On assignment to document poverty in Brazil for Life magazine, American photographer Gordon Parks encountered one of the most important subjects of his career: Flávio da Silva. Parks featured the resourceful, ailing boy, who lived with his family in one of Rio’s working-class neighborhoods known as favelas, in the heart-rending 1961 photo essay “Freedom’s Fearful Foe: Poverty.” It resulted in donations from Life readers but sparked controversy in Brazil. This exhibition explores the celebrated photo essay, tracing the extraordinary chain of events it triggered and Parks’ representation of Flávio over several decades.

The Flavio Story

Catacumba Favela, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1961


Excerpt from Flavio, 1964. Film by Gordon Parks.


What Flávio cared most about, was that his younger brothers and sisters were taken care of. It was very noble of him... I definitely learned more from Flávio about character than Flávio learned from me.

Flavio Feeds Zacarias, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1961

Flavio da Silva, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1961

Flavio After Asthma Attack, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1961

Catacumba Favela, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1961

Family's Day Begins, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1961