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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100 Dogs 04
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
By Antonio Franco
15 Mar 2015

Edina Ferreria Prado, 70, moves through her kitchen, careful not to step on any of her dogs. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 03-15-2015

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100 Dogs 05
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
By Antonio Franco
15 Mar 2015

Euracy Aguiar Prado, 80 (center) with his wife Edina Ferreira Prado, 70, as they clean up after their dogs. They adopted their first two dogs 15 years ago. Ever since, Mrs. Prado slowly began adopting abandodned dogs from their neighborhood. Today they estimate thay have at least 100 dogs at home. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 03-15-2015

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100 Dogs 02
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
By Antonio Franco
15 Mar 2015

Euracy Aguiar Prado, 80, locking out two of his small dogs from the kitchen. Prado and his wife care for over 100 dogs in their home in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 03-15-2015

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100 Dogs 03
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
By Antonio Franco
15 Mar 2015

Edina Ferreria Prado, 70, with four of her dogs. Prado and her husband care for over 100 dogs in their home in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 03-15-2015

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100 Dogs 01
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
By Antonio Franco
15 Mar 2015

Edina Ferreira Prado, 70, prepares to feed her two akitas. The akitas are only two of her more than 100 dogs. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 03-15-2015.

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Workers for Petrobras 06
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
By Antonio Franco
13 Mar 2015

Landless workers rally in Rio de Janeiro in support of Petrobras, the Brazilian state oil company. In recent weeks, the company has been embroiled in one of the largest corruption scandals in the nations history. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 03-13-2015.

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Workers for Petrobras 05
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
By Antonio Franco
13 Mar 2015

The Brazilian flag waves in front of Petrobras headquarters in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In recent weeks, the company has been embroiled in one of the largest corruption scandals in the nations history. 03-13-2015.

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Workers for Petrobras 04
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
By Antonio Franco
12 Mar 2015

Rio de Janeiro city hall taken over by protestors defending Petrobras, the Brazilian state oil company. 03-13-2015

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Workers for Petrobras 03
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
By Antonio Franco
12 Mar 2015

Assorted left wings pins for sale at a rally in support of Petrobras in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 03-13-2015.

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Workers for Petrobras 02
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
By Antonio Franco
12 Mar 2015

Left wing activists gathered in from of Rio de Janeiro city hall in support of the embattled oil giant Petrobras. Activists fear that privatization of the state run oil company will stem from recent corruption scandals.

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Workers for Petrobras 01
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
By Antonio Franco
12 Mar 2015

A young family from the landless workers movement march in Rio de Janeiro in support of Petrobras, the state run oil company. In recent weeks, the company has been embroiled in one of the largest corruption scandals in the nations history. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 03-13-2015.

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Waiting for Tomorrow
Sao Goncalo, Rio De Janeiro
By Antonio Franco
10 Nov 2014

THIFANY, 13, in front of the MTST camp in Sao Goncalo, Brazil 11-11-2014. Thifany is in the 4th grade after missing 5 years of school. Despite this, she dreams of finishing school and going to college.

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Waiting for Tomorrow
Sao Goncalo, Rio De Janeiro
By Antonio Franco
10 Nov 2014

The squalid conditions of the MTST camp in São Gonçalo, Brazil. 11-11-2014

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Waiting for Tomorrow
Sao Goncalo, Rio De Janeiro
By Antonio Franco
10 Nov 2014

MTST members cheer as police drive away. Sao Goncalo, Brazil, 11-11-2014.

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Waiting for Tomorrow
Sao Goncalo, Rio De Janeiro
By Antonio Franco
09 Nov 2014

"We're all children of God too." He said after breifly tilling the soil for his new hut and briskly walking away. Sao Goncalo, Brazil, 10-11-2014

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Waiting for Tomorrow
Sao Goncalo, Rio De Janeiro
By Antonio Franco
09 Nov 2014

NATALIA, 16 (center) dreams of being a "funkeira", the Brazlian version of a rapper. Sao Goncalo, Brazil, 10-11-2014.

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Waiting for Tomorrow
Sao Goncalo, Rio De Janeiro
By Antonio Franco
07 Nov 2014

During a community meeting at the MTST camp. Sao Goncalo, Brazil, 11-08-2014.

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Waiting for Tomorrow
Sao Goncalo, Rio De Janeiro
By Antonio Franco
07 Nov 2014

A girl and a mentally diasbled man wait for their hut to be built at the MTST camp in São Sao Goncalo, Brazil, 11-08-2014.

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Waiting for Tomorrow
São Gonçalo - RJ,Brazil
By Antonio Franco
11 Nov 2014

The entracne of the MTST camp in Sao Goncalo, Brazil. 11-12-2014

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Waiting for Tomorrow
Sao Goncalo, Rio De Janeiro
By Antonio Franco
10 Nov 2014

LIVIA, 13, at the MTST camp in Sao Goncalo, Brazil, 11-11-2014. Livia talks about her dream of being able to support her mother after finishing school.