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Flight into the Chocolate Factory

11. Dezember 2011
Von Christoph Soeder und Fabian Stark

Christoph aus Berlin ist Fotograf bei TONIC

Texte von Christoph
[email protected]

Christoph Soeder

In 2009, Sebastián Liste traveled to Brazil for the first time to capture life and poverty in an occupied chocolate factory. The pictures of "Urban Quilombo" gained international success, whereas the settlement was vacated.

From "Urban Quilombo"

From "Urban Quilombo"

Hier geht's zur deutschen Version

"Quilombo" is a historical term which tags a settling of escaped black slaves in Brazil. For his long term project Urban Quilombo, the now 26 year old Spaniard Sebastián Liste explored an occupied chocolate factory in the Brazilian town of Salvador de Bahia – a number of families had built a community there in order to escape problems like drugs, prostitution and violence on the town's rough streets. However, in March 2011, the government evacuated the factory because the conspicuity of poverty had to disappear: There will be the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016. Young photographer Sebastián Liste still follows and documents the 130 families who lived on the area of the size of a pitch at the time – an interview.

Urban Quilombo was your first internationally recognized project. Many of these pictures show extreme situations like people fighting, showing tenderness, smoking weed. Do you think getting to the extreme is the best way to reveal human nature?

I believe that human nature has many ways of revealing things to us. Urban Quilombo is a entirely emotional work, a subject document, an interpretation about how I lived in this palce. I have not sought a balance or an accurate narrative to show the work. It has been an intensive process in which only I have been guided by the profound experiences that lived there.

You also captured intimate moments like people having sex. How did you approach people to gain their trust in order to get that close?

I have never believed that gaining the trust of people to photograph them is the best way to be a good photographer. For me documentary photography is based to share experiences in order to communicate to others. When you share a lot of time with a group of people all kinds of situations happens. In this case there was a situation of a couple making love. It's not something you look for, it's something that just happens.

You wrote that people who occupied the former chocolate factory came there to escape the dangerous streets of the city and to tackle problems like violence, prostitution and drugs. Did they succeed and how?

I think in some ways they succeeded. Living there they got away from bigger problems. They also managed to convert an abandoned factory into a living space, creating a real home. In short, they created a big family, where in some ways shared and overcome problems with the support of the community.

Do you still follow this community where it has been relocated now?

Yes, I continue documenting this community. All the families was evicted from the factory in March 2011 along with 400 other families from different favelas of the city. Now they´re living all together in a new buildings on the outskirts of the city. My intention is to see how this drastic change in their lifes is changing the roles of the community adapting to a new environment with new problems to overcome.

Being 26 you already traveled all over the world. Is this for you a means to an end or rather a vital pleasure?

I think after having traveled to many palces finally I have found my place in the world. Now I have only two long term projects. One in the Mediterranean Sea area and the other one in Latin America. These are the places where I was born and raised, where I understand the codes and where I feel identified with the people.

What is it that drives you in photography? What impact do you wish your pictures have on the audience?

Photography is for me one of the major and most important ways of communication in our contemporary world. Photography break the language boundaries and democratizes the information access. What I never expect of my pictures is that they have just one kind of impact on the audience who see my pictures. Photography is for me a language open to interpretation. With my photographs I´m looking to evocate more than just a description of what is happening. If you´re always honest with yourself you can engage a dialogue with the viewer. Leaving the door open to different possibilities of emotional interpretations, different ways to read of what they are seeing.

When did you start with photography and how?

I started on photography when I was 18 years old. I have been writing for long time but I had always the idea to find a most universal way of communication, to translate ideas and to share eperiences through images. I guess that I already found this with the photography.

Besides sociology you studied photojournalism. How relevant was your photography degree for your personal career?

If I have to choose I prefer to study sociology to be a documentary photographer. I don´t think that you need a degree on photographer to be a good photographer. You have to learn human skills to develop in the real world and there is far away from the classes. It's important to study but something that really interest you, something to grow as a human being. Then if you still to be a photographer for sure you will be.

Sebastián Liste, photographer

Sebastián Liste, photographer

Sebastián Liste – Biography

Sebastián Liste, born in 1985, grew up in Barcelona. After his studies of sociology an photo journalism he became a freelance photographer. In 2010, he won the Ian Parry Scholarship for his long term project Urban Quilombo. Since october he is part of the Joop Swart Masterclass, a meeting point of young documentary photographers from around the world. Sebastián's work was published in the Sunday Times Magazine, in Burn Magazine and TIME.


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