This article was originally published by VICE Brazil.
Cracolândia, or "Crackland," is a drug market stretched out across 525-square feet in downtown São Paulo, Brazil. An estimated 2,000 drug users move through the area every day, openly smoking crack and begging passers-by for spare change on the streets.
Cracolândia and its people live under their own set of laws, number one of which is no photographers allowed—at least not in the "hot zones," where everyone hangs out.
Still, Gabriel Uchida managed to get right in the middle of the action: "I first visited Cracolândia a long time ago and have since spent many nights trying to figure out the place by just talking to people," said Gabriel. "I wanted to get rid of the myths and misconceptions surrounding it and create a more realistic portrait of the place."
It was around that time that Gabriel met Índio Badaróss, a homeless artist living in Cracolândia. Badaróss is locally known as "the Basquiat of Cracolândia"—a nickname originally given to him by the Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo. Apparently, that article had a great impact on his career.
"Índio paints on canvas, walls, and on things he finds on the streets," Gabriel told me. "It can be a traffic sign, an old door—anything. The craziest thing is that because he doesn't have a home, a lot of his paintings just lie on the streets all day long—often getting picked up by garbage men or simply stolen. Other works of his are hung in galleries or with private collectors in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Basel."
Despite his recent popularity, however, Índio's life hasn't changed that much. It took some convincing, but last month he finally decided to let Gabriel document his life and work under one condition: As the only one who knows how Cracolândia works, Índio would have to take the photos himself.
Uchida left him with three disposable cameras and some instructions, and went back to Cracolândia some days later to pick them up. One of the cameras had gotten lost, but the photos taken with the other two were a pleasant surprise.
Here are some snapshots of Cracolândia through the eyes of Índio Badaróss, the Basquiat of Crackland.