Tag Archives: Belongings

The Abandoned Chocolate Factory by Sebastian Liste

The child peers out a narrow slit of window, his face illuminated in an otherwise dark room. The concrete walls are stained and pockmarked–it looks like a war zone. Hanging  in the background are two objects: a curling paper calendar and a framed black-and-white photograph. The latter, a family portrait, was taken by Sebastian Liste. The same photographer who captured this very scene (slide #3) as part of a long-term documentary of one community in Brazil.

Today, Liste will be awarded the City Of Perpignan Rémi Ochlik Award, named for the young French photojournalist who was killed on assignment earlier this year in Syria. Liste’s project, Urban Quilombo, is a gritty and intimate look into the lives of dozens of families that occupied an abandoned chocolate factory in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. Fed up with the violence that plagued the beleaguered city, the families bonded together at the factory and formed a community—a community that the Spanish-born photographer immersed him within, beginning in 2009. The resulting photographs tell a chilling story of both courage and despair. In one of the most intense images of the series (slide #5), two men square off, splashing in a pool of water—one brands a huge stick, the other two knives.

The day he took the picture, Liste was inside the factory when two men began to argue. They had been playing Bingo for three straight days, trying to make money to rent a van to pick up their belongings as police were evicting families, when they began fighting viciously. “At the beginning I tried to stop them,” Liste said. “they finished the fight by throwing big stones.” Neither man was seriously wounded in the fight, but Liste’s friends  pulled him away, fearing he would be hurt.

Over the years, Liste said, he has given hundreds of prints back to the people of the chocolate factory. The fact that one of these, the family portrait, appears within another photograph in the project is a visual reminder of the time he has put in.

“On my second trip to Salvador de Bahia, I gave a photo album to everyone there,” he said. “It’s quite an interesting process because they started to build a kind of memory of their lives through the pictures I took there.”

Liste said that he’s even found pictures of himself on the walls as if he was a surrogate family member. In documenting this community, he has become part of it. That kind of dedication is the only way pictures like these can be made.

One of Liste’s favorite images from the project was captured was when a 13-year-old girl named Vanessa was reunited with her mother after seven years apart (slide #4). Liste met Vanessa, who had been abandoned at age 6 and had been living at the factory with an uncle. Feeling for the young girl, Liste asked around, hoping to find Vanessa’s mother in the labyrinthine streets of Salvador de Bahia. After months of searching, Vanessa’s mom turned up in the outskirts of the city and Liste was there with his camera to photograph the reunion. “The hug picture is probably the best image I took there,” Liste said. “Both of them were very happy to be together again.”

In March 2011, the Brazilian government evicted the families from the factory, in an attempt to cleanse the city for upcoming international events, including the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016.

The families have since moved to a new neighborhood called the “Jardim das Margaridas,” where Liste continues documenting their lives.

Receiving the Rémi Ochlik Award means a lot to Liste, who, despite not knowing Ochlik personally, believed they shared similar experiences and ideas about the role of photography.

“We are almost the same age and we are both fighting to bring light to hard and hidden stories,” said Liste. “It’s a big honor to get this award.”

Sebastian Liste is a Brazil-based photographer. In September 2012, he received the Getty Images Grant for Editorial Photography and the City of Perpignan Rémi Ochlik  Award. See more of his work here.

Jonathan Blaustein

We all feel possessive about the things we own — our homes, our cars, our belongings, but we often have to share those spaces and items with other life forms, life forms that intersect our lives in large and small ways.  Many of us don’t consider the dust mites or the silverfish or the occasional raccoon as interrupting our spaces, but in the case of photographer Jonathan Blaustein , he has lots to consider. Living in New Mexico on a property that sits squarely in the natural world, he has had to think about what else is occupying the land. His new series, Mine, explores the plant and animal life he encounters, life forms that could be missed in the pastures of New Mexico, if he didn’t take the time to witness their presence.


Currently living in Northern New Mexico, Jonathan received a degree in Economics and History at Duke University, and an MFA in Photography at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.  He has exhibited widely and his work is held in many significant museum collections.  His projects, Value of a Dollar and Mine, have both been published by the New York Times.  Jonathan also writes about photography and culture for A Photo Editor blog.

MINE: I live in
a horse pasture at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. I own the land:
it’s MINE. But I share it with the animals, and
things that don’t move. Every night, when I go to sleep, they have the run of
the place.

It’s theirs.

Only a creature as arrogant
as a human would claim ownership over his dominion, while living for such a
short period of time. The rocks o
n my land are all much older than I am.



Artists are more infatuated with immortality than most people. We make marks, build things, and snap photos, all in the hope that we’ll be remembered when we’re gone. Deep down, we all have a dark desire that the art will be preserved, along with our name, and that people will look at it in a hundred years or more. Because the alternative is bleak. An eternity of nothing. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.

I’m no different. I want my life’s work to mean something. I don’t want to disappear forever. But I also don’t think that my land belongs to me, any more than I belong to the land. I’m just part of this world, run by a simple rule: Survival of the fittest.



With that in mind, I decided to objectify my land, to leave my mark. Because I could. In so doing, I was able to investigate my territory, to sift through the dirt, to crunch up the snow, and then share it with others.

Once I harvested the objects, I took them to my studio to fashion temporary sculptures: Art pieces meant to satisfy my unquenchable desire to symbolize the world around me. I photographed the sculptures to memorialize them, just as we take pictures every day to remember what was there.

And yes, I killed the dead baby mouse. I killed his whole family. They were living in the trunk of my car, and they just wouldn’t leave. So I did what I had to do.

30 documentary photos: Inside Fukushima "No Go" Zone

Despite Japanese government refusal of admittance to the 20 kilometer “No Go” Zone surrounding the devastation of the nuclear power plant of Fukushima Daiichi, Photojournalist Pierpaolo Mittica went inside the zone several times last July to document the situation. This seemed like a natural follow-up to his award-winning work and book covering the aftermath of the disaster at Chernobyl.

Lens Culture is honored to present 30 powerful images from this new investigation, along with text by the photographer. monster beats . Zits . See and read the whole story here in Lens Culture.

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Inside an abandoned house devastated by the Tsunami, from the series Fukushima “No Go” Zone. Pierpaolo Mittica

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Abandoned house, Namie city, from the series Fukushima “No Go” Zone. Pierpaolo Mittica

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TEPCO workers, from the series Fukushima “No Go” Zone. Pierpaolo Mittica

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Residents going back home to collect their belongings, Tomioka city. Pierpaolo Mittica

Gabriela Herman

A few months ago, I featured a highly personal project by Gail Seely. Gail had been revisiting a difficult childhood, and in a way, reclaiming her childhood by examining artifacts that her mother had packed away decades before. After that post, Gabriela Herman wrote me that she had also created a body of work that was very similar without knowing about Gail’s work. Gabriela’s project, Holding On, captures objects that had meaning and significance from a happy childhood before they were lost to the transitions that come with the sale of the family home.

Gabriela’s series about bloggers, featured on Lenscratch in February, has gone “viral”– showcased and celebrated on blogs and in exhibitions, including 2011 Center Forward at the Center for Fine Art Photography, Fort Collins, CO and the Win Initiative, NY.

Holding On:In the fall of 2010, when my beloved childhood home abruptly sold, I was given a weekend to clear out the 25+ years of belongings that had remained largely untouched. It was pure chaos. Things were being thrown out the third floor window to the dumpster in the driveway below. No time for tears.

Amidst this insanity, I felt the need to capture some of these artifacts, an act which played out like revisiting my childhood in fast forward, frame by frame. The stuff that we accumulate, however valuable at the time, in fact ends up being just stuff, eventually all garbage bound. I had preserved the memories of the past through these objects, but once documented, their physical presence became unnecessary. It is through these images that the nostalgia remains, and I continue to hold on.