Antonio Antonio Franco

Antonio Franco is a 29 year old photojournalist based out of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. After graduating from Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, California, Antonio went on to work at the the Oakland Tribune and later at the Washington Times. He later moved back to his hometown of Rio de Janeiro to freelance full time.

Antonio is an avid Judoka and Yoga fanatic.

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The Gentle Fighter: Brazil's Blind Ju...
Rio de Janeiro
By Antonio Franco
21 Apr 2015

When witnessing the deafening thuds and desperate groans of Judo practitioners, gentleness, or "Ju" as the Japanese say, is the last thing that crosses your mind. This is less so when you come face to face with Willians Araujo da Silva, a 23-year-old, 250 lbs Judo black belt that promises to shine for Brazil in next year's Paralympics, which will be in his home country.

When you first meet him, it is not immediately obvious that he is blind. Mr. Silva’s composure and sense of direction are nearly superhuman. It is only when he sticks out his hand to greet you that you notice it is angled just a few degrees off and he does not have his sense of sight. Yet still, his sense of direction and space is so good that it crates a lingering doubt as to whether he really is blind or not. It is only when you see him kick a wall inadvertently or nearly fall in the gap between the subway car and the platform that you are truly convinced.

“You should come see my place”, he said brimming with pride after practice. His home is actually bland middle class apartment in a bad part of town that most people would find underwhelming. “The worst part about my old place was waking up in the morning and being ankle deep in water in your own bedroom. Oh the and rats too”. He recalled and seemingly trying to forget at the same time.

Mr. Silva was raised in Favela do Alemão, one of the most notorious slums in Rio de Janeiro. His new apartment, which he bought with his Judo winnings, is located not far from his old place, despite being worlds better. Although he’s happy with his own place, he bubbles with joy when boasting that he was also able to buy his parents a modest, but dignified house too.

“...Does it pay?” His father asked years ago when Mr. Silva began practicing the sport. “Not really”, he told his dad. “Well then get a real job, something that pays”, was his no nonsense fatherly response.

Despite the lack of support from his then skeptical family, he bravely continued though their doubt. After the 2011 Parapan games in Mexico, where he unexpectedly placed 2nd, a local Brazilian TV crew interviewed him. His father coincidentally happened to be watching. It was then Mr. Silva said, that his family realized his potential. What makes Mr. Silva stand out though, is his Ju, his gentleness. Someone in Mr. Silva’s shoes would be understandably frustrated. Frustrated at not being able to see the look of joy on his mothers face when she says he’s a gift from God. Frustrated from often stumbling into the various obstacles life throws at him. Frustrated from the regret of loosing his sight at age 11 from a fireworks accident. But he manages the opposite; to count his blessings not dwell on his curses. The irony is that if he hadn’t lost his vision, he likely would have wound up just another forgotten slum dweller creatively trying to make ends meet. Instead, his blindness has opened doors he would not have seen otherwise. The secret to Judo they say is to use your opponents force against him. Mr. Silva can teach us that perhaps there is some wisdom to found in our misfortune, some gentler way through life.

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Rio's Homeless Sidelined in the Name ...
Rua Alcindo Guanabara, 78-122 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20031-130,Brazil
By Antonio Franco
26 Mar 2015

On the morning of March 26th, 2015, roughly 100 families were forcibly evicted from their homes by police in an abandoned lot in downtown Rio De Janeiro.  “If you don’t leave peacefully, you’ll leave when the bullets come down”, a police officer threatened, recalled M., a young black man who requested anonymity. By all accounts police were merciless in their eviction and went as far as confiscating simple things like hammers and pliers, allegedly for safety concerns.

Again homeless, the evicted families decided to sleep on the steps of City Hall and ensure their demands for affordable housing be heard. “People think we’re trying to rob them, but in fact we’re running away from that”, Fernando M., 48, said in desperation. Like Fernando, many of the evicted people were escaping the undeclared war between police and drug gangs in the city's Favelas, or slums. While the government does offer a growing number of public housing projects for the poor, few find them desirable to live in as they are still under the control of hostile drug gangs. Instead, these people set up homes in safer areas in the center of the city. 

Other evictees were crushed by soaring rent stemming from Olympic makeovers in their communities. Fernando recalled his rent only a few years ago was R$200 ($65 USD) and now has ballooned to over R$500 ($160 USD). Others are simply unemployed due to a sagging economy. Stuck in a catch-22, many are now unemployable because they have no fixed address.

As the days passed, the echoes of their discontent landed on the deaf ears of a bureaucratic and incompetent local government. In the end, no official action was taken by the city to ameliorate their situation. They eventually left their makeshift occupation by City Hall one-by-one. On April 6th, the remaining dozen or so families that had not left earlier decided to abandon the camp. Many of them found temporary housing in shelters, a friend’s house or other clandestine encampments throughout out the city.

Despite their efforts, the evicted families improvised war of attrition with local authorities is lost and their grievances continue unanswered. 

These photos offer an intimate portraite of some of Brazil's most neglected people.

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The Woman with 100 Dogs
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
By Antonio Franco
16 Mar 2015

Over fifteen years ago, Edina Prado, 70, adopted two stray dogs at the local college where she taught history. Little did she know how that day would affect her future. Over these fifteen years, her and her husband, Euracy Prado, 80, continued adopting stray dogs off the street. Today they have over 110 dogs at home, although they admit they’ve lost count. Despite bringing her waves of endless chores, she credits them for helping her overcome depression. The fact that they go though nearly a half-ton of dog food each month (400kg/880lbs) doesn’t deter them from trying to find homes for as many stray dogs as they can.

“What is our purpose on Earth?” she asked. “Some people take care of other people, I take care of dogs”. She added before finishing, “We should leave the world a better place than we found it.”

FULL ARTICLE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

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Workers for Petrobras
Praça Floriano, 176-242 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20031-007,Brazil
By Antonio Franco
16 Mar 2015

Workers and leftist activists take to the streets of Rio to show their support for Petrobras. This powerful oil company has been involved in one of the largest scandals in the nation's history.

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Waiting for Tomorrow: Restless but no...
São Gonçalo - RJ,Brazil
By Antonio Franco
02 Mar 2015

Landless workers occupied an abandoned lot outside Rio de Janeiro to protest a lack of public housing.

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Brazil's Blind Judo Olympian 10
Rio de Janeiro
By Antonio Franco
23 Mar 2015

Willians Araujo da Silva getting a little help after getting off a bus.

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Brazil's Blind Judo Olympian 08
Rio de Janeiro
By Antonio Franco
18 Apr 2015

Wilians Araujo da Silva speaking about his catholic faith after church service on Sunday morning.

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Brazil's Blind Judo Olympian 09
Rio de Janeiro
By Antonio Franco
23 Mar 2015

The view from Wilans Araujo da Silva's house. In the background, Morro do Alemao, where he grew up.

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Brazil's Blind Judo Olympian 06
Rio de Janeiro
By Antonio Franco
24 Mar 2015

Wilians Araujo da Silva looks in the direction of his wife, Caludinete da Costa Santos, 24, on the bus going home from practice.

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Brazil's Blind Judo Olympian 07
Rio de Janeiro
By Antonio Franco
14 Apr 2015

Wilians Araujo da Silva (center) crossing the street with the help of his friends after Judo practice.

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Brazil's Blind Judo Olympian 04
Rio de Janeiro
By Antonio Franco
23 Mar 2015

Wilians Araujo da Silva (center right) practing a chokehold.

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Brazil's Blind Judo Olympian 05
Rio de Janeiro
By Antonio Franco
14 Apr 2015

A group portrait after a late training session at his coaches gym. Wilians (upper right) trains against seeing opponents because most blind opponents aren't near his level.

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Brazil's Blind Judo Olympian 02
Rio de Janeiro
By Antonio Franco
23 Mar 2015

A light moment as Wilians Araujo da Silva (left) practices groundwork.

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Brazil's Blind Judo Olympian 03
Rio de Janeiro
By Antonio Franco
10 Mar 2015

Wilians Araujo da Silva (center right) executes a harai goshi, one of his best moves during judo practice.

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Brazil's Blind Judo Olympian 01
Rio de Janeiro
By Antonio Franco
24 Mar 2015

Wilians Araujo da Silva (center) lounges with friends before Judo practice. Since many are visually impaired, they like to interact through touch.

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On Deaf Ears 15
Praça Floriano, 176-242 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20031-007,Brazil
By Antonio Franco
25 Mar 2015

Homeless workers gather to hear proposed solutions from a mediator from the city council. Through donations, they managed to raise nearly $150 USD for diapers and food for the children. However, no permanent solution was found.

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On Deaf Ears 13
Praça Floriano, 176-242 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20031-007,Brazil
By Antonio Franco
25 Mar 2015

Homeless workers stand in attention at the steps of city hall as a meeting is called to discuss their housing situation. Behind them stands the Municipal Theater, which was remodeled at a cost of over $30 million dollars in 2010.

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On Deaf Ears 14
Praça Floriano, 176-242 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20031-007,Brazil
By Antonio Franco
25 Mar 2015

A pensive moment on the steps of city hall as recently displaced homeless workers rest after being evicted at 5 AM by police.

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On Deaf Ears 16
Praça Floriano, 176-242 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20031-007,Brazil
By Antonio Franco
25 Mar 2015

New construction projects tower over the ruble of recently bulldozed shacks. Over 100 families lived on this abandoned plot belonging to CEDAE, the state water company. This area was once blighted and is now being renovated for the Olympic games.

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On Deaf Ears 12
Rua Alcindo Guanabara, 78-122 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20031-130,Brazil
By Antonio Franco
02 Apr 2015

Gracie, 25, began smoking cigarettes at age 11 after her grandmother would ask her to light hers on the stove for her. She smokes 3 packs a day when she can afford it. She never made it past the 3rd grade in school.

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On Deaf Ears 10
Rua Alcindo Guanabara, 78-122 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20031-130,Brazil
By Antonio Franco
27 Mar 2015

Stephany B., 24, (right) does nails as they talk about politics. Stephany said she wants a house with a yard so she can do nails and earn a living from home.

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On Deaf Ears 9
Rua Alcindo Guanabara, 78-122 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20031-130,Brazil
By Antonio Franco
02 Apr 2015

A good samaritan only known as Felipe (not pictured, refused to be identified) learned that it was David's (center) 1st birthday and bought him a cake. In a rare moment of joy, the homeless organized a makeshift birthday party for him. David was given to his grandmother, Vera Lucia, 65, (also not pictured) after his mother had no way of supporting him. David is not related to anyone else there.

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On Deaf Ears 8
Rua Alcindo Guanabara, 78-122 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20031-130,Brazil
By Antonio Franco
02 Apr 2015

Lenice, 53, speaking about her life. She's a nursing technician and used to make a decent wage but had troubles with depression after both her parents died in her care. She can't get a job because she doesn't have a fixed address and is behind on her union dues.

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On Deaf Ears 7
Rua Alcindo Guanabara, 78-122 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20031-130,Brazil
By Antonio Franco
27 Mar 2015

Homeless women play cards to pass the time as they sit on their signs. Residents of a favela live effectively in a dictatorship run by drug gangs. The idea of using free speech to demand their rights is new to many of them.

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On Deaf Ears 5
Rua Alcindo Guanabara, 78-122 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20031-130,Brazil
By Antonio Franco
30 Mar 2015

Andressa (alias), 20, posing for a portrait. Andressa spoke about leaving her boyfriend that day after he hit her. Despite this, they were seen cuddling 20 minutes later.

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On Deaf Ears 6
Rua Alcindo Guanabara, 78-122 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20031-130,Brazil
By Antonio Franco
02 Apr 2015

Heriika S., 25, apologizes to her boyfriend. He helped her flee a rival favela after drug gangs made threats on her life. The women were joking about a rumor that there are rich Japanese businessmen wanting to marry for money.

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On Deaf Ears 4
Rua Alcindo Guanabara, 78-122 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20031-130,Brazil
By Antonio Franco
30 Mar 2015

A pregnant woman gives a friend a back massage at 2:00 AM as other sleep and rotate shifts. As some sleep, others stay awake to watch for police.

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On Deaf Ears 3
Rua Alcindo Guanabara, 78-122 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20031-130,Brazil
By Antonio Franco
01 Apr 2015

Kaue, 2, cries for his mother. His dad, Claudio "CG", 24, used to work selling drinks at favela funk parties. He claims to have been earning well over $3,000 USD a month; he owned multiple stands. He was living a comfortable middle class until police came in and shut the parties down. Now he's struggling to pay his $130 month rent.

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On Deaf Ears 2
Rua Alcindo Guanabara, 78-122 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20031-130,Brazil
By Antonio Franco
27 Mar 2015

Hiogo, 23, (center) emaciated. Food was scarce in the camp and usually consisted of stale crackers obtained from the homeless shelter or pasta made at a friends house and brought over. Hiogo is a day laborer working construction and in recent months has struggled to find work.

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On Deaf Ears 1
Rua Alcindo Guanabara, 78-122 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20031-130,Brazil
By Antonio Franco
25 Mar 2015

Recently evicted from an abandoned lot in downtown Rio, a now homeless man begins to spontaneously pose for a portrait. Tensions were high as just hours earlier they were evicted at gunpoint from a plot belonging to the Rio de Janeiro state water company, CEDAE.

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100 Dogs 19
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
By Antonio Franco
15 Mar 2015

Edina Ferriera Prado, 70, in her yard and with some of her over 100 dogs. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 03-15-2015.

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100 Dogs 18
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
By Antonio Franco
15 Mar 2015

Euracy Aguiar Prado, 80, and his wife, Edina Ferreira Prado, 70, walk though a hall in their home. "What is our purpose on Earth?" Mrs. Prado asked. To leave it better than we found it. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 03-16-2015.

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100 Dogs 16
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
By Antonio Franco
15 Mar 2015

One of Edina Ferreira Prado's many dogs clamors for attention. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 03-16-2015.

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100 Dogs 17
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
By Antonio Franco
15 Mar 2015

Edina Ferriera Prado, 70, removes ticks from one of her many dogs. Prado expressed frustatrion that people don't spay and neuter their dogs. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 03-16-2015

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100 Dogs 15
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
By Antonio Franco
15 Mar 2015

Edina Ferriera Prado, 70, nearly in tears as she gives a puppy away for adoption. Prado said she always fears new owners will mistreat them.

While Prado initially intended to keep the dogs she shelters, their numbers have grown so large that she puts many of them up for adoption. Every Saturday she takes around 10-15 of her dogs to an event to have them adopted. She tries to only give away dogs who have stayed with her for a short time.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 03-15-2015

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100 Dogs 14
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
By Antonio Franco
15 Mar 2015

Euracy Aguiar Prado, 80, (center) looks on as his wife, Edina Ferreira Prado, 70, picks off a tick from a puppy that is about to be adopted. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 03-15-2015.

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100 Dogs 12
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
By Antonio Franco
15 Mar 2015

A dogs world in Edina Ferreira Prado's backyard. Her and her husband take it upon themselves to adopt stray animals from their community. In all, they have over 100 dogs at home. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 03-15-2016.

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100 Dogs 13
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
By Antonio Franco
15 Mar 2015

Edina Ferriera Prado, 70, (center) inspect a puppy that is about to be adopted for ticks and diseases. She
also screens the owners to ensure they will treat the animals well. The organizationshe volunteers for, Resgate de Animais, even visits people's homes to double check that the adopting owners are not somehow harmful to the dogs.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 03-16-2015.

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100 Dogs 11
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
By Antonio Franco
15 Mar 2015

Euracy Aguiar Prado, 80, plays with some of his dogs in his backyard. Prado says they go through over 400 kg (880 lbs) of dog food per month. Much of the food is donated, while the rest of it, along with other expenses are covered by the couple's pensions. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 03-15-2015.

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100 Dogs 10
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
By Antonio Franco
15 Mar 2015

Edina Ferriera Prado, 70, followed by some of her over 100 dogs as she cleans up after them. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 03-15-2016.

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100 Dogs 08
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
By Antonio Franco
15 Mar 2015

Edina Ferriera Prado, 70, (center) greets some of her many dogs in her backyard. She credits her dogs with helping her overcome depression. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 03-15-2015

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100 Dogs 09
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
By Antonio Franco
15 Mar 2015

Edina Ferriera Prado, 70, cares for a sick dog in her backyard. Medical costs, including having the dogs spayed and neutered, are some of the main expenses involved in taking care of the dogs. Some of the expenses are covered by the couple's pension, while others are covered by donations.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 03-15-2016.

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100 Dogs 06
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
By Antonio Franco
15 Mar 2015

Edina Ferreira Prado, 70, shoos some of her many dogs with a broom. While the presence of so many dogs in such a small space gives off a feeling of chaos, Prado says the dogs are ultimately quite well behaved. Moments of fighting and aggression are outweighed by generally cooperative and playful behavior.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 03-16-2016.

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100 Dogs 07
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
By Antonio Franco
15 Mar 2015

Edina Ferreria Prado, 70, in her backyard calling for her dogs in a kennel. Prado and her husband estimate they have between 110 and 120 dogs at home. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 03-15-2015