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Story Publication logo April 24, 2017

Trying for Instant Rapport

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Mahal, an orangutan who was rejected by his mother at a Colorado zoo, at the Milwaukee County Zoo. Image by Mark Hoffman for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. United States, 2017.
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Humans have a complex relationship with animals. We keep them for pets. We tame them. We eat them...

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Fabiane Lopes holds her daughter, Valentina at their home in Duque de Caxias, a suburb of Rio de Janeiro in southeastern Brazil. Valentina's mother was pregnant when she became infected with the Zika virus and her daughter was born with microcephaly—a congenital malformation with smaller than normal head size for age and sex as well as other profound birth defects. Brazil has confirmed far more malformations of the brain in babies born to mothers who were infected with Zika than any other country. After…
Fabiane Lopes holds her daughter, Valentina at their home in Duque de Caxias, a suburb of Rio de Janeiro in southeastern Brazil. Valentina's mother was pregnant when she became infected with the Zika virus and her daughter was born with microcephaly—a congenital malformation with smaller than normal head size for age and sex as well as other profound birth defects. Brazil has confirmed far more malformations of the brain in babies born to mothers who were infected with Zika than any other country. After she gave birth to Valentina, she elected to have a tubal ligation so she could no become pregnant again. Image by Mark Hoffman. Brazil, 2017.

DUQUE DE CAXIAS, BRAZIL—It can be difficult for photojournalists to parachute into someone’s life and develop instant rapport with subjects when you speak the same language and are part of the same culture.

It’s a greater challenge when you don’t speak the language, nor share a similar culture, and your subject has a life that is something you hope you will never be able to relate to.

For a project on zoonotic diseases (spread between animals and humans), I had to make photos of Fabiane Lopes with her daughter, who was born profoundly disabled after being exposed to the Zika virus in utero. Her husband abandoned her and their three children when she refused to get an abortion.

They live in a modest apartment adjacent to a workshop where simple furniture is made in a suburb of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Fabiane Lopes, tries to calm her daughter Valentima by using a toy that makes music at their home Saturday, April 8, 2017 in Duque de Caxias, a suburb of Rio de Janeiro in southeastern Brazil. Valentima's mother was pregnant when she became infected with the Zika virus and her daughter was born with microcephaly— a congenital malformation with smaller than normal head size for age and sex as well as other profound birth defects. Brazil has confirmed far more malformations of the brain in babies born to mothers who were infected with Zika than any other country. After she gave birth to Valentina, she elected to have a tubal ligation so she could no become pregnant again. Image by Mark Hoffman. Brazil, 2017.
Fabiane Lopes, tries to calm her daughter Valentima by using a toy that makes music at their home Saturday, April 8, 2017 in Duque de Caxias, a suburb of Rio de Janeiro in southeastern Brazil. Valentima's mother was pregnant when she became infected with the Zika virus and her daughter was born with microcephaly— a congenital malformation with smaller than normal head size for age and sex as well as other profound birth defects. Brazil has confirmed far more malformations of the brain in babies born to mothers who were infected with Zika than any other country. After she gave birth to Valentina, she elected to have a tubal ligation so she could no become pregnant again. Image by Mark Hoffman. Brazil, 2017.

I’ve found that people, especially children, are interested in cameras. To take some of the mystery out of them I will hand over a camera and let them make photos. Not only does this get people used to hearing and seeing a camera, it’s a great icebreaker.

Afterwards I show the subjects the images and, if possible, I later send them some images.

I’d like to think it helps create a level of trust between the subject and myself as I show I won’t portray them in a false light.

Here I helped four-year-old Julia Lopes make the attached image showing her nine-year-old sister, Eduarda, at their home.

Even though I gave up a nearly an hour of time not making photos of the mother and her child, I would argue it was time well spent because I was able to document real moments later that night.

Eduardia, 9, holds her sister Valentina at their home in Duque de Caxias, a suburb of Rio de Janeiro in southeastern Brazil. Valentina's mother was pregnant when she became infected with the Zika virus and her daughter was born with microcephaly—a congenital malformation with smaller than normal head size for age and sex as well as other profound birth defects. Brazil has confirmed far more malformations of the brain in babies born to mothers who were infected with Zika than any other country. After she gave birth to Valentina, Eduardia elected to have a tubal ligation so she could not become pregnant again. Image by Mark Hoffman. Brazil, 2017.
Eduardia, 9, holds her sister Valentina at their home in Duque de Caxias, a suburb of Rio de Janeiro in southeastern Brazil. Valentina's mother was pregnant when she became infected with the Zika virus and her daughter was born with microcephaly—a congenital malformation with smaller than normal head size for age and sex as well as other profound birth defects. Brazil has confirmed far more malformations of the brain in babies born to mothers who were infected with Zika than any other country. After she gave birth to Valentina, Eduardia elected to have a tubal ligation so she could not become pregnant again. Image by Mark Hoffman. Brazil, 2017.
Eduarda Lopes, is shown in a photo made by her four-year-old sister, Julia, at their home in Duque de Caxias, a suburb of Rio de Janeiro in southeastern Brazil. The photo was made with the assistance of photojournalist Mark Hoffman. One way of helping to overcome language barriers and getting people to relax around a camera is to let the subjects make and see images. Image by Mark Hoffman. Brazil, 2017.
Eduarda Lopes, is shown in a photo made by her four-year-old sister, Julia, at their home in Duque de Caxias, a suburb of Rio de Janeiro in southeastern Brazil. The photo was made with the assistance of photojournalist Mark Hoffman. One way of helping to overcome language barriers and getting people to relax around a camera is to let the subjects make and see images. Image by Mark Hoffman. Brazil, 2017.

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