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In the early 1980s, I often explored the shorelines of Brazil for virgin surfing spots, a pleasure which permitted me to escape the busy life of São Paulo city. Although the journey was difficult, I traveled many times to Ilha Grande (Big Island), a paradise on earth, with cascading waterfalls, lush jungles and untouched beaches. Fascinated with its pristine environment, I would feel transported to the time of Brazil's discovery.
I soon learned that in this paradise also existed an enormous penitentiary located deep within a military zone. Many of Brazil's most dangerous criminals were held in its mysterious world of death, torture and rape. Caldeirão do Diabo, Devil's Caldron, Abandonada, Abandoned, and Maldita, Accursed, were all nicknames that identified this hellish place.
In 1993, I returned to Ilha Grande. I traveled not to admire its beauty, as I did in my teens, but to experience the daily life of the 600 inmates in the Penal Institution of Cândido Mendes - the Caldron. My goal was to document the prison with art photography before its closure. I wanted to know how the inmates felt serving time surrounded by a forbidden paradise.
|Above: A paradise on earth.|
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