Last fall, The Washington Post partnered with Visura in an open call for submissions of photo essays. The Post selected five winners and three honorable mentions out of almost 300 submissions. We are presenting one of the honorable mentions today here on In Sight: Javier Alvarez and his work “Predio.”
Sao Paulo, Brazil, is one of the world’s most populous cities. The city is also the capital of Sao Paulo state, which in turn is the country’s most populous and wealthiest. Sao Paulo attracts a lot of visitors to enjoy its many monuments, parks, museums and galleries, and it also is home to some of the country’s largest skyscrapers. But like any large urban area, it has economic disparities that spur people to find ways to eke out a dignified existence — for instance, by inhabiting Sao Paulo’s many abandoned buildings.
Alvarez has always been drawn to big cities. In 2010, he visited Sao Paulo while attending a photo festival there, and during that time became drawn to the city and wanted to work on a project there, he says. Three years later, he returned to explore the city’s inhabitants squatting in the abandoned buildings. He ended up documenting life in one in particular, the “Marconi” building. Alvarez says that at the beginning of the project, “I literally knocked on the door and introduced myself because I wanted to know about the inhabitants and how they came to squat in these massive buildings in the middle of the city.”