David Alan Harvey / One Night In Rio

Posted December 10, 2011


David Alan Harvey
is a Magnum photographer and the creator and curator of Burn Magazine.

See Bryan Harvey’s short film of David Harvey working… Photo Rio.


Note: The sequence previously shared with this story was posted prematurely, and taken down temporarily. It will be back in top form in the coming weeks.


“One Night in Rio” is the culmination of a couple of years of work by David Alan Harvey on the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro. His latest trip has served as a vehicle for a variety of purposes. Foremost, the trip represents the final chapter in David’s book project on Rio de Janeiro. Moreover, a selection of the work will be published by National Geographic in 2012. But David has also used the trip as a platform for education, blogging the entire month-long process of shooting, editing, printing and sequencing of the most recent chapter of the book in an interactive online workshop at The Rio Book. The subscription for the site is remarkably modest at $1.99, considering the wealth of information presented. David wanted the experience of shooting and editing and thinking of producing a body of work for a book to serve as an opportunity for viewers to be involved in the process, to have an intimate experience in the behind-the-scenes that goes into the making of a photographic project.

Among the great things about the online workshop (beyond the intrigue of the “all volunteer, all female army of fixers, etc…”) is that despite all the work that goes into putting a book together, including shooting, travel, editing, working late nights and early mornings, David remains committed to answering any meaningful question that the audience has. The interaction between the audience and David has been a rich and valuable part of the workshop’s strength. For example, David had classified this recent work as “not photojournalism” and I ask him to clarify that description. His answer provided a great entrance into the work itself:

“well it’s a funny thing… these pictures are totally documentary in nature… i am being traditional in the sense of bearing witness… and yet there is not any attempt on my part to put the work together in a traditional storytelling photojournalistic way… i am putting all of my RIO experience together in the form of one mythical night… many mini stories will become one story… Div [Divided] Soul was actually like that too… not chronological and not even place related from one picture to another… yet Rio is even further out on the conceptual limb… you cannot call it fiction, yet it is not a report either… i will simply say what i said in one of my comic book stories…

ONE NIGHT IN RIO (based on a true story)”

A viewer should not expect to see the ‘finished’ project on a visit to the online workshop. As a matter of fact, most of the images posted and shown on the blog are simply visual “sketches” which are building, pointing to the direction and shape the final book will take. In fact, David has employed a variety of techniques and has used a variety of cameras including an iPhone camera as a means to explore both intimacy and the urgency of the moment with as little intrusion as possible. The viewer is also offered front row seats to the editing process as he posts digital contact sheets that highlight images during the selection process. The viewer is given the opportunity to see the building of a “photo wall” that enables selection and sequencing of photographs. The viewers is given an opportunity to see and listen to David ‘think out loud” as he works through his edits, daily and weekly. Mostly though, the viewer is given a glimpses of the Rio lifestyle as experienced through David’s eyes. In a sense, the online workshop itself becomes a Harvey experience… white hot days of sand and sun… nights inked by both neon and shadow…street vendors and soccer players… trips to favelas… the way rain covers streets and sidewalks on blurry journeys from club to club… loosely designed vignettes that blur the line between fiction and reality… dancing and religious ceremonies in which participants of both are induce into trances of the ecstasy of the moment… the moments when a photographer is in his zone and fevered… all the parties and the dark-lit silences… and of course, the lovely women of Rio.


I think I’ve known David Harvey for about 7 years now, going back to my early addiction to outdoor photo parties on the property of Nick Nichols in the Virginia countryside. Those parties eventually evolved and moved into the town of Charlottesville and later evolved into what is now one of the largest photography festivals in the world, Look3: The Festival of the Photograph. I became better aquatinted with David while shooting portraits of him in 2005 on a National Geographic assignment in Mexico. Not long after that first encountered, David launched “Road Trips”, his first blog and online teaching platform. “Road Trips” eventually gained a strong and loyal following and grew into both an online opportunity for education and a vehicle for David to mentor and support a number of emerging photographers. It was another vehicle for him to extend his commitment to both the photocommunity at large and to those interested in furthering their development. Those who are close to David with respect to photographic pursuits truly know what his influence means. After extraordinary growth and popularity, including the launch of David’s first Emerging Photographers Grant, BURN Magazine was launched and in the two years of its publication has become a gold standard in online photographic publication.

It’s with a great amount of gratitude that I thank David for letting me deliver this first look at this chapter, and for putting up with my persistence. I also can’t go without thanking Roberta, my operative muse working on the inside, who facilitated the effort and was my biggest proponent.

Viva Rio, authorship, and David Alan Harvey.

David McGowan, HJ Curator