sebastian liste – urban quilombo

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Sebastian Liste

Urban Quilombo

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This work is a witness about a place that no longer exists.

I lived there almost everything that one can live.

I learned there the dark secrets of the human condition through which our survival and I also learned there that love can exist in ashes and chaos.

I learned there what a family is.

Eight years ago sixty families occupied the “Galpao da Araujo Barreto”, an abandoned chocolate factory in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. Before that, these families lived in the dangerous streets of the city until they decided to come together and occupy this factory in ruins and turn it in a home.
Every human being needs a space to feel safe and build their identity. After all this years of convivence and resistence these families have created strong comunitarian feelings to make possible the survival in this environment. In this community, the people helps each other keeping safe the shacks, babysitting the kids or sharing the food.
In spite of the strong relationships between the families, the social discrimination continues marginalizing these people. After eight years of occupation, despite having left the street, the living conditions are similar; the problems that they suffered in the streets, drugs, prostitution, and violence, are now present in the factory.

I have been working in this project since 2009, living with the families and their daily dramas. Documenting the daily life inside of this community, where the life moves between the universal bipolarity of harmony and chaos, hope and despair.

In March 2011 the goverment moved all the families to a new buildings placed in a dangerous neighborhood 30 km from the city. Now I want to come back to the new place to document how the community will manage their relationships to build their dignity, to build a new world around their and just live.

The aim of this project is to create a document of a place where the tragic decomposition of human life combined perfectly with the magic realism of Latin America.



Sebastian Liste (1985, Spain) graduated in Sociology and MA in Photojournalism. Since 2005 Sebastian has concentrated to mixed his sociological knowledges with his visual skills to explore personal and intimate stories, as well as the roots of social structure issues now facing many countries around the world when they want enter a new economic system. He is also interested in the profound cultural and identity changes that occur in our contemporary world.
Recently, Sebastian was selected to participate at the 2011 Joop Swart Masterclass. His work have been also recognized worlwide at Sony WPO, Lucie Awards, Antropographia, CENTER Awards, Fotovisura Grant, Onward, Reinassance Prize, Terry O’Neill Award,  Ian Parry Scholarship, among others.
His photographs have appeared at TIME, The Sunday Times Magazine, PDN, British Journal of Photography, FotoVisura, and other publications.
His projects have been exhibited in London, New York, Paris, Geneva, Barcelona, San Francisco and Tokio.


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Sebastian Liste


105 Responses to “sebastian liste – urban quilombo”

  • From the Cambridge Dictionary Online:

    noun /ˌprɒp.əˈgæn.də//ˌprɑː.pə-/ [U] mainly disapproving

    information, ideas, opinions or images, often only giving one part of an argument, which are broadcast, published or in some other way spread with the intention of influencing people’s opinions

    “Strong point of view” or “only giving one part of an argument” sounds like the same thing to me.


    You say I am not judging the essay? I clearly stated that I thought it was excellent.

  • Pete, dictionary definitions aside, I think most of us think dishonest is part of the definition of propaganda. I wouldn’t say that about strong point of view. Honesty and strong point of view are not mutually exclusive. And when done well, they go very well together.

    Paul, perhaps you’re speaking for yourself because different photographers have different motivations and accurately depicting reality is far, far, far from an uncommon one. Probably more the norm, actually, and it’s an important part of the job description for journalists and documentary photographers. And oh sure, you can wax all day about the impossibility of true objectivity but it’s certainly not impossible to try to depict reality honestly. Of course that doesn’t mean nothing but mirror images. A little artistic license can often depict reality more honestly than a mirror. That’s where strong point of view comes in.

  • PAUL

    yes, if we are discussing the ideal…a photographer working on his/her own ..different for a commissioned photographer from the more traditional media..the parameters of acceptance change radically particularly when advertisers are involved…media always say they are not affected by who advertises with them… but i doubt that…any company say spending a few million dollars a year advertising in a publication will at least have some influence either directly or indirectly with how the publication thinks about things…if say a camera company dropped a million bucks on Burn to carry out a few assignments, i would probably be waking up in the middle of the night thinking about it…better if 500,000 readers gave me $2. per year for the same…i would sleep quite well and make commission choices based only on the work and making your statement the reality…

    cheers, david

  • PETE

    this is the concept i have been trying to explain to you for three years…authorship does not equate to propaganda…but after all this time of going backwards and forwards and sideways and showing you example after example of authored work that is clearly not propaganda, i guess the point will just never be taken…so amigo, YOU do have a point of view that cannot be altered!! i guess that is fair enough after all…just pulling out the Cambridge Dictionary to come up with a definition is antithetical to what i have been trying to suggest anyway…love you Pete…

    cheers, david

  • MW

    “Pete, dictionary definitions aside, I think most of us think dishonest is part of the definition of propaganda. I wouldn’t say that about strong point of view. Honesty and strong point of view are not mutually exclusive. And when done well, they go very well together.”

    I agree. The word does tend to be used negatively and in the way you suggest. I also do not think that honesty and a strong point of view are mutually exclusive. But there is usually another side to a story. Yes we all have our opinions and it can be hard to keep them out of our work. But I think the high goal is to try. I try simply to document what I see. I want to record the information. The viewer can make up their own minds.


    “media always say they are not affected by who advertises with them… but i doubt that”

    I would love to be able to argue this, but unfortunately I have to agree it is probably true for the most part.

    “authorship does not equate to propaganda”

    In my case I try to make sure it does not. But if someone only presents a narrow point of view it is simply their opinion and in publications, opinions belong on the editorial page.

    And let me be very clear here…. I am not saying that presenting something with a strong point of view is a bad thing. We are basically talking about freedom of speech here.

    I simply prefer not to be so narrow in my work. Which is kind of ironic since you are accusing me of being narrow in my point of view.

  • MW…

    It all comes down to opinions doesn’t it?
    You and I will probably agree that the war in Irak and Afghanistan is most likely the biggest mistake the United States have made in the last decade and I’m sure both of us have believed this right from the very beginning. However other people may not agree with our view and think it was the correct decision to take. So if we decided together to make an essay on this awful mistake we would be biased even though we made our very best to be aware of our opinion and so those who were pro war also. Because one is normally passionate about one’s beliefs and I personally believe balance usually brings mediocre work. Just look at Eugene Smith’s masterwork Minimata… totally one sided view on a very tragic story.

  • No Paul, often there are usually facts involved. What was the opinion in Smith’s work? Those chemicals really did cause that disease. It wouldn’t be such a great essay had he been wrong on the facts.

  • MW…

    Yes of course the chemicals did undoubtedly cause the disease but he did not in any moment shed any light on those working at the chemical plant after all even though it was disgrace what happened many of those living close by had jobs at the plant.

    Yes I agree facts are facts just like I’ve just read how Obama has pardoned far less death sentences than Bush. Pretty amazing :(!

  • But I not really thinking about the factual part of an essay but the emotional or subconscious side of a photographers eye. The one which betrays all attempts at being balanced and showing equal attention to both sides of the story… The sudden split second where you or I tell OUR truth regardless of the fact that it may be wrong, what we wholeheartedly believe in.

  • PETE

    awww c’mon Pete , you know i am just giving you a hard you do me…if i did not know you, i would be way easier…everything said in friendship….i do think you sometimes present yourself as having a much narrower point of view than you actually have…listen Pete, when you and i actually sit down and look at pictures together , we usually agree…right? i even liked your Capitol Hill stuff better than you did …Circus i was high on, right? we liked all the same pictures and i am sure the sequencing would have been satisfactory to both of us…we just have mostly rhetorical battle…relax…loosen up…you are doing some nice work now…we will show it soon on Burn…

    cheers, david

  • We’re not arguing here David, just giving as good as I get.

    I had to have a little dental procedure done today. I have codeine coursing through me…

    Trust me.. I am relaxed!


  • I’m not even going to attempt to sort out who said what and to address the correct person here.

    In the latest incarnation of my preprocessed statement, I say, “Photography is simple. It’s about seeing and about translating what we see into pictures. For me, the challenge is in acknowledging the documentary properties of each photograph while maintaining its presence foremost as an aesthetic study.”
    (I guess if I were a journalist first, perhaps I would feel differently, but I made the decision years ago to marry photography.)

    I think Bob’s (and others’?) comments that he’d like to see more depth, more story, are, while valid, irrelevant. What he’s asking for is not what Sebastien saw. I think this dovetails with David’s comments. The photographer sees what he sees, and even then it may not be what the camera will see. Remember, the term, documentary, is only relative. The photo is not the thing, it’s a photo.


  • Oh hell…

    doc·u·men·ta·ry (dky-mnt-r)
    1. Consisting of, concerning, or based on documents.
    2. Presenting facts objectively without editorializing or inserting fictional matter, as in a book or film.
    n. pl. doc·u·men·ta·ries
    A work, such as a film or television program, presenting political, social, or historical subject matter in a factual and informative manner and often consisting of actual news films or interviews accompanied by narration.

    note the part about “without editorializing.”

  • DAH

    Sorry, just couldn’t resist. Blame it on the codeine. HA!

  • Pete that is as anal as it gets

  • Under picture 16:
    “they have managed to build their dignity and routine….”

    Just on the scenes and glimpes of life stories given to us by Sebatian, unless one equates it solely with resilience, what dignity?

  • Imants:

    Thank you.

    Sometimes it is not good to blur the line between what you say your doing and what it actually is your doing. Rush Limbaugh SAYS he is an entertainer and FOX news says they provide balanced reporting. But not really.

  • Paul, regarding your contention that truth is irrelevant to photography, that it’s only the photographer’s fee fee’s that matter, I’ll just say it’s fortunate you are not a photojournalist or documentary photographer. The stuff about Smith not photographing the dolphins or whatever is a straw man argument. Smith was a great documentary photographer because he brought artistic insight to bear on the facts in a way that illuminated the truth so that just about anyone could see. Had he used artists tricks to peddle crap, no matter how sincerely he believed in it, he might have been a star in the advertising world but would not be part of this conversation.

  • MW…
    First of all if you don’t mind we’ll leave the personal attacks out of this, thank you!

    I never said the truth is irrelevant to photography.

    All I’m saying is my truth doesn’t have to be necessarily the same truth as your’s. Nobody is talking about dishonesty or lying and nothing to do with artistic tricks either.

    Here’s DAH…

    “one of the greatest of all essays was of course Minamata….and yes Gene did show both the waste water and the negative effects..but balance? obviously some thought not..he was beaten so badly by the Japanese goons for his one sided approach, that he never recovered…he died because he did not give a balanced view…what about all the families of workers who lost their jobs because of this corporate exposure? the bosses may have guilt, but the families of the workers were certainly innocents who suffered…many in Japanese society were benefiting from this industry…the industry was not set up to kill people ..the negative effects were found out later, but was not corporate intent…a balanced coverage would have brought in both sides of the story…WE on the outside can only see the negatives, me included…but an academic argument could be easily made that Smith did not do a balanced coverage…again, Minamata a great and powerful and the first really important environmental essay…Smith the finest of essayists.”

  • I am constantly torn between the attitude of the conscientious journalist who is a recorder and interpreter of the facts and of the creative artist who often is necessarily at poetic odds with the literal facts. – W. Eugene Smith, The picture history of photography: From the earliest beginnings to the present day by Peter Pollack , ISBN: 0500271011 , Page: 165

  • What personal attacks? And I thought it was something of a strawman argument when David made it back then too, although less so due to context. Nobody is talking about that kind of ridiculous “balance.” We were talking about depicting reality effectively. Like I said, if the story was about drugs and prostitution in the factory, fine. But it’s about life in the factory, so that raises the question of how much all those pictures of drugs and prostitution represent life in the factory. It’s not a question of balance, it’s a question of accuracy (And please note, I don’t know the answer to those questions, just asking). And had Smith’s essay been about how the release of dangerous chemicals affected people’s health and the job situation at the chemical factory, then the same questions would be valid. But that wasn’t the stated purpose of the piece.

    Sorry if I misunderstand your position, but you often make an argument to the effect that all that matters is personal point of view, that right or wrong don’t matter. Fine, for art, but for photojournalism no.

    This is getting blown a bit out of proportion given the overall fantastic quality of the piece. Just questions around the edges.

  • And truth, btw, is truth for everybody. You’re talking about opinion.

  • MW…

    “And truth, btw, is truth for everybody. You’re talking about opinion.”


    Opinion can also be analogous to truth

  • Smiling…This is getting silly, we aren’t going to get anywhere because you are as usual entrenched in your views and so am I this time. I perfectly accept your views and in no way do I want to turn this into an online altercation. I don’t want to show disrespect to this brilliant essay and above all I’ve always appreciated your writing and your views.

  • What’s up with this ongoing truth and balance rant/debate? From a purely visual perspective, less than 8 of the 24 images display sex, drugs, violence, or prostitution.
    What do you want to see, only 2 photos of sex and drugs? Or are you more angered by the bleak narrative?
    My own visceral reaction hit me with shock and disbelief at the birthday image. Perhaps this caused others to question truth and balance?

    On the bright side, all these comments help dispel the notion that good essays don’t see much dialogue.;-)


    yes,….and yes


    i forgot my comment which i think was made the last time we had the “balance” issue…which does come up all the time…but yes, i would still stand by my comment …and at the same time i still think of course Smith did the right thing, and what any concerned photographer would have done…but of course , as i said in my comment, there are always two sides every story, or almost every story…

  • David…

    I’m very happy with things out of balance. That’s where I believe infatuation, passion, anger and obsessiveness exist, that is where my favourite essays stand and have to exist and drive the greatest photographers to make them take that extra step the average don’t.

  • I see there is a big discussion going on about truth.

    One can be entirely factual and accurate and in so doing tell a big lie. One can lie like crazy and tell an honest story.

    The above statement is 100 percent true.

    I would not lie about such matters.

    I have had my fun for the day. Now I must get to work and try to tell an honest story.

  • truth strewth baloney ……Smith’s stuff is a visual feast. The public and participants and their camera phones are the photo/video jouros of today not the sanctioned few……………. and it goes like this………

  • Here is a photograph of a guy with his brains blown out and I blew his brains out and took the photo.

  • By the way here is another photo of 50 jackasses with huge nikons and canons taking photographs of me.

  • Give the guys some baloney for their audiences

  • Yea, sfjason, it got a bit away from the actual essay into old philosophical arguments.

    Nevertheless, I can’t help but noting that when it comes to the good kind of balance, David is one of its foremost practitioners, at least in his published work. And yes, I know that some of that is the result of editorial pressure, like W. Eugene Smith’s picture of the chemical spewing pipe, but the results come in at such a high level it’s obvious that there’s a lot more to it than simply satisfying the editor. Could anyone possibly tell a story about Nairobi in such depth with seven or eight photos? Or Cuba? Or so many other assignments? Very few and far between. I know a lot of study goes into achieving that kind of balance. A lot of deep thinking as well. A grad student could write a thesis on it someday. Is there some kind of formula? Or at least a loose pattern? Wealthy/Poor/Dangerous/Religion/Geography/Tourism? Something like that perhaps. Whatever, a balance is always achieved. Not all-inclusive, but illuminating nevertheless.

  • “Smith’s stuff is a visual feast. The public and participants and their camera phones are the photo/video jouros of today not the sanctioned few”

    Where the many unfortunately no longer meet the other.

  • If one relied on the six o’clock news for information one would be pretty confused and misinformed with what is going on

  • Oh, you were referring to television? Don’t own one.


    i am sometimes on television…but i do not own one ….only time i see a television is in my hotel room…and it is usually off….see CNN at the airport waiting area and that is plenty…see movies at the theater….or, on my laptop…

    cheers, david

  • t the way we gather information and how it s gathered ………not owning a TV does not preclude you from its influence


    oh i am influenced by many things, and yes probably tv too….and exactly what would you recommend for the best way to gather information and disseminate and not be under the influence of anything? your point is?

  • I was replying to Tom and stating the ineptness of the traditional six o’clock news as a source of information.

    Photojournalism is still tied to these traditional media forms but really needs to move on if it is to survive. If photojournalists want to play with truth justice and impartiality their cause will be lost.

  • If one feels that ignoring something that it will go away and be of no influence they are sadly mistaken

  • IMANTS… it..thanks…yes, true

  • “It is, moreover, evident from what has been said, that it is not the function of the poet to relate what has happened, but what may happen- what is possible according to the law of probability or necessity. The poet and the historian differ not by writing in verse or in prose. The work of Herodotus might be put into verse, and it would still be a species of history, with meter no less than without it. The true difference is that one relates what has happened, the other what may happen. Poetry, therefore, is a more philosophical and a higher thing than history: for poetry tends to express the universal, history the particular. By the universal I mean how a person of a certain type on occasion speak or act, according to the law of probability or necessity; and it is this universality at which poetry aims in the names she attaches to the personages. The particular is- for example- what Alcibiades did or suffered. In Comedy this is already apparent: for here the poet first constructs the plot on the lines of probability, and then inserts characteristic names- unlike the lampooners who write about particular individuals. But tragedians still keep to real names, the reason being that what is possible is credible: what has not happened we do not at once feel sure to be possible; but what has happened is manifestly possible: otherwise it would not have happened. Still there are even some tragedies in which there are only one or two well-known names, the rest being fictitious. In others, none are well known- as in Agathon’s Antheus, where incidents and names alike are fictitious, and yet they give none the less pleasure. We must not, therefore, at all costs keep to the received legends, which are the usual subjects of Tragedy. Indeed, it would be absurd to attempt it; for even subjects that are known are known only to a few, and yet give pleasure to all. It clearly follows that the poet or ‘maker’ should be the maker of plots rather than of verses; since he is a poet because he imitates, and what he imitates are actions. And even if he chances to take a historical subject, he is none the less a poet; for there is no reason why some events that have actually happened should not conform to the law of the probable and possible, and in virtue of that quality in them he is their poet or maker.

    Of all plots and actions the episodic are the worst. I call a plot ‘episodic’ in which the episodes or acts succeed one another without probable or necessary sequence. Bad poets compose such pieces by their own fault, good poets, to please the players; for, as they write show pieces for competition, they stretch the plot beyond its capacity, and are often forced to break the natural continuity.

    But again, Tragedy is an imitation not only of a complete action, but of events inspiring fear or pity. Such an effect is best produced when the events come on us by surprise; and the effect is heightened when, at the same time, they follow as cause and effect. The tragic wonder will then be greater than if they happened of themselves or by accident; for even coincidences are most striking when they have an air of design. We may instance the statue of Mitys at Argos, which fell upon his murderer while he was a spectator at a festival, and killed him. Such events seem not to be due to mere chance. Plots, therefore, constructed on these principles are necessarily the best.” Aristotle, Poetics

    The simultaneous measurement of two conjugate variables (such as the momentum and position or the energy and time for a moving particle) entails a limitation on the precision (standard deviation) of each measurement. Namely: the more precise the measurement of position, the more imprecise the measurement of momentum, and vice versa. In the most extreme case, absolute precision of one variable would entail absolute imprecision regarding the other. Werner Heisenberg, the uncertainly principle.

    Δp × Δx = h Heisenberg again, for those of you who enjoy such things.

  • So what is objectivity? Heisenberg tells us that it doesnt really exist physically and Aristotle tells us that poetry is superior to history, which is not something most of us are used to hearing. In Spanish Village, the wake of Juan Larra, Smith blotted out a woman’s eyes and then drew them in with pencil because she was looking at the camera and not at the dead man. Does that change the value of the photo? Joe Rosenthal missed his big chance to make history and took a photograph of Marines raising the second flag on Mt. Suribachi instead, an event so insignificant that it was not recorded in the ship’s logs of any of the thousand or more vessels that saw the flag go up or in the daily operations diaries of any of the Marine units involved. Does that change the value of his photograph? So what is objectivity? What is bias? Is the former simply a way of disguising the latter?

  • And while you’re all pondering that heavy stuff, it time for


  • and his friend, the ever popular


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