Understanding New Urban Peripheries

Fábio Cunha photographs to understand. In ZONA, he questions the landscape and how people adapt to it.

© Fábio Cunha, from the series ZONA

Fábio Cunha (1985, Portugal) studied Architecture at Porto's University (FAUP) and obtained a Masters degree in Photography at Centro Internacional de Fotografia (EFTI) - Madrid. Subverting everyday objects and situations, he develops a practice within installation and photography, setting up unexpected fictions to create concepts for different purposes and clients.

How did you begin to work on your project, ZONA?

I come from an architecture background; I studied and worked as an architect. Actually, in my Masters thesis in Architecture, I was already interested in what happens in the surronding zones of the city. When I started to live in Madrid, the first time I went to the outskirts of the city to go to Ikea, I was immediately attracted by the strange life situations that were happening there. So I started to go there every weekend.

Why did you title it ZONA?

I titled it ZONA because I wanted to build a mental place without a specific geographical location, which in fact is a common place between most of the South European cities. The outskirts of cities like Lisbon, Madrid, and Rome changed and were seriously affected by the housing bubble. Also, the word ZONA refers to an imprecise area; I mean you can't say exactly where it starts or where it ends, just like the periphery of the city.

© Fábio Cunha, from the series ZONA

In your statement you mentioned 'the goal is to find something that can explain the new normal that exists there'. Can you please elaborate your thoughts on that?

I always pursue what I don't understand. The city center is a “ruled place”, although in ZONA there is a peculiar world of obvious visual estrangement because people are generating new life there. I mean, 7 or 8 years ago there was nothing there. People who started to live there after the housing bubble are adapting; they are creating an urban space of relations. If you pass enough time there, you start to realize how strange it is, full of paradoxes and unexpected visual logic.

Why did you decide to approach your project in a staged/documentary style?

It is not staged. Every situation in the pictures were things that were actually happening.

Were the people you photographed directly affected by the economic crisis?

I have no idea. I didn't talk with any of them.

Is there a reason why you don't reveal the full face of each of the subjects?

Yes. People are never identifiable in order to maintain the universality. This has to do of course with the editing process of what I want to provoke and to build. This is a world in whose public space we find ourselves with characters that behave in a surprising and anomalous way. I hope that these are images that help the viewer to further interiorize the chaos of the peripheries following the crisis.

© Fábio Cunha, from the series ZONA

What has been the response to your project in Spain?

Until now I must say quite good. The dummy of the book has won the DocField Dummy Award – Fundación Banc Sabadell in Barcelona this year and the project has been selected by Jesus Micó for the exhibition Talent Latent of SCAN Tarragona Festival. Upcoming exhibitions will also take place in Spain next year.

You have also published a book with this project. Can you tell us more about the publication?

The book has not been published yet. It will come out next year in spring. I am currently working on technical details of the production. The book takes the shape of a visual report, a device to build the analyses of the research working method which obsessively analyzes situations, details, objects, sizes, etc. To edit and design the book I worked with the design studio – Ilha; they were very important in the whole process. It will come out soon!

To learn more about this project, visit Fabio's PHmuseum profile.

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