Photos of Life in 'Portugal's Toughest Neighborhood'
Photographer José Ferreira's new project captures a marginalized community as it's torn down.
All photos by José Ferreira
This article originally appeared on VICE Portugal.
Just a few miles from the center of Lisbon—where millions of tourists a year are helping to fuel rapid gentrification—the city's 6 de Maio neighborhood is slowly dying out.
For decades, 6 de Maio has been mythicized as a place so dangerous and ungovernable that even the police wouldn't dare set foot in it. In reality, the community was built mainly by Cape Verdeans who arrived in the late 1970s, after the nation gained independence from Portugal. Fast forward to 2016, which saw the local government actively breaking up the neighborhood to make room for a new urban development project through a series of forced evictions and police raids.
After learning about the local government's attempts to dismantle the neighborhood, documentary photographer José Ferreira spent a year in 6 de Maio, capturing the day-to-day lives of its residents, with the aim of creating something that will help outsiders better understand the marginalized community, culminating in the photo series Out of Law.
"Many people here were born to poor families that had next to nothing," Ferreira says. "They have nothing to lose."
The first thing the photographer wanted to do was gain the residents' trust, which wasn't easy. "It's a tight-knit community—they all have each others' backs," he explains. "Many of the locals are suspicious of people they don't know, and they have been relatively closed off from the outside world. But once we had a mutual understanding, they were wonderfully humble and friendly to me." Ferreira eventually became a welcomed presence in the community, and also started working with some of the local rappers, shooting their album covers.
The neighborhood won't exist in its current form for much longer. Due to the evictions and constant demolitions, much of the neighborhood looks like a war zone. "All the police have ever been focused on is making sure crime doesn't spread to other neighborhoods, rather than actually fixing the problems here," Ferreira explains. The demolition trucks are an almost constant presence now, as families are being rehoused across Lisbon, away from the community they grew up in.
Out of Law shows that 6 de Maio is about more than just crime and dilapidated buildings. Ferreira hopes that his photos will help preserve the community in some way, long after it's been torn down.
Scroll down to see more photos from Out of Law.
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