11 Beautiful Black-and-White Photos of Rio de Janeiro
But, really, Rio's fascination with futurism has been going on for nearly two centuries, since Brazil gained independence from Portugal in 1822. Rio has introduced the world to the sinuous buildings of architect Oscar Niemeyer, Bossa Nova music (The Girl from Ipanema is one of the most famous examples), and the vibrant possibilities of a city that chose to decriminalize and embrace street art.
Some things about The Marvelous City have gone unaltered, of course. Its most recognizable landmarks are as old as the land, like the bleach-white stretch of Ipanema Beach, and Pão de Açúcar, or Sugarloaf Mountain.
For a look back, we found beautiful black-and-white photos in the TIME/LIFE archives that capture moments in Rio’s past from as far back as 1939—only eight years after the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue rose over the city.
Here, it’s easy to see how Rio’s skyline has shifted, how beachwear has shrunk, and how Brazil’s infamous Carnivals are as wild as they’ve ever been.
His Name was Rio
In 1939, John Philips shot this waterway lined with palm trees.
In the Picture
Hart Preston’s picture of two women visiting Corconade shows us 1940s travel fashion—and reminds us how travelers took photos before the advent of the selfie.
Records indicate that Carnival festivities date back to 1723. This shot was taken in 1972.
Two black-and-white, checkered apartment buildings were captured on film by Leonard Mccombe in 1954.
Rio's mountainous coastline and gorgeous beaches, 1954.
In December 1946, Rio’s sea wall was covered in signs for the upcoming election.
Mardis Gras Parade
Samba schools’ elaborate costumes, songs, and floats became the main attraction at Rio’s carnival. Leonard Mccombe caught 15,000 dancers celebrating in 1951.
In 1942, Hart Preston captured this Boeing 314 Clipper—a long-range flying boat.
A woman being served drinks (a caipirinha, perhaps?) in front her modern home in 1954.
Cariocas hang outside a crowded trolley during the inauguration of Getúlio Vargas in 1951.