Night in Rio

Gazing over Ipanema... As if a vast rock was time concentrated


” Two brothers,

when you sit high at dawn,

and at your feet the Instruments are laid down,

I learned to respect your drop and be wary of your silence,

i think i hear your heartbreak traverse,

what was and what will be another existence

It is as if a vast rock, was time concentrated “

Chico Buarque

Copacabana... Bow of love trembling its arrows of light against the infinite


” This is Copacabana, ample lagoon

Curve and horizon ,bow of love trembling 

Its arrows of light against the infinite.

Here my eyes undress the stars

Here my arms address the moon

Beast bloomed from my steps

In forests of pain that strechted on.

Copacabana, beach of memories!

How many ecstasies , how many daybreaks,

In your ocean embrace ! “

Vinicius de Moraes

Night photography Rio de Janeiro


The evening of November 2013 I arrived at the hotel in Barra de Tijuca, and to my surprise the receptionist remembered me from my last stay there, on December 31 of the previous year. To thank me for my return stay, I was upgraded to a better room on a higher floor. When I got to the room and took in the view, the city skyline and the first lights of the night dazzled me so that even before opening my suitcases I had to drop everything and take some shots. Night photography Rio Janeiro

Today, the 16th of September 2019, I arrived in Rio once again. Though I have been here before, every time I take in the evening view from this terrace in Ipanema, my breath is taken away by its beauty and the boundless fancy that this place inspires. The golden beach leads the eyes straight to the Dois Irmaos, endlessly caressed by clouds drifting languidly by. I can feel the soft strains of Antonio Carlos Jobim in the air. I am tempted to mount the camera on the tripod and sit here all night to to take in the beauty, but I cannot. Down in the city a ritual to be fulfilled is awaiting, and I comfort myself with the reminder that tomorrow I will have an evening of photography in Botafogo. Night photography Rio Janeiro

My evening round begins in Copacabana, with a walk along Atlantic Avenue, down to the restaurant La Maison on the corner of Atlantic and Rua Santa Clara. This spot was the old meeting point I used with my friends so many years ago in my youth. The sight of it now brings back beautiful memories of long-gone nights. Time has been relentless in its march forward however, and Rio has changed. Copacabana did not have all these bars before on the “calçadāo” (boardwalk), and the idea of crossing to the other side of it to drink a Caipirinha cocktail by the sea and contemplate Sugarloaf Mountain suddenly becomes an irresistible temptation.

The crowds on the avenue attract souvenir sellers in the evening, as well as some enterprising and resourceful types improvising their own bar with the aid of a small ice maker. They are serving the famous Caipirinha cocktails, and according to them theirs are more authentic and enjoyable than the ones you get in the bars. Copacabana, despite its physical changes, remains unaltered in its essence, in its rhythm, in its night strollers and wanderers.

It is nice to walk along the “catwalk” of Copacabana. The air of the bay envelops me, and I feel like walking all the way to the Copacabana Palace, architectural landmark of this beach and brother to the Hotel Negresco in Nice. Instead, I decide to turn back, and go down Bolivar Street. On the corner with Domingo Ferreira there is a boteco (pub) called Belmonte Pub, where I know an Argentinian who works there. He will offer me a cervejinha (small beer) and a bolinho de bacalāo (cod fritter), an essential pre-dinner snack in Rio. A short time later, a yellow taxi stops for me there. I give the driver very simple directions: “Leblon, Guanabara’s Pizzeria corner”. Night photography Rio Janeiro  Night photography Rio Janeiro   

On the corner opposite to Ataulfo de Paiva Avenue, my waiter friends Joāo and Marcos at the Diagonal restaurant are expecting me, and they always find me a table, even during Carnival. Leblon is cozy in the evening, and I can sit for hours there, where I love to people-watch on the avenue and watch customers coming and going from the restaurant while I talk with friends. Night photography Rio Janeiro

The nightlife in Leblon happens behind the Avenue however, along Dias Ferreira Street, at the Sushi Leblon, or in the bars where crowds of young people gather. At the intersection with Ataulfo de Paiva, just where the statue of Cazuza is located, the pub Boteco da Praça opened just a few months ago. And it is there where the long evening ends for me. I return to the hotel reminded that tomorrow a photographic evening out in Botafogo awaits me, and I feel a mixture of anxiety and fear.

The next evening at 5:30 Marco arrives at the hotel to pick me up. He will be my guide and security guard, as the areas of Rio where we are going are said to be dangerous at night. The trip to Vermelha Beach is long, and when we arrive it is already dark. We missed the sunset, but it doesn’t matter, because the scenery is sublime. The lights at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain provide the perfect scenic touch, and the edges of the famous peak stand out with perfect sharpness against the deep darkness of the sky. In the corner of my eye through the viewfinder I spot a red light rising, and becoming larger by the second. I realize that this is the moon rising, and that soon it will shine on the sea. I don’t want to go, but Marco insists that the area is dangerous and that we have to move.

The last stop of our tour is the Marina de Gloria, a panorama of lights, reflections, and hills, with the Church of Our Lady of the Glory of Outeiro on Russel Beach and the imposing presence of the Christ the Redeemer in the background.

A few meters away from me, I spot a group of young people, including several young and pretty women, who look to be of high social class. They are dancing and jumping around insouciantly on the corner of a veranda, in blatant disregard for the alleged dangers of Rio’s nighttime. I cast a silent smiling glance at Marco. Are these beautiful and refined “garotas” (girls) the so-called “dangers” of night in Rio?

Night in Rio, an essential experience to life….

Rio de Janeiro , September 2019 Pablo Munini

Night photography Rio Janeiro

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