I have been working as photographer for many years around the world. I was born in Rome, but I live in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, where I work as freelance for European and Brazilian media, both as journalist and photographer. In these last years I have started working also as video maker for some European TV channels.

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Rocinha Chic

Rio de Janeiro - “Sometime, when I see people walking in the Rocinha’s streets, I feel to be in a fashion parade”, says Zé Luiz da Conceição Silva, the founder of “Dream Models”, the first fashion school for models based in the Rocinha, one of the biggest slum in Rio de Janeiro. The fashion models school exists more than one decade and Zé Luiz teaches for young women, men and children how to change the poverty and the violence of the slum with the world of fashion.
“Dreams are not a fantasy, they might happen”, says Zé Luiz concerning the dream of many young people that wants to become a model. The Rocinha’s fashion school it is a way for the young people of the slum to see the life in a different way. Rafaela Lima Gabriel Ferreira is 19 years old. She is one of 35 fashion students who frequents every Saturday at 9 AM the amazing and friendly lessons of Zé Luiz. Ferreira works during the week in a kindergarten in the slum, but at night studies at the high school. She wants to go to the university: “I don’t know what I will do yet, but I love fashion and I like to draw dresses. Maybe I would frequent an academy of art”, says Ferreira. She has a veteran of Rocinha fashion courses, this is the second year for her. She lives with her parents in a typical house on top of the huge quarter located in the beatiful “morro” (mount) called Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro: “I like Rocinha and I do not know if I want to live in another place. Everybody know one another”, says. She is very shy, but she loves to walk in a fashion parade: “I feel very tense before entering, but when I am walking among many people looking at me, I feel myself very exiting”, says. Ferreira has already participated at some fashions parades. She is very motivated on fashion career. She likes to draw dress in her room, when the television set is on. She lives very close to the forest to the tropical forest bordering the shanty town. “I love to stay on my home’s terrace. From here I frequently see monkeys, toucans, so many beards, but unfortunately snakes as well”, says Ferreira.
Ricardo Mesquita Matias lives in the Rocinha as well. His building is at the bottom of the hill. She is 17 years old and he is one of few boys that frequent the fashion course. He lives with his mother and sister. He used to act too and wants to go to the university, may be advertising or gymnastic courses, but he did not decide yet. But he loves fashion. He is one of the Zé Luiz’s models more requested: “He is my best model – says Luiz – he is already participated to many important fashion parades in Rio de Janeiro”. Ricardo loves music and frequently plays guitar. He has so much success with the girls of the quarter. She loves her sister and mother: “She is a wonderful woman”, says Ricardo about her mother.
Rafaela, Ricardo and other young people of the Dream Model’s course have already known the pleasure to walk on a fashion stage. Some of Dream Models’ have had a good carrier and they left Brazil: “ Priscila Le Gentil lives in Europe now. She was photographed by Vogue Italy and USA”, says the founder of the Rocinha’s fashion school. The fashion teacher used to work without any contract with their models, but now he will change it: “Some of my students have started a carrier thanks to my teaching, but they did not remind me when they became famous. Now I need a contract with the new models that intend to follow a professional carrier”, says Zé Luiz.
Zé Luiz is an idealistic man. He used to work with fashion since when his mother, a dress maker, used to make dresses for important “carioca” (inhabitants of Rio de Janeiro) people. Zé at the beginning of his carrier frequented a fashion course in Rio and he used to work in some important fashion shops, but: “I have learnt observing the life, the reality. I constantly study and keep myself updated on fashion, but intuition is my best strength”, says. He was about to go to Milan, but his mother dead and he had to stay in Rio de Janeiro. “I still have this dream and one day I will do it”, says Luiz. Zé believe in destiny, but he says that everybody make our own destiny. Zé gets his force from the spirituality. He organized in 1990 the first fashion parade during an event in the Rocinha shanty town: “The show in itself was a disaster, but the fashion parade was a great success. It was the first time that a fashion stage was set up in a slum”, tells Zé Luiz. In 1991 he has started the first fashion course in Rio de Janeiro. “Some people when look at the course’s girls say they have nothing to do with models, but this is the most important aspect of my concept of Fashion Community. – affirms the pioneer of Rocinha’s fashion and adds – I work with the Ego of these young people. If they even will not turn in real models, their work has a great value because make them to get over their inferiority complex to be a slum’s inhabitants”, says Zé Luiz, “some of the students’s parents come to thank me, because their sons have changed so much after frequenting the course, because they became more self confident and proud of themselves”. To Zé Luis, fashion cannot be separated from social condition. “Making fashion in a slum is very peculiar. It is something different. It is a hard life, where everything is against you. We have to change and transform the advertises to our favor. The fashion course is a way for many young people to retake the life in different way and see others possibilities in their life. If I can avoid young people to go to the crime, to me, this is a great result, this thanks to the fashion too”, explains Zé Luiz. He says Ego must be worked without illusion. “A model is a seller, he has to show dresses to people interested to buy, that’s it”, says Zé.
Most of the young students of the models school are not blonde and they do not look like the stereotype of Giselle Bunchen model, but they are beautiful and exotic. Their simplicity behavior join with the fashion techniques learnt during the course. They assume a new distinguished behavior. They learn quickly and they use right way the information taught by Zé Luiz: “Some of my students have got a job as steward thanks to the fashion techniques learnt. They know how to move themselves by grace”, says.
Zé Luiz is looking for a supporter in order to enlarge his course. “We need a seat - affirms Silva - our courses are held on Saturday because it is a day off for most of the people, but it is the only day of the week when the public school building is closed and available for the fashion lessons”, says Zé Luiz. The dream of the leader of the Fashion community is to set up a center of fashion in the big slum. He was born in the Rocinha, as their students. The course join people of different condition, it is not an Ngo, but a dream that becomes real.

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DATE: May 31, 2014