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30 aug


Accepting the risks

Brazilian photojournalist Felipe Dana works for The Associated Press in his native Rio de Janeiro. A busy news photographer, he chose to document the Zika virus and its link to microcephaly as a long-term story. The results, captured in sensitive detail, can be witnessed at this year's Visa pour l'Image in Hotel Pams, Perpignan.

© Sean Miller

Felipe gives CPN an insight into his story of the Zika virus. Please click on the image above to watch the video.

“As a news photographer working for AP, I work on all sorts of stories, many of which are sad, but this was perhaps the saddest of all,” says Felipe. “When you are covering natural disasters you are dealing with end of life, but when you are dealing with babies – who have their entire lives ahead of them – it is really hard to stay emotionally detached. This is a very serious condition and these babies will grow up and be affected for the rest of their lives, many with very severe cases of microcephaly (a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age).”

Felipe continues: “I started really early in this story before it had caught world attention. When I first covered it there was no international coverage; I was one of the first photojournalists to document it. There was not much to research because nobody knew much. In December 2015 some doctors from the east of Brazil realised that there was a huge increase of babies being born with microcephaly and some of them linked it with the Zika virus, so I came back a couple of months later when it was more certain there was a link.”

© Felipe Dana/The Associated Press © Felipe Dana/The Associated Press

Municipal pest control targeting the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Recife, Pernambuco State, Brazil, January, 2016.

“I photographed and followed many doctors and families and learned a lot. And I also realised that in exploring the story I would be exposed myself to the risk of catching the Zika virus. But I accepted the risk. In this business you accept many things that might affect you, but this one was very hard because if, for instance, I caught the virus it could very possibly affect my chances of having a family of my own in the future.”

Felipe chooses to shoot with an EOS 5D Mark III and usually two prime L-series lenses – a EF35mm f/1.4 and an EF50mm f/1.2. “I travelled really light for this story so I could move quickly and stay as unobtrusive as possible. As a news photographer maybe I should carry more equipment but this is my choice; this is how I work.”

© Felipe Dana/The Associated Press © Felipe Dana/The Associated Press

Solange Ferreira and her son José Wesley who cries incessantly, so his mother bathes him in a bucket, a tip given to her by a hospital nurse. Bonito, Pernambuco State, Brazil, January, 2016.

“Of course, being an Agency photographer with The Associated Press I have access to so much equipment,” he remarks. “I have just been covering the Olympics, for instance, shooting with the EOS-1D X Mark II and I usually always shoot with available light. These Canon sensors can handle low light incredibly well and on a story like this one, it is really important as flash can be a little too obtrusive.”

On his invitation to come to Visa pour l’Image, Felipe remains steadfastly humble. “Being here at Visa is such a special experience for me. I was very surprised and I was very happy to be invited. I have always wanted to come and it’s so nice to come here with an exhibition as well. It’s great to meet many famous people who I really admire and I am lucky in that working for an agency I get to work with great photographers all the time. But being here is a different kind of experience.”

He adds: “I started in photojournalism seven years ago and before then I was working in photo studios as an assistant. It was always my dream to make it as a photojournalist and I guess this is the proof that maybe I have.”

Visa pour l'Image 2016