Sebastian Liste, Juror’s Pick (Whitney Johnson), Project Prize (2011 Daylight/CDS Photo Awards)

Sebastian Liste
Juror’s Pick, Daylight/CDS Photo Awards Project Prize

“For two years, Sebastián Liste has photographed the daily lives of over one hundred families who formed a community in an abandoned chocolate factory in Brazil. His long-term commitment to the project has revealed an intimate and complex story—one that captures not only the consequences of drug abuse and violence within the community but also the pleasure of birthday celebrations and evening samba dances.”—Whitney Johnson

This work bears witness to a place that no longer exists.
I lived there almost everything that one can live.
I learned there the dark secrets of the human condition, and that love can exist in ashes and chaos.
I learned there what family is.

Eight years ago, sixty families decided to come together and occupy the Galpão da Araújo Barreto—a ruined, abandoned chocolate factory in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil–and make it home. Before that, these families lived on the dangerous streets of the city. Their objective was to make a safe, more dignified life for themselves, and in doing so, press the government to face the deep consequences of the endemic economic crisis that the Brazilian Northeast has been struggling through for decades.

Every human being needs a space in which to feel safe and build a life. Barreto was a place where the exchange of ideas, goods, and services allowed the survival of its members in a society that marginalized them. Today, life in a community is a form of revolution.

I have been working on this project since 2009, living with the families and documenting the quotidian life of this community as it moves between the universal poles of harmony and chaos, hope and despair. In March 2011, the government moved all the families (by this time 129) to new buildings in a dangerous neighborhood 30 km from the city as one of the many attempts to clean up the poverty in the center of Brazilian cities because of upcoming international events, such as the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games. Although the physical place no longer exists, the community remains: The families that once lived in Barreto now live together in the Jardim das Margaridas.

The community is a metaphor for a place where the tragic decomposition of human life combines perfectly with the magic realism of Latin America.

— Sebastián Liste

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