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The Sick Day Issue

The Story Behind the Cover of VICE Magazine's September Issue

This month's cover of VICE magazine was taken in a favela called Santo Amaro, in Rio de Janeiro. We spoke to photographer Stefanie Moshammer about her work in Brazil and the inspiration behind the shoot.

by Stefanie Moshammer
08 September 2016, 12:00am

This story appeared in the September issue of VICE magazine. Click HERE to subscribe.

Stefanie Moshammer first graced our pages back in December with excerpts from her previous project, Vegas and She, a collection of surreal scenes from Las Vegas's strip-club culture. Since then, she's been busy winning all sorts of awards. In her most recent work, Land of Black Milk, she traveled to a favela in Rio de Janeiro, where access is still restricted by the gang that occupies the streets. The series will be released as a book next month.

VICE: What's the story behind our cover image?
Stefanie Moshammer: It was taken in a favela called Santo Amaro, in Rio de Janeiro. The police pacified this favela in 2012 as part of the fight against the criminal organization Comando Vermelho (CV), and they now occupy it, but the CV still exists—there's just a different dynamic. The police and the gangs, I think, have some kind of arrangement. I took most of the photos in this series here.

How did you get access?
To take photos in the favela, or even be allowed entry, you need to be there with somebody who's a native, and this person needs to introduce you to somebody from the gangs. A friend of mine introduced me to the members of the Comando Vermelho, and they agreed that I could take photos there because they knew and respected that friend.

Moshammer shooting on the beach in Rio

Where did you come up with the title Land of Black Milk?
"Black milk" derives mainly from a historical story. During the slave era, "black milk" was the name given to milk stolen from slave mothers to feed white infants. To understand Rio, you need to understand the history of Brazil. Four million slaves were shipped to Brazil from Africa, far more than were transported to the United States. Today, most of their descendants live in the suburbs or favelas, and they still work for the wealthy in Rio's South Zone. Even though my work is far from having any sort of photojournalistic or critical approach, I like to give some indication to the relevant topics in the places I photograph.

This story appeared in the September issue of VICE magazine. Click HERE to subscribe.