The Vanishing of Portugal's Countryside

Behind a fable’s title, Maria Oliveira recounts the vanishing of Portugal’s countryside, where her roots unraveled and still are. 

9.jpg#asset:985            © Maria Oliveira, from the series Under the Surveillance of Ancient Animals

This series is not the portrait of the changes nor about the rural exodus. Rather, it’s a diary of her re-encounter with the place where she grew up. “I started this project to think about my relationship with the place where I grew up, to capture what this place means to me after years and how it has changed”, she explains.

“The title comes from a poem that I wrote. They are many wild horses around this place, and as the village is more and more empty they are coming closer to the homes. Nature is slowly conquering the place where people used to live”, she explains.

8_161005_014307.jpg#asset:984© Maria Oliveira, from the series Under the Surveillance of Ancient Animals

The silhouette of a cow appears within the fog, both majestic and quiet. Oliveira’s images are imbued with silence that we imagine reigning with these landscapes. The black and white of the photographs contribute to distill the atmosphere of a place frozen in time, uncertain, between life and death. And mystery is at every corner, on the form of a wild footprint, an aging dog looking like a wolf, the rays of the moon on nature.

“There is a mystery that this place arouses in me. When I was living there, people were telling me stories about the past. Even if I don’t think about it, it’s half way between a dream and a memory”, she explains.

7.jpeg#asset:983© Maria Oliveira, from the series Under the Surveillance of Ancient Animals

It also gives a strong sense of uncertainty, as if the past was somehow taking over the present and not leaving much room for the future. The horizon is usually blurry, hidden by the frequent mist covering those mountains. “There is a strong feeling of emptiness that goes inside people living there, which enables them to reach a calm way to approach life. People are very strong in their way to live with only a few things and to accept the thin line between life and death.”

A symbolic photo is that of a person, seen from far away, still, in the middle of a dirt road. “This photo is really representative of what this place means to me. Someone seems stopped in the middle of something. There is nature around, and the person is lost in some ways; it’s just a small point in the middle of the nature.”

See more on Maria’s PHmuseum profile: www.phmuseum.com/mariaoliveira

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