Last Wedding in Brazil and My Big Move Back to Kansas City

There’s a lot that’s changed since the last I posted on this site. I was living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, learning Portuguese, teaching English, and just trying to make the most of my time while living abroad.

It was an amazing experience.

But I’d be lying if I said it was easy.

It was not—my time in Brazil was filled with ups and downs. It’s an experience that I wouldn’t trade. If I were to do it again, I’d surely do some things differently, but I would do it again.

And who knows? Maybe at some point down the line I will end up living in Rio de Janeiro once again.

It’s an attractive city; you’re constantly surrounded by natural beauty there. There’s the beach, the mountains, tons of stuff to do and friendly/funny people.

It was simultaneously infuriating, exhausting, fun, challenging and rewarding to learn Portuguese. I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on it now but even after being in Brazil for three years I still have a lot to learn. It didn’t help that I used English as a crutch at times with my Brazilian friends who speak English. Sometimes it was because of self-consciousness but others just out of pure laziness.

I did put myself out there though and got out of my comfort zone—something I actually think has translated very well to my wedding photography.

I was in Rio for some of the biggest worldwide events in recent years, and I’m grateful to have been able to experience that. The World Cup started soon after I arrived in Rio and I left a few months after the Olympics.

In my opinion the World Cup was the better experience of the two. It was like the regular buzz of Rio energy but on steroids.

There were more vendors out on the street selling their World Cup-themed paraphernalia, people getting to know new people, and languages being spoken from all over the world. Brazil had gone into the early stages of its financial crisis at that point, but the people had just come off a high from a booming economy and hadn’t quite gotten jaded about it yet.

It was an anxious time for the developing country, bordering on chaos. No one really knew what to expect next.

Much like you had with the World Cup. There was such a large influx of people to the city that you felt like the mood could change from jovial to chaotic in a heartbeat.

And while the mass media tried to whip up hysteria over the event, everything went off without a major hitch.

That, aside from the fact that Brazil had a heartbreaking loss in the semi-finals of the tournament to Germany. They got absolutely destroyed. They lost 7 to 1 if I remember correctly.

I can only imagine how amazing it would have been had they won on their home turf, but in the end it wasn’t meant to be.

But this tension is something I’ve found characteristic of Brazil; it’s unsettling but beautiful at the same time. That’s part of what made it such a compelling place to photograph: it’s a place of constant conflict and resolution.

Life is not easy there.

But photography is just like movies: without some sort of conflict, what’s the point? Photography is about telling a story, and stories are made up of conflicts and eventual resolutions.

In practical terms in photography, to me that means catching all the ups and downs of an event, even the unglamorous ones. The caterer might (hopefully not) drop the cake. There might be some tears shed.

But then there will be the moments that make it all worth it: sliding that ring on your significant other’s finger. And that first kiss as official man and wife.

It’s the photographer’s job to catch all those little intricacies and big moments and put them together to tell a story. Your story.

You will remember your wedding day for the rest of your lives. It’s important. And that’s why I take weddings so seriously—they are deeply important not just for you but also your family, friends and even your community.

While the national mood in Brazil wasn’t as happy during the Olympics, it still was another exciting time to be in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Although what I find I miss more when I think about events in Brazil was Carnaval—a week long version of mardi gras celebrated not just in all the neighborhoods and nooks and crannies of Rio but the whole country over, each place having their own unique take on it. Carnaval could be thought of as a week-long descent into debauchery by an entire country—there’s loads of sex, drugs and loud music to go around.

But even though there is an obvious sexual vibe in the air during carnaval, I found it more innocent than that. A joke among Brazilians is that they try to kiss as many people as possible and almost make a competition out of it.

It may sound sleazy or slutty, but it doesn’t feel that way. It just feels like everyone drops some of their (sometimes) unnecessary guard for a few days. It feels like people have just allowed themselves to be vulnerable, to connect with one another without having to jump through all the regular hoops.

Whether you partake in the sexy side of carnaval or not, it’s just one thing that adds to the life and vibrancy of this event that comes around once a year.

But as with all good things, they must come to an end at some point. So the comedown from carnaval can be brutal. For a whole week you’re on a dopamine rush having the time of your life with the people you love.

…The next you’re hungover and have to deal with the realization that you have to get back to the grind.

There’s a famous Brazilian jazz standard about carnaval that has the lyric “tristeza não tem fim, felicidade sim”, meaning “sadness has no end, happiness does”.

My last wedding I did was with a wonderful couple, Monica and Nil. Here are a few of my favorite shots from their wedding in São Paulo, Brazil:

Congratulations to the two of you! I had a blast shooting your wedding.

Like all good things, my adventures in Brazil too had to end. And while I will miss Brazil dearly, there’s nothing wrong with starting a new chapter in an old familiar place, Kansas City.

With Kansas, you never quite know what you’re going to get. One day you’re out sledding in the snow and the next you’re at the pool getting a sunburn. One year your favorite sports team goes all the way and the next they can’t even make the playoffs.

Growing up here though I find that the people are consistently friendly and generous. We collectively might be a bit too conservative politically for my taste, but I can live with that I guess.

People in Kansas are as down-to-earth as they come, which is perfect for wedding photography clients. I work best with like-minded people.

Growing up I dreamed big; I dreamed of moving out of my little hometown of Stilwell Kansas and exploring the world. Well now I have fulfilled some of my biggest dreams and then some, I am thrilled to be back surrounded by friends, family and the Kansas lifestyle.

There is a lot here that I missed that I didn’t know I missed until I got back.

While I may end up in Brazil again, or some other equally crazy and intriguing place at some point in the future, for now I’m happy to be enjoying the comforts of home in Kansas City.

If you’re a couple or know of someone getting married in the Kansas City area, let’s get to know each other and tell your story.

My schedule fills up quickly, so get in contact to reserve your date now:

http://www.brandonballwegphotography.com/contato

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