2017 - 2019
São Paulo, Brazil
When I was a boy, I heard about a place in downtown São Paulo, Brazil, where people lost their souls between abandoned buildings and dirty streets due a new drug that took the control of an entire area and gave its name to the neighborhood, the Crackland.
For fear, I always kept away till a violent police action that, for the first time, took control of the place in 2017. Few days later, without really understanding what was happening, I visited it for the first time looking for stories and took advantage of the police presence to gain access to places where photographers would not have been welcome before. Led by the adrenalin of exploring a forbidden place, I returned countless times, and gradually discovered that the story I knew, as told by the society was completely wrong.
Wanting to better understand who the drug-users were I came up with the idea of offering them free document- sized photos, since many had lost theirs for living on the streets or sold them in exchange for drugs. Thanks to a local NGO that offers food and shower, I set up a mobile photo studio and past over two and a half years, I printed portraits for more than 2,000 people and could listen to their reasons to be in such condition.
Unlike what I was told, I heard stories of men who started using drugs to forget the anguish of unemployment, of women who took drugs to endure the shame of prostituting themselves to support their sons, and of children who smoked crack to forget the violence, the cold and the hunger of living on the streets. Due their social condition that doesn’t allow them to buy even the cheapest pipe in the market to smoke crack, I photographed the ones they made of garbage found on the streets of the area.
Also trying to understand why there were countless degraded mansions around me, now turned into tenements and crack-houses, I discovered the region had once been the richest neighborhood in the city. The whole area was a project built by the coffee barons who ruled Brazil but after been affected by the great economic crisis of the New York Stock Exchange in 1929, stagnating the coffee exports, left the place. Since them, past decades of urban abandon, the area became one of the most degraded in the city and since the 90’s it started to be called the “Crackland”.
“Fissura,” or “fissure,” is a Brazilian-Portuguese slang term commonly used to describe the compulsion to use drugs and also means rifts and injuries. For me, the open fissures in the skin of thousands who walk the neighborhood daily in search of drugs have the same origin the cracks found in the region’s old mansions, the society’s prejudice and abandonment.
After 3 years, on 2020 I self-published the project’s book and it can be purchased on my website www.guichrist.com/shop/fissura