They have precarious jobs and incomes that are incompatible with the prices applied in the Lisbon rental market. “More and more people are forced to seek refuge in abandoned areas and often in ruins, in search of a place they can call home,” reads the project’s synopsis. The last one saves everythingdeveloped over three years by photographer Teresa Ribeiro in illegally occupied houses in the greater Lisbon area.
The work, which is currently on display at Narrativa, where photojournalist Mário Cruz supervised, in the context masterclasspart of the photography and editing process, reveals “an example of how to live in the capital Portuguese”, is today greatly affected by the phenomena of real estate speculation and the financial crisis.
Psychotherapist and photographer Teresa Ribeiro visited a total of six houses where “people of different backgrounds, with endless stories, of great richness and intensity” live. The description is done with decency, he explains, since he maintains friendly, close relations with the residents. “These are people with limited financial resources who work irregularly in the field of urban construction or catering”, he describes, in an interview with P3. “Often, they work without contracts and without any guarantee of payment.” This job insecurity is, in almost all cases, the starting point for the housing problem. “Without a support network, they have to go it alone and find what is possible. And what is possible is closed, empty, and often in ruins.”
Everything starts from nothing or very little, says Teresa Ribeiro. “In some areas, improvements have been made in order to achieve basic living conditions, such as water and electricity.” But a lot has to be done to make a space habitable, from repairs to the building’s structures to assembling all the basic furniture and utensils — and all of that work is done by the residents. “Some parts become almost enjoyable, even though they contain only the basics,” he comments.
Most furniture and items are collected in the city’s waste bins. “The society The consumer discards many products that are still in good condition, either because people replace them with better ones or because the repairs are not worth it.” The photographer, who does not limit herself to documenting the reality of these communities and who actively contributes to the improvement of their living conditions, he vouches that he has already found “true treasures” in these forays.
Although almost everyone arrives at occupied houses with little more than the clothes on their backs, Teresa “I’ve never known of any situations where someone was denied entry.” “No one is ever deprived of food or shelter, and that is something I love.” Inside the houses, the photographer describes, there is an atmosphere of sharing, solidarity, community, where music takes on an omnipresent and centralizing role. “The sharing of music, food, it is what gives them courage. Having an uncertain future, live centered on the presentThis does not mean that they want to stay in the houses they find.
“There are challenges, of course, for those living in these conditions.” Beyond those inherent in the dilapidated state of the buildings and the coexistence in a single space of people with different habits, values and cultures, “these people have a certain stigma, an outward appearance that is not favorable,” he laments. Three years ago, when Teresa started the project, she found that many “stayed a night, a week, a month or two and then left.” What I notice is more difficulty in finding a viable solution to leave. People stay longer until they find alternatives.”
Among the alternatives that exist is social housing, a solution that few resort to. “[Em muitos casos] there is a lack of reliability and dysfunction in the search for specific props,” explains the photographer. “There is also the idea that some solutions can break the connection, mutual aid, support and coexistence that binds them together.”
Real estate pressure in the area occupied by these buildings, the location of which the photographer deliberately keeps secret, threatens, in the medium term, the permanence of these groups in the houses they occupy. “It is an area of great historical richness that will soon undergo large-scale urban intervention. The construction of new shopping areas, hotels, etc. is planned.” In the future, these groups will have to look, with or without the intervention of the municipality, for new housing solutions that match their incomes.
The “theme of transience, of loss, of what ceases to exist to make way for other realities” is central to his work Teresa Ribeiro, who has been photographing for about 30 years. In the construction of this project, the main motivation was to “leave the comfort zone” and face “other views on reality and the world that together we live”. The last one saves everything it remains under development and is dedicated to one of the residents, Abel, “who left us far too soon.”