss in life makes me feel as if a firestorm tears through my neurowaves: To miss opportunities in my photography frightens me. It is as if the civility of my mind wanes: I don’t fear death I fear the missed opportunities, the missed moments that my camera needs to see before I can no longer see. I  dream within the rage daily.

When you live in a city the camera contemplates the perceptible nuances of architecture: When you travel to a city, one tends to conquer too much too fast: I had intended to capture in one frame Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro architectural past and present. I considered my almost half century of making pictures and realized just maybe it was a good idea to imagine Rio’s architecture as a pas de deux: a dance between what the camera sees and what the light shares: The entire idea of Rio seemed to reveal itself as a kaleidoscopic projection. My eyes circled the Brazilian universe as if I was “The Little Prince”: Every glimpse of what was new to my eyes was significant: Then the helicopter landed.

Movies have influenced the way I see for my entire career: It seems only appropriate that the idea of helicopter allowed my mind to trace my dreams back to Apocalypse Now: For a few seconds I could be at the frontlines of battle and break for a “smoke” and surfing waves.

Outside the Niemeyer Copacabana Home.

But this transportation organized by the Mayor of Rio was to fly me a few tours  around “Christ the Redeemer”: the notorious favela City of God: and across to the development of architect Christian Portzamparc’s Music Center: The Atlantic Ocean in front of the famed Copacabana:

If you could imagine this child inside of me screaming “Zoom, please zoom”, then you will know how excited I was to fly as if I was at war and a bounty of a million dreams coming together to celebrate  Neil Armstrong’s “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.

The rest of day was left for me to navigate tomorrow: Four stops: Three buildings and one man.

Oscar Niemeyer Casa das Canoas.

The Niteroi Contemporary Museum: Oscar Niemeyer: His Copacabana home and his Casa das Canoas.

I hear one word from my mind the next morning: “Run”.

Is there an innocence in me? I travel to foreign destinations: Photograph what might be historically memorable: challenge my own perceptions of what a photograph can be and what the world’s perceptions are.

So I begin, so I begin to capture:

The soft morning light in Niteori is letting me know I have minutes to make something that measures up: The afternoon will be nearing twilight when I will arrive as Das Canoas:

There is an in between: the architect Oscar Niemeyer will be waiting for me.

I could write an entire essay about  this little man who thrilled a universe of architects: He  left behind a legacy that such fabulous architects like Zaha Hadid and Ma Yasong have wrapped their heads around it. He was one of the century’s great artists.: He greeted me with open hands, I felt  embraced, not me, but my heart.

My camera has spoken to a century of voices: a century of art and architecture. To this day I think that I was compelled, almost an essential quotient of my dreams to meet Oscar Niemeyer: The architecture may remain, but the person will vanish.

Niteroi Contemporary Museum by Oscar Niemeyer.

Richard Schulman is a photographer and writer. His books include Portraits of the New Architecture and Oxymoron & Pleonasmus. He lives in New York City.