The faces of Rio de Janeiro's Carnival

  • Juniele Oliveira Ventura, 18, a passista at Inocentes de Belford Roxo samba school, poses for a portrait after performing at Rio de Janeiro’s Sambadrome. This was Juniele’s first time being selected for the big parade after three unsuccessful attempts.
  • A group of local men dressed as ladybugs celebrate together during a bloco at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro.
  • Concei‹o Fonseca, 51, Mercedes Fonseca, 53 and Denise Fonseca, 47, are sisters and always participate together at the samba parade. They are part of Portela samba school, and their costumes represent Dama da Noite (lady of the night).
  • Tatiana Albuquerque and Celio Ciqueira pose for a portrait after performing with Sao Clemente samba school at Rio de Janeiro’s Sambadrome. Celio was the school’s first passista twenty years ago and explained that he will continue performing for carnival as long as he is alive.
  • Maria do Carmo Batista, 72, Ad‹o Batista, 71 and Georgina Gomes, 78, pose for a portrait after their presentation with Beija Flor samba school.
  • DŽbora Maria da Concei‹o, 84, and Maria JosŽ do Sacramento, 77, are members of the Velha Guarda (Old Guard) of Renascer de Jacarepegu‡ samba school. They are neighbors and friends. They say “We will not stop dancing until Tuesday.”
  • Passistas JosŽ Sereno, 33, Elisangela do Val Rocha, 25, Paulina Reis, 29, Gabriel Castro, 26, celebrate after their performance with Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel, at Rio de Janeiro's Sambadrome.
  • Fernando Oliveira, 20, Henrique Bellas, 23, Ricardo Lopes, 21, Cristian Aguilar, 27, Saulo Eduardo, 27, pose for a portrait after their performance with ImpŽrio da Tijuca samba school, at Rio de Janeiro’s Sambadrome. Their costumes represent Guardians of Oxun.
  • Miss Laine Pereira dos Santos, 36, and Paloma Tarueus, 26,  Passistas with Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel samba school show off the costumes after performing at Rio de JaneiroÕs Sambadrome.
  • Flavio Bruno, 29, Helder Mattos, 23, Jo‹o Pedro Cardoso, 14, Yan Cirino, 16, percussionists of Bateria Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel samba school, pose for a portrait after performing for Carnival at Rio de Janeiro’s Sambadrome.
  • Americans Chris and Denise Pedrotti, decided to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary by honeymooning in Rio during Carnival. Here they show off their costumes after performing in the survival section of Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel at Rio de JaneiroÕs Sambadrome.
  • Marcos AurŽlio, 47, and Valnecir Batista, 42, members of Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel, pause for a moment, while contemplating the question, ÒWhat would you do if the world would end tomorrow?Ó, the theme of their performance at Rio de JaneiroÕs Sambadrome.
  • Jorge, 47, and Flavio, 41, from Rio Grande do Sul, in southern Brazil have been celebrating Carnival in Rio de Janeiro for 10 years now. Locals and tourists have descended on Rio de Janeiro for the annual Carnival throughout the neighborhoods of RioÕs South zone at Banda de Ipanema, one of the largest Carnival blocks of Rio de JaneiroÕs street Carnival parties.
  • Avani Ribeiro, 67, wearing a costume representing the African Orisha Yemanja (in Brazil's Umbanda religion which is a blend of African traditions with Roman Catholicism, Spiritism, and Indigenous American beliefs Yemoja is the mother of all Orishas and patron on all women) waits to participate with Imperio Serrano samba school at the first of this year's official carnival parades held at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
  • A group of Baianas representing various Brazilian Samba schools, parade through Rio de Janeiro's main carnival venue, the Sambadrome, as part of their annual purification ritual which takes place a week before the official start of Carnival.
  • Mr. Miro and his wife Mrs. Fatima Roque show off Bangu Samba school's banner before taking part in a purification ritual and parade at Rio de Janeiro's Sambadrome. Bangu will have the honor of competing with some of the city's best samba schools this weekend when they return to the Sambadrome for the first time in thirty years.
  • The Paradise of Tuiuti elder matriarchs (Baianas) from the Samba School Unidos do Tuiuti, joined hundreds of other Baianas, considered the spiritual caretakers of Afro-Brazilian religion, for the annual blessing of Rio de Janeiro’s Sambadrome, the city’s main carnival venue. This purification and protection ritual marks the beginning of the city’s carnival festivities.
  • Marco Antonio dos Santos, 21, doesn't consider himself transsexual but likes to dress as one during Carnival and the Gay Parade. He explained that he comes from a very simple family and is the first and only person of his family to attend university, where he is currently studying physical education.
  • Carlos Augusto and Nat‡lia Vieira, second master of ceremony and standard bearer of samba school Youth United of Santa Marta, pose for a portrait after their final rehearsal held at Favela Santa Marta one week before the start of Carnival. "I wait all year for the week of carnaval. As soon as it's over, I start waiting for the next carnival again!" Carlos Augusto, he has been participating in parades for over 15 years.
  • Locals and tourists alike celebrate Carnival throughout the neighborhoods of Rio's south zone at Banda de Ipanema, one of the largest Carnival blocks of Rio de Janeiro's street Carnival parties.
  • Leticia and Rachel, residents of Mangueira favela pose for a portrait during Mangueira samba school's last rehearsal and fundraiser before carnival 2015. Mangueira is one of the oldest Samba schools in Brazil, having produced some of the most talented composers, such as Cartola and Carlos Cachaa.
  • Sorriso, nicknamed because of his sunny disposition, sings the lyrics to a popular samba song, "Mangueira is a chant of faithÉ." at the last rehearsal and fundraiser for Mangueira Samba School, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Known as one of the best samba dancers in Brazil, Sorriso works as a parking attendant at Rio's beaches during the rest of the year.
  • Dancers with Unidos de Bangu samba school parade through the streets at their last pre-carnival rehearsal, Rio de Janeiro. This year Bangu will compete against some of Rio's best samba schools, and will parade at the Sambadrome for the first time in thirty years.
  • Portraits of participants of the Unidos de Bangu samba school at their last pre-carnival rehearsal to begin, Rio de Janeiro.
  • Dancers with Unidos de Bangu samba school present the school's flag Rio de Janeiro. This year Bangu will compete against some of Rio's best samba schools, and will parade at the Sambadrome for the first time in thirty years.
  • A dancer from the Bangu Samba School poses for a portrait during the troops last pre-carnival rehearsal. This year Bangu will compete against some of Rio's best samba schools, and will parade at the Sambadrome for the first time in thirty years.
  • Dancers with Unidos de Bangu samba school parade through the streets at their last pre-carnival rehearsal, Rio de Janeiro. This year Bangu will compete against some of Rio's best samba schools, and will parade at the Sambadrome for the first time in thirty years.
  • Mr. ZŽ Maria is 84 years old and played drums in the Mangueira Samba School for at least 65 years. Now, he is "retired" from the percussion team, but confesses that he still misses the emotion of playing during a parade.

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Rio de Janeiro - Tens of thousands of people are packing the streets of Brazil, reveling for five days in dancing, celebrating, pageantry, and dazzling costumes as the country’s annual carnival season continues this week.

Each year, local residents participate in the Carnival of Brazil, arguably the most famous holiday in the country. The celebrations start the Friday afternoon before Ash Wednesday and end at noon five days later. The religious holiday marks the first day of Lent, the 40-day period before Easter, for Roman Catholics and other Christians. 

Attire and musical traditions vary from one region of Brazil to another. Much of the country stops for almost a week to take part in the festivities, which often extend into the nighttime.

In the capital, Rio de Janeiro, local residents and tourists endured pouring rain about an hour before the start of the all-night extravaganza on Saturday. The water was welcomed to some extent though, after the southeastern part of the country recently experienced the worst drought in 80 years.

Photographer Wayne Lawrence will be on scene for msnbc as things heat up in Brazil. This photo essay contains some mild nudity. 

For more feature photography, go to msnbc.com/photography

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