In his book “Sad Tropics,” French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss portrays Brazil as a nation still under construction but already in ruins, an idea that has inspired my ongoing photographic project, Fome, chronicling daily life in Brazil for the past nine years. My goal has been to scrutinize Brazilian society and its stark disparities. The title “Fome,” meaning hunger in Portuguese, nods to Brazil’s aspiration to become the “country of the future” while struggling with poverty, hunger, and profound inequalities.

Despite being one of the BRICS nations with rapid growth, Brazil has been hampered by fluctuating trade, flawed policies, and rampant corruption. In fact, it has regressed in the so-called Hunger Map of the United Nations, a global survey on the food situation in each country. According to the report, more than 61 million Brazilians experienced difficulties feeding themselves between 2019 and 2021, and over 15 million went hungry. The pandemic has exacerbated this economic downturn, with Brazil having the world’s second-highest COVID-19 death toll.

Fome visually translates the sense of constant decline, despite the buoyant spirit of Brazilian culture. The project explores various themes, including politics, religion, housing, environmental disasters, crime, and the pandemic. Its aim is to capture the daily struggles of Brazilians and their concerns about how outsiders perceive their enormous nation. Fome also reflects on Brazil’s growing political polarization, particularly under the leadership of former President Jair Bolsonaro.

Brazilians are known for their charisma and wit, but their sunny facade conceals a deep-seated national despondency. The phrase “Brazil is the country of the future–and always will be” encapsulates the sentiment of stagnation and untapped potential. Brazil’s once-enticing allure, centered on its untarnished and breathtaking landscapes, sensuality, and racial harmony, has been shattered by increasing awareness of urban violence, environmental devastation, and alarming levels of child abuse and neglect. Fome provides a glimpse into this intricate and often distressing reality.