In Sight

These photos remind a photographer of times spent on the beach in Rio as a child

Here we are in October, just about to complete yet another revolution around the sun. The air is making its transformation from warm to cool. Soon it will be frigid and we’ll pile on layers, cozy up in blankets and take respite in the warmth of our homes.

Sandra Cattaneo Adorno/Sandra Cattaneo Adorno

But that doesn’t mean we can’t remember the splendor we found in the outdoors. And this new book by Sandra Cattaneo Adorno can help us with that. Adorno’s “Águas de Ouro” (Radius Books, 2021) is a beautifully realized meditation on the vibrant beach culture of Rio de Janeiro.

Sandra Cattaneo Adorno/Sandra Cattaneo Adorno

From the book “Águas de Ouro.” (Sandra Cattaneo Adorno)

Sandra Cattaneo Adorno/Sandra Cattaneo Adorno

Sandra Cattaneo Adorno/Sandra Cattaneo Adorno

From the book “Águas de Ouro.” (Sandra Cattaneo Adorno)

Sandra Cattaneo Adorno/Sandra Cattaneo Adorno

Sandra Cattaneo Adorno/Sandra Cattaneo Adorno

The photos in “Águas de Ouro” sparkle with the rhythms of Rio’s beach life. There is a sensuality to them. But, as a press release for the book notes, they also “evoke something quintessential about the city, something a little darker: the bittersweet yearning that Brazilians call ‘saudade,’ which hints at other levels of reality, the invisible ones of poetry and magic.”

Sandra Cattaneo Adorno/Sandra Cattaneo Adorno

From the book “Águas de Ouro.” (Sandra Cattaneo Adorno)

Sandra Cattaneo Adorno/Sandra Cattaneo Adorno

Sandra Cattaneo Adorno/Sandra Cattaneo Adorno

From the book “Águas de Ouro.” (Sandra Cattaneo Adorno)

Sandra Cattaneo Adorno/Sandra Cattaneo Adorno

Sandra Cattaneo Adorno/Sandra Cattaneo Adorno

Looking at Adorno’s images, you can’t help but agree with that sentiment. There’s music in the images. There’s a definite echo from Adorno’s memories of visiting the beach as a child, when she saw “the dazzling light over the sea. And the people, gentle figures moving slowly across the sand.”

Sandra Cattaneo Adorno/Sandra Cattaneo Adorno

From the book “Águas de Ouro.” (Sandra Cattaneo Adorno)

Sandra Cattaneo Adorno/Sandra Cattaneo Adorno

Sandra Cattaneo Adorno/Sandra Cattaneo Adorno

From the book “Águas de Ouro.” (Sandra Cattaneo Adorno)

Sandra Cattaneo Adorno/Sandra Cattaneo Adorno

Sandra Cattaneo Adorno/Sandra Cattaneo Adorno

Memory and nostalgia run strongly through the images in “Águas de Ouro,” even for me. I’ve never been to Rio. I would love to go. I grew up in a former Portuguese colony in Southeast Asia where I was exposed to a tiny bit of Brazilian culture in the form of the legendary dish feijoada, not to mention the immense pride taken in the Brazilian national soccer team.

Sandra Cattaneo Adorno/Sandra Cattaneo Adorno

As we all know, memory can be fickle. Adorno knows this, too. And as she says of the people teeming on the beaches in her book: “I can join them now, thanks to my camera. … It is hard to see clearly in the memories and in our minds. It is hard to tell what the eye sees. Someone said we are all mysteries to ourselves. But what better mystery than a woman and the sea?”

Sandra Cattaneo Adorno/Sandra Cattaneo Adorno

You can find out more about “Águas de Ouro” here.

Sandra Cattaneo Adorno/Sandra Cattaneo Adorno

From the book “Águas de Ouro.” (Sandra Cattaneo Adorno)

Sandra Cattaneo Adorno/Sandra Cattaneo Adorno

Sandra Cattaneo Adorno/Sandra Cattaneo Adorno

In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff members and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.

Sandra Cattaneo Adorno/Sandra Cattaneo Adorno

From the book “Águas de Ouro.” (Sandra Cattaneo Adorno)

Sandra Cattaneo Adorno/Sandra Cattaneo Adorno

Sandra Cattaneo Adorno/Sandra Cattaneo Adorno

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